Jon Leuer has been the Pistons’ biggest source of stability

Oct 13, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Jon Leuer (30) is defended by Atlanta Hawks forward Ryan Kelly (30) in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 13, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Jon Leuer (30) is defended by Atlanta Hawks forward Ryan Kelly (30) in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons turned some heads when they signed Jon Leuer to a four-year $41 million contract this summer, but he’s paid dividends so far.

The Detroit Pistons had a major weakness exposed in last season’s first round sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. They didn’t have anybody who could stick with Kevin Love, one of the NBA’s best stretch-four power forwards, on either offense or defense.

Love was able to pull Andre Drummond away from the basket, allowing Tristan Thompson to feast inside. When Drummond didn’t trail him to the perimeter, Love was able to fire away from long-range with impunity. The Pistons didn’t have an answer, and they opted to go out-of-house for the solution.

That fix to the problem came in the form of Jon Leuer. A six-year journeyman NBA veteran, Leuer had played for four different teams before the Pistons came calling this summer with a four-year, $41 million contract.

It seemed a steep price to pay for a big with just 45 career starts, but at least he could shoot threes and bother stretch-fours on the perimeter.

At least he could shoot threes.

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It turns out, shooting three-pointers is the only thing Leuer hasn’t excelled at this season for the Pistons. He’s been perhaps the most consistent performer for the team, and without a doubt he has been the biggest source of stability off the bench.

He’s earned Stan Van Gundy’s trust to the point where he is playing a career-high 26.5 minutes, sixth-best on the roster. In fact, Van Gundy even ran plays for Leuer in the Pistons’ 117-90 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.

Per MLive’s Aaron McMann:

"“We actually ran a couple of plays for him, which we have not done all year,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said.“We’ve got to start incorporating a little more into our offense for him. I think there’s more there than we’re getting now. That guy is a really good basketball player.”"

In both plays, Leuer slides off the screen and sets up shop at the free throw line for unguarded jumpers.

Leuer has been outstanding on the offensive end, scoring a career-high 10.3 points per game on 56.5 percent true shooting, already a career high in any season where he has played more than 642 minutes (he’s already at 688 through 26 games).

All of this while shooting below his career 35.6 percent three-point shooting clip, hitting just 30 percent of his threes this season. Just imagine when he heats up from long range.

Of course, Jon Leuer was not signed to be able to score with Kevin Love, a career 18.5 points per game scorer. He was also acquired in order to flex some defensive muscle, a task he’s proven to be more than capable of.

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Leuer is posting the second-lowest defensive rating on the team, as the Pistons are giving up just 96 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor. He also makes life miserable on spot up shooters, allowing just .893 points per possession on spot up jump shots as shooters are hitting just 37.5 percent of their shots when he’s their primary defender.

He’s also holding shooters to 2.3 percent worse than their season averages when he is the defender. Within six feet of the basket, shooters are 7.3 percent worse, and within 10 feet they’re shooting 4.1 percent worse. When guarding three-point attempts, shooters are hitting 1.1 percent higher than their average rate, but shooters that he guards on the perimeter are hitting just 32.8 percent when he’s on them, which is a more than acceptable rate.

Perhaps the most remarkable statistical evidence for how stalwart Leuer has been for the Detroit Pistons are his on/off numbers.

Over the course of the season, when Leuer is off the court, the Pistons are outscored 106.3 to 104.5 for a net rating of -1.8 points per 100 possessions. When Leuer is on the court, the Pistons outscore their opponents 101 to 96 per 100 possessions, a +4.9 differential. That yields an on/off differential of +6.7, behind only Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s +11.2 on/off differential.

It’s also an impressive 10.3 points per 100 possessions difference in defensive rating between when Leuer is off and on the court.

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Leuer has been one of the most splendid surprises in the NBA so far. His $41 million contract, once considered an overreach, now looks like excellent value in the current salary climate. Without a doubt, the Detroit Pistons became one of the biggest winners in this past summer’s free agency period when they snatched up Jon Leuer.

Video courtesy of our friends at 3 Ball.