51Q: How much will a roster that fits Stan Van Gundy boost the Pistons?

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Greg Monroe was the No. 7 pick. He has averaged 14.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in his career. When he became a free agent this summer, he signed a max contract with the Bucks – and his agent claims multiple teams offered a max deal.

Anthony Tolliver went undrafted. He has averaged 6.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in his career. When he became a free agent the previous summer, he signed a two-year, $6 million contract with the Suns – and they wanted to dump him a few months later.

Monroe is better than Tolliver.

Nearly nobody would dispute that.

But when Pistons franchise player Andre Drummond played with Tolliver at power forward as opposed to Monroe, Detroit fared much better. Here are the ratings (offensive/defensive/net) for each combination:

  • Monroe-Drummond: 102.7/104.4/-1.7
  • Tolliver-Drummond: 110.3/105.3/+5.0

Essentially, the Pistons went from a middling offense to better than the league-best Clippers. That was more than enough to offset a slight defensive dip and make Detroit look more like a high-50-win team than the 32-win outfit they were.

This season, the Pistons – despite losing Monroe – have a chance to overcome that talent downgrade with a better-fitting roster.

President/coach Stan Van Gundy was brought in to maximize Drummond the same way he helped develop Dwight Howard with the Magic. In Orlando, that meant spreading the floor around Howard – especially playing Rashard Lewis at power forward.

But spacing didn’t come so easy in Van Gundy’s first year in Detroit. He jammed Drummond, Monroe and Josh Smith into the starting front court before waiving Smith in December. Even then, Van Gundy had a difficult time using Monroe and Drummond together. It’s not the most natural pairing, but the talented players could have performed better together.

Now, that discussion is left to the past. Van Gundy has his players, including Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova, absorbed into cap space with the Pistons knowing Monroe would leave, is a legitimate NBA starting power forward with range outside the arc. No longer must Detroit rely on Tolliver when it wants to go small.

Tolliver will still play off the bench, and Marcus Morris – also acquired in a salary dump – could also see minutes as a stretch four. But Morris’ primary role will be starting at small forward, where he replaces stop gaps Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince. The Pistons practically punted the position once they traded Kyle Singler at midseason. So, Morris is a fairly big upgrade.

Van Gundy also has Stanley Johnson, the No. 8 pick who has drawn rave reviews from his new coach. It seems inevitable he’ll overtake Morris for the starting job at some point.

And then there’s Reggie Jackson, hand-picked by Van Gundy as Detroit’s starting point guard. The Pistons rewarded Jackson this summer with the richest contract in team history.

They’re trying to find the right players around Drummond, and Van Gundy clearly thinks the formula starts with Jackson and a stretch four. Ilyasova is an upgrade at power forward, and Morris, Johnson Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks are good enough on the wing for now. Johnson will improve, and the Pistons will try again in free agency next summer after striking out this year and having to resort to salary dumps.

Other teams are more talented, but Van Gundy should know how to coach this one. Given his track record of success, that might be enough to push the Pistons into the playoffs.

Minnesota signs undrafted rookie Naz Reid to multiyear deal

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have signed rookie center Naz Reid to a multiyear contract, upgrading the two-way deal they initially gave him before a strong performance for the team’s entry in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

The new contract, completed Thursday, all but ensures that Reid will be on the regular-season roster, after going undrafted out of LSU.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic broke the story.

The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Reid averaged 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.6 minutes over seven summer league games against other clubs largely composed of rookies and second-year players. The Timberwolves’ team reached the championship game.

Reid averaged 13.6 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds in his lone season at LSU, which reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Bulls bring back Shaquille Harrison on one-year contract

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Shaquille Harrison started last season as an afterthought at the end of the Chicago Bulls’ bench. Then, because Cameron Payne was not good and Kris Dunn got injured (and was really not that good, either), Harrison got his chance — and took it. He was a defender Fred Hoiberg and then Jim Boylen could trust, and he played in the final 72 Bulls games last season at almost 20 minutes a night.

He will be back with the Bulls next season, the team announced.

While not announced, this is a one-year minimum contract. The Bulls waived Harrison back on July 6 as they remade the roster, but Harrison played one game at Summer League for the Bulls and they decided to bring him back.

Harrison is a Boylen favorite — he plays hard and defends well — and while minutes will be harder to come by behind Tomas Satoransky and Coby White, Harrison is a guy Boylen wants on the bench.

Dunn is on the roster at point guard, too, but the Bulls are rumored to be looking to trade him and his $5.4 million salary. Chicago will likely have to throw in a sweetener, like a decent second-round pick, to make that happen.

Nike countersues Kawhi Leonard over ‘Klaw’ logo

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“My mind on my money and my money on my mind.”
—Snoop Dogg

Nike and Kawhi Leonard are going to court over control of his “Klaw” logo, and it’s all about money and brand.

Leonard left Nike last season, eventually signing with New Balance, and he wants to be able to market his Klaw logo as part of his line with his new company. Leonard and his representatives sued Nike for control of the logo, saying Leonard came up with it in his own drawings.

Nike has countersued and said Leonard did not design the logo. Tim Bontemps of ESPN had these quotes from the countersuit itself.

“In this action, Kawhi Leonard seeks to re-write history by asserting that he created the ‘Claw Design’ logo, but it was not Leonard who created that logo. The ‘Claw Design’ was created by a talented team of NIKE designers, as Leonard, himself, has previously admitted…

“In his Complaint, Leonard alleges he provided a design to NIKE. That is true. What is false is that the design he provided was the Claw Design. Not once in his Complaint does Leonard display or attach either the design that he provided or the Claw Design. Instead, he conflates the two, making it appear as though those discrete works are one and the same. They are not.”

TMZ posted the designs.

I’m not about to guess what a judge would decide in this case. Most likely, this gets settled one way or another.

Meanwhile, New Balance is trying to come up with a new slogan for Leonard and his gear. King of the North is now out after his move to the Los Angeles Clippers this summer.

J.R. Smith reportedly meets with Bucks to talk contract

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After five seasons in Cleveland, the Cavaliers waived J.R. Smith. The 34-year-old veteran wing is not part of the Cavaliers future, and by waiving him before the guarantee date they only had to pay him $4.4 million of this $15.7 million salary.

That makes Smith a free agent.

He sat down with the Bucks on Thursday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bucks can only offer minimum contracts at this point.

Smith will turn 34 before next season starts and his skills are in decline, he shot just 30.8 percent from three last season. The Bucks will likely start Khris Middleton and Wesley Matthews on the wing with Sterling Brown, Pat Connaughton, and Donte DiVincenzo behind them. They have the roster spot to make the addition. The questions are does Smith fit, does he want the small role that’s really available, and how often will he wear a shirt around the facility?