Pistons preview: Morris, Harris lead solid group of forwards
Second in a series examining the Pistons roster. Today: Forwards
After a busy summer in free agency, the Pistons are looking to build on a 44-win season and get back to the playoffs.
They begin training camp Monday and exhibitions start in two weeks, with only a few remaining questions about specific roster spots.
■Marcus Morris, 27, 6-9/235, sixth season
Statistics: 14.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists
The Pistons gave up a 2020 second-round pick for a starter and rotation player — in Morris and Reggie Bullock.
Morris more than exceeded expectations, with durability 35.7 minutes, 80 games) and solid production. He was the team’s second-best defender and raised his game during the playoffs.
He’s a versatile forward who could guard either position. More than his on-court presence, he’s a respected voice in the locker room.
■Tobias Harris, 24, 6-9/235, sixth season
Statistics: 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists
After acquiring Harris midseason from the Magic, he played in 27 games, averaging 16.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists — and didn’t upset the balance of scoring with his new team.
His defense should improve, but playing alongside Morris, he can guard the weaker of the opposing forwards. His average salary of $16 million over the next three years is something of a bargain.
■Jon Leuer, 27, 6-10/230, sixth season
Statistics: 8.5 points, 5.6 rebounds
Leuer was one of the coveted stretch forwards in free agency, and the Pistons landed him for $41 million over four years. He’ll fill the role Anthony Tolliver had last season — a sharpshooting big man. The added bonus is that he can defend bigger power forwards and play some center.
He’s a career 38-percent shooter on 3-pointers and had a career-best 47 percent in 2013-14 with the Grizzlies.
■Reggie Bullock, 25, 6-7/205, fourth season
Statistics: 3.3 points, 1.8 rebounds
Initially seen as a toss-in piece in the deal with the Suns for Morris, Bullock morphed into a critical piece when the Pistons were hit with injuries late. He shot 41.5 percent on 3-pointers (43-for-98) but didn’t start to contribute until late February. That’s when his numbers jumped to 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists, with 49 percent on 3-poinrters in 18 games.
The expanded stats look more impressive (10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per 36 minutes). He’ll likely have an increased role this season and his size lets him float between the wing positions. He’ll compete with Darrun Hilliard for playing time.
■Darrun Hilliard, 23, 6-6/205, second season
Statistics: 4 points, 1.2 rebounds
Hilliard played in 38 games as a rookie, but showed flashes of being a solid contributor. He shot 39.7 percent overall, 38 percent on 3-pointers.
He’ll be in the mix for playing time, but might play more as the third shooting guard behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Stanley Johnson. He’s still developing, but as a second-round pick, he’s been more productive than most. A back injury kept him out of Summer League.
■Henry Ellenson, 19, 6-11/245, first season
The first-round pick likely will have the luxury of not having to contribute as much as Johnson did. Ellenson flashed his skills in Summer League with nice range on his jumper, even from 3-point range. But at 19, he still has to add muscle and learn the game — which he can do with the Pistons D-League affiliate, Grand Rapids.
If needed, he could be the third perimeter big behind Leuer.