Pistons roster breakdown: How will newcomers mix with stars?
The Detroit Pistons have been more active in the eight days of free agency than originally projected, with some smaller moves to shape their roster.
The biggest addition was getting Glenn Robinson III to bolster their corps at small forward. They also added a pair of wings in the draft, grabbing Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown Jr. in the second round.
They effectively exchanged two promising young players in Dwight Buycks and Eric Moreland for veterans in Jose Calderon and Zaza Pachulia for a decent savings against the salary cap — and more importantly, staying below the luxury-tax line.
Barring a bigger trade, the Pistons look to be done in free agency. They still could pursue some other deals, but it looks like the roster is fairly set.
With new head coach Dwane Casey taking over and making an imprint in his first meetings with players, here’s a look at the outlook for each player and a potential role in the upcoming season:
Reggie Jackson: It comes down to two words: Stay healthy. Jackson missed 30 games in 2016-17 and 37 games last season because of knee tendinitis and a severe ankle sprain. Fans have their gripes about Jackson, but the numbers show that the Pistons are a better team when he’s healthy and on the court. His 3-point shooting and dribble-drive ability will be critical for the Pistons’ success again next season.
Ish Smith: The biggest area Smith has worked on in the offseason has been his 3-point shooting. Smith has been working to make his mechanics more consistent, whether in catch-and-shoot situations or off the dribble. When he’s with the second unit, there are few better point guards in the league, but the starting role doesn’t suit him as well. If the Pistons make a trade, Smith’s $6 million could be moved before the trade deadline this year.
Reggie Bullock: The Pistons almost certainly will pick up his team option for $2.5 million on July 15 — and it’s one of the best contract bargains in the league, for one of the top 10 3-point shooters in the league, at 45 percent. He’s a solid player on both ends of the court and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, which coaches absolutely love.
Luke Kennard: The plan was to have him play some point guard in Summer League, before his knee strain. Kennard has playmaking ability and could be a versatile piece for the second unit. He looks to have grown another inch and will have a more prominent role — maybe even starting at some point next season.
Langston Galloway: The first year of his deal for $21 million was less than stellar. He fell out of favor quickly and had trouble getting playing time later in the season. He shot 34 percent on 3-pointers but his ball-handling needs to improve if he’s going to find a niche. Fans want his contract moved but no team is going to bite on that deal.
Jose Calderon: They chose him over Buycks because they see a potential for locker-room leadership. At 36, Calderon will be called upon to be a veteran presence and potentially see some time at backup point guard. They have other options, so he won’t have to play extensively, but Calderon can have a small role, at least, in case of another Jackson injury.
Khyri Thomas: So far in Summer League, he’s looked the most consistent and smooth. He wasn’t regarded for his 3-point shot, but he’s knocked a few of them down. On defense, he’s looked solid, staying in front of his man and causing deflections. He won’t need to have a big role as a rookie, but he can be situational and excel in small bits.
Bruce Brown: He’s coming off a foot injury and is still getting into playing form. He knocked off the rust in the first couple Summer League games and his athleticism and willingness to defend and go in the paint against big men has opened some eyes. Casey is high on both the rookies and their approach.
Stanley Johnson: His fourth year is going to be critical for determining his future with the Pistons. He hasn’t gotten a good offensive rhythm yet but his defense is his calling card. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer, so the Pistons will be looking closely to figure out whether he’ll be worth a hefty raise.
Glenn Robinson III: Getting Robinson for $4 million was a bargain in free agency. After missing most of last season because of an ankle injury with the Pacers, Robinson is back at 100 percent and immediately becomes the team’s most athletic player. If he can maintain hitting 41 percent on 3-pointers, he could be a free-agent steal.
Blake Griffin: He said being healthy this offseason is a big relief, after injuries going into the past two summers. Having a training camp with the Pistons will also help in the transition into Casey’s new offense, where he’ll thrive a bit more. He’ll have to shoot the 3 better than 35 percent to make defenses respect his versatility.
Henry Ellenson: All signs point to Ellenson getting a true opportunity, especially with the departure of Anthony Tolliver in free agency. He struggled in his first two games of Summer League, but found his stroke in Monday’s win. He’ll be encouraged to attack off the dribble more, which is to his strength. He just needs time and opportunity to see what he has.
Jon Leuer: After missing all but eight games last season because of bone fragments in his ankle, Leuer is back at 100 percent and ready for training camp. He’ll play some backup center and power forward and although the Pistons reportedly have been shopping his contract, he could be a huge addition if he can stay healthy.
Andre Drummond: After an All-Star season — with votes for Most Improved Player — Drummond continues to work on his game. He’s spent the summer working on his jump shot and developing a 3-pointer, but the key to Drummond’s game is discerning between good and bad shots. The league’s best rebounder is looking more like a max player but still has more improvement to do.
Zaza Pachulia: A surprise addition in free agency, he adds some toughness on pick-and-roll plays and although he’s criticized for his perceived dirty play, he’ll get respect from his teammates for consistency. He only played a small role for the Warriors in the playoffs this year, but he can bring some credibility in coming from a winning culture.