The Pistons are desperately looking for a reliable backup wing.
Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock, Darrun Hilliard and even second-round rookie Michael Gbinije have gotten turns.
But Bullock, who has probably played the best of the bunch, has fallen from the in-season competition for a while.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
This is a blow for Bullock, who will be a free agent next summer. In his fourth season, the 25-year-old former first-round pick still looks like a potential 3-and-D contributor. Yet, due to limited opportunities and not taking advantage of the ones he’s had in four NBA seasons, Bullock still hasn’t put it all together.
Even though Bullock was earning his way into the rotation, the Pistons should be OK. They have numerous other options, and Johnson – the No. 8 pick just last year – remains the most desirable. Getting the high-upside Johnson to shake his sophomore slump remains option A.
But Detroit loses a little margin for error if that doesn’t happen quickly – or happen at all.
Rumors of Reggie Jackson‘s demise have proven to be correct.
The Pistons point guard is expected to miss the start of the regular season with knee problems.
Rod Beard of The Detroit News:
A 6-to-8-week absence would cause Jackson to miss 12 to 20 games. That’s a big chunk of the season for a team that could finish anywhere between getting home-court advantage in the first round and missing the playoffs entirely.
Ish Smith is an adequate, though uninspiring, fill-in. With so few rotation-level wings capable of creating, Smith faces a large offensive burden (one Jackson shouldered last year).
With Smith starting, backup point guard becomes an issue. Detroit probably doesn’t want to depend on Ray McCallum or Lorenzo Brown for regular minutes, and the free-agent market has dried up. Perhaps, the Pistons consider a minor trade by floating Aron Baynes, Reggie Bullock and/or Darrun Hilliard.
Detroit’s goal for now should just be staying afloat until Jackson returns – and hoping that’s as soon as possible.
The Pistons have trended upward since hiring Stan Van Gundy, and they hoped to ride the Reggie Jackson–Andre Drummond combination to ascend further.
But Jackson – who had been limited in practice due to longstanding knee issues – might not be available for a while.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
Jackson has been essential to Detroit’s offense, which features minimal playmaking from the wings. If Jackson can’t go, Ish Smith steps into that overly burdened role.
After signing Smith this summer to back up Jackson, Van Gundy touted Smith’s ability to handle starter’s minutes with the 76ers. But Smith didn’t perform as well in Philadelphia as the narrative suggests, and he’s a clear downgrade from Jackson.
More troubling for the Pistons is what happens when Smith rests. As large as the drop is from Jackson to Smith, it’s even larger from Smith to Lorenzo Brown or Ray McCallum – who are competing for the 15th regular-season roster spot and third-point-guard duties. Most likely, Detroit would try to find an upgrade over those two, not over Smith.
The free-agent market for point guards has dried up unless Mario Chalmers is healthy. A small trade – maybe involving Reggie Bullock, Darrun Hilliard or Aron Baynes – could work.
The biggest hope must be Jackson returning as quickly as possible. The 26-year-old has been relatively healthy, playing 80, 77 and 79 games the last three years.
But if he’s sidelined for a lengthy period, that could cost the Pistons home-court advantage in the first round or even a playoff berth entirely. There’s little margin for error in the 4-10 range of the Eastern Conference.
Pistons owner Tom Gores said he’s willing to pay the luxury tax to extend Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s contract.
What about Detroit’s other extension-eligible shooting guard, Reggie Bullock?
Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
No talks have begun, but Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy told the Free Press last week an extension is possible for Bullock, who was acquired in July 2015.
Bullock isn’t as accomplished as most players who receive rookie-scale extensions. But, occasionally, teams find common ground with a reserve entering the fourth-year of his rookie-scale contract.
The problem with Bullock is he just hasn’t played much – 10 minutes per game in 116 games in three years with the Clippers, Suns and Pistons. He fits the rough outline of a 3-and-D player, but he hasn’t shown either skill enough to prove his NBA value.
Detroit might learn more about him this year. After the Pistons traded Jodie Meeks to the Magic, the door is even more open for minutes behind Caldwell-Pope, though Bullock will also have to compete with Darrun Hilliard, Michael Gbinije and maybe even Stanley Johnson if Detroit plays big.
With the 2017-18 luxury tax looming, the Pistons will probably want another season to evaluate Bullock. But if he’s willing to accept less in exchange for security, Detroit could make a value play and agree to an extension. After all, the 2017-18 tax won’t be calculated until April 2018. That leaves plenty of time to make a trade to duck under the tax line.
Jodie Meeks hasn’t played since suffering a Jones fracture in the Pistons’ second game. The pessimistic end of the initial timetable had him returning just after the All-Star break.
Rod Beard of The Detroit News:
Following a Monday morning appointment with surgeon Dr. Martin O’Malley to assess his progress, Meeks learned that the foot hasn’t healed properly.
“We’re backing off until March 1; for practical matters, it’s really hard to see him being able to get back and make much of a contribution this year,” Van Gundy said. “The first day he would be able to start ramping it up would be early March. He’d need a couple weeks to ramp it up and then you’re down to the last month of the season by the time he’s ready to go.
The Pistons badly want to make the playoffs after six years away. At 26-23 and seventh in the Eastern Conference, they’re in decent shape.
But they could use a spot-up outside specialist – like Meeks.
Starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ranks second in the NBA at 37.4 minutes per game. His stamina is impressive, but that’s asking a lot. Backup Stanley Johnson is better suited as a forward, a position he also plays. Rookie Darrun Hilliard doesn’t look ready for a rotation role, though he has gotten occasional minutes in reserve.
The Pistons probably won’t relinquish high-end future assets, like a first-round pick, but this news could make them more aggressive at the trade deadline. If they can’t count on Meeks, they could seek another shooting guard.
If Detroit doesn’t acquire one, Meeks – even if the odds appear against it now – could still get a chance to crack the rotation late in the season. There’s just a need for someone like him.