Player Preview: Jonas Jerebko

Jonas Jerebko answers questions at a press conference to introduce the Pistons’ recent draft picks. (Julian H. Gonzalez / Detroit Free Press)

Essentials

Position: Power forward/ small forward/ center

Age: 22

Height: 6-foot-10

Weight: 231 pounds

Years pro: Rookie

From: Kinna, Sweden

Role

These player previews are coming out in reverse order of who I expect to have the biggest impacts this season. But if I had waited a bit to decide the order, you probably wouldn’t see this post for a few more days.

By all accounts, Jerebko is impressing Pistons coach John Kuester. But where will he play?

Austin Daye seems to have solidified the backup small forward spot.

It seems like the Pistons want Jerebko to develop into a center, and that’s where he played in the summer league. But I’m not sure he’s ready to play there (if he ever will be). Via the Detroit News:

"I’ve never done it before (play center), so it’s a new experience," Jerebko said. "It’s physical but I like it. I don’t like to play the five, but to get minutes, I will do it."

That leaves power forward, which is probably his most natural fit going forward. But the Pistons have a pretty talented player in Jason Maxiell already there (more on this later).

Kuester has fueled speculation the rotation could go 11 deep. But I don’t see that happening.

Coaches talk all the time before the season about having long benches. But when push comes to shove, there just aren’t enough minutes to go around.

I don’t see Jerebko cracking the rotation – at least for now.

Scouting report

Will: Do more than his stat line suggests.

For better or worse, Jerebko is good at a lot of things — but a master of none. A lot of his contributions will go unnoticed by many.

Kuester gives a few examples from Detroit’s preseason game against the Hawks in The Oakland Press:

“You can’t look at what he did, in regards to six points, six rebounds in 17 minutes and understand the impact that he had on the little things that we want to get accomplished,” Kuester said. “Whether it be shows on the high pick-and-rolls, his second and third energy efforts going after the boards, whether he got it or didn’t get it. I was very proud of him. I’ve seen that in him in practice.”

Won’t: Slow down.

Jerebko might not always look smooth, but he has a big motor. He played a preseason-27 minutes against the Wizards. And even then, his effort didn’t waver. Kuester via the Detroit Free Press:

"His energy has been outstanding," Pistons coach John Kuester said. … "Jonas has a motor that keeps on running and running at a high level," Kuester said. "He knows what a coach wants. That kind of energy is contagious and excites a coach."

He’s going to make it as hard as he can for Kuester to keep him off the court.

Must improve: His comfort on the court.

Jerebko might be all over the court, but it doesn’t look smooth. I’m not sure if this comes from his age, the transition from Europe or what.

At least the issue seems to be ironing itself out. From Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Jerebko, less than three weeks into his first NBA training camp, feels more comfortable by the day. In fact, last week’s debut already seems like a long time ago, when he was so hyped. Pistons strength coach Arnie Kander said he was almost hyperventilating.

“I was excited,” he grins. “Family was there, from Buffalo. The first three minutes, you go in cold, the first time you get on the floor, the chest doesn’t want to go with your legs. But it was fun.”

Every day will be something new for Jerebko for a while. Once that phase passes, we’ll get to see what he can really do.

Stock

Rising

Jerebko is the first Swedish player in the NBA, so that’s pretty cool. And every time you hear his name mentioned lately, it’s something positive.

That can’t last forever, but I’m not sure any Piston has seen his reputation rise more since the preseason started.

Three predictions

1. Jerebko will be one of two Pistons whose roles are being overinflated right now.

Kuester has been gushing about Jerebko, absolutely gushing. I think the coach likes Jerebko, but that might be based on expectations.

Jerebko is playing very well for a rookie in the preseason. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be better than veterans in the regular season.

(More on the second Piston who I think is overhyped in a future player preview)

2. He won’t get the benefit of the whistle.

Call it the Zeljko Rebraca effect. He’s not the most athletic. He plays physical. And he’s a rookie. I don’t see refs reacting favorably.

3. Jerebko will give the Pistons a better backup power forward than they had last year.

Jerebko will help Detroit, but it might not be the way he wants.

Jason Maxiell’s production slipped across the board last year. It’s hard to believe the contract extension he signed at the beginning of the season didn’t have something to do with it. He just didn’t look hungry on the court.

Jerebko might just be the kick in the butt Maxiell needs. And if that doesn’t work, that likely means Jerebko is playing well.

Win-win.

For each of the Pistons’ new players, I want  get another voice (or more) besides my own into the previews – someone who has seen these players up close more than I have. I call this feature “in other words.”

In other words: John Beilein

Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein recruited Jerebko when he was at West Virginia and is a friend of his family. For more info, check out this Buffalo News article.

You recruited him at West Virginia?

He ended up actually attending one of our summer camps. But the big thing is his dad, Chris, played at Syracuse.

And his uncle, Peter Jerebko, both played and was my assistant coach at Le Moyne College. He was one of the greatest shooters, could be as good of a shooter I’ve ever had at any time. And I’ve had some shooters. He’d be in the Pittsnogle range of consistent shooters.

So, (Jonas) looked at Syracuse. He looked at University of Buffalo. And he looked at West Virginia.

He chose University of Buffalo because that’s where the family’s real home is. That’s where the grandpa is. All the uncles are there. A lot of the grandchildren are there.

But then, (he) decided in that spring to go pro instead of going to college.

How far along did you get recruiting him before he picked Buffalo?

I was going to over and visit him in the fall and have him in for an official visit.

Did you offer him a scholarship?

We were going to offer him an official visit in the fall. Our standard thing is an official visit usually has a scholarship offer on the table.

But not at that time. We didn’t have all those things yet.

He had the talent. We wanted to see all the other things.

What did you like about his game?

He really had a great feel for the game. He could really shoot the ball, really shoot the ball.

I loved that he could block shots. At the college level, he was going to be able to block some shots, even though he’s a forward. He had great timing.

Did you see him as more of a small or power forward in college?

Oh, you know how are forwards play. They would have been very much the same. He would’ve played either forward for us.

What did you see that you wanted him to work on? Which parts of his game weren’t as developed?

I don’t think they was anything in particular. We saw him as a very, very good prospect to play in college.

A lot of people, if they had reservations, it was about a kid from Europe. You get a verbal from them, and then they go pro and while you told everybody else no.

Those things are typical of European players because there are so many great opportunities for the ones that are already over there.

If there wasn’t that concern, how hard do you think he would’ve been recruited?

I think he would’ve been recruited at a very high level had he been in the United States …

He was basically unknown in the States, unless you know the Jerebko family. … If he had the exposure, he would’ve been a highly sought after recruit.

Is there anybody you can compare him to in stature coming out of high school if he would’ve had those opportunities?

Kyle Singler, that type of player. (Singler was a five-star recruit, according to rivals.com) … But this is four years ago now.

Is there anything else to know about him?

He comes from a great family. He’s a great kid with a great family.

His brother played at Syracuse. His other brother played Division II, but could’ve played anywhere. He could’ve played Division I anywhere.

Just a real solid family.

Previous player previews

Deron Washington

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