As the NBA season nears, we will take a deeper look at each player on the Detroit Pistons and what their role will be this season. Does Boban Marjanovic have the chops to earn consistent minutes at the loaded center position?
It was a bit puzzling when the Detroit Pistons signed unrestricted free agent Boban Marjanovic to an offer sheet this offseason. After all, it’s tough to see where the 7’3”, 290 lbs Marjanovic fits alongside Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes.
A closer looks reveals that Marjanovic makes for a backup plan in the event Baynes exercises his player option at the end of this season. Stan Van Gundy clearly felt comfortable landing his services on a three-year, $21-million contract in this market.
Marjanovic has only one NBA season under his belt at 28 years old. The Serbian national has been playing professional basketball since he was 14, in various settings such as the Adriatic League and the Euroleague with Russian, Serbian, and Lithuanian teams.
The reason the San Antonio Spurs signed him to a one-year deal in July of 2015 was because his career was taking off. From 2012-2015, Marjanovic won three consecutive Serbian Super League MVPs.
Marjanovic appeared in 54 games in his rookie season with the Spurs last year, starting four. He played 9.4 minutes per game and averaged 5.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game while shooting 60.3 percent from the field and 76.3 percent from the line.
Marjanovic quickly became a social media darling due to his massive stature and imposing nature. While he is a little unpolished and lumbering, he showed flashes of great hands and great skills, hence the massive per-minute numbers he put up.
So, when the Spurs jumped on Pau Gasol early in free agency to partially fill the void left behind after Tim Duncan retired, the Pistons threw an offer sheet Marjanovic’s way. The Spurs declined to match, and he signed with the Pistons on July 11.
It was still a little bit curious, as the move locked Detroit into a tight cap situation combined with their other free agent signings and Andre Drummond’s extension. However, Baynes is expected to opt out of his contract after next season, leaving Marjanovic as the heir apparent to the backup center role down the road.
Baynes also happens to be a former Spur. He played three seasons in San Antonio before signing with the Pistons last offseason. Baynes served as the backup center last season and played surprisingly well, averaging 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game. He shot 50.5 percent from the field and 76.4 percent from the free throw line.
There is seemingly only room for one of either Baynes or Marjanovic to play consistent minutes behind Drummond this season. Considering his effectiveness in 2015-2016, it stands to reason that Baynes will have the upper hand heading into camp.
Still, at a time when the rest of the league is gravitating toward small ball, the Marjanovic signing gives Detroit a different dimension. There should be minutes for him in situations where Detroit wants to go big.
Furthermore, early reports are that the presence of Marjanovic on the practice floor is already pushing Drummond to be better. That alone could make his signing worthwhile, even if he only earns sporadic minutes.
There’s also the possibility that he outperforms Baynes and earns the backup center gig full-time this season. But even if he’s relegated to a bench role, the giant Marjanovic will make Detroit’s garbage time minutes that much more exciting to watch.