Is it time for the Detroit Pistons to unleash Boban?

Apr 7, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Detroit Pistons center Boban Marjanovic (51) dunks the ball against Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) in the second half at Toyota Center. Detroit Pistons won 114-109. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Detroit Pistons center Boban Marjanovic (51) dunks the ball against Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) in the second half at Toyota Center. Detroit Pistons won 114-109. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

Fan favorite Boban Marjanovic has been lighting up the box score with his staggering numbers for the Detroit Pistons and many fans are wondering if he should be unleashed next season.

If you had to choose between one of the following players, who would you choose?

Player A (per 36 min): 26.7 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 57.4% FG, 52.4% FT

Player B (per 36 min): 24.0 ppg, 15.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 55.4% FG, 80.4% FT

I ran this poll on my Twitter account for my followers (@shamshammgod) and the results were a landslide in favor of Player B with nearly 90% of the respondents voting for him.

So who is this per-36 minute superstar?

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The mysterious “Player B” who gathered the overwhelming majority of the votes, is none other than the Detroit Pistons own Boban Marjanovic.

Who is “Player A,” you might ask? It’s not Andre Drummond, it’s not a former Piston, and it’s not even anybody from this decade.

It’s 2000 NBA MVP Shaquille O’Neal.

Subject of a massive cult amonst NBA fans, Boban Marjanovic has captured the hearts and minds of many Detroit Pistons fans. There is a #FreeBoban movement that clamored for the 7’3″ Serbian to get more minutes. Maybe the movement is on to something. When Marjanovic has received adequate minutes (more than 20 minutes/game), his numbers have been eye-popping. He averages 18.7 ppg, 13.7 rpg, 69.4% FG, and has an average +/- of +10.6.

The comparison to 2000 NBA MVP Shaquille O’Neal was created partly tongue-in-cheek. In no way am I saying that Boban Marjanovic is Hall of Fame worthy or should even be the starter in Detroit, but I think its important to have the conversation about him getting more minutes next season.

Current backup center, Aron Baynes, is on a player option for the 2017-18 season and with Ian Mahinmi and Bismack Biyombo commanding more than $12 million and $16 million per year respectively, Baynes is almost guaranteed to opt out and look for a payday with a team that needs help at center. The Detroit Pistons have two options: grab another quality backup center on a veteran minimum contract or trust Boban Marjanovic with Baynes’ minutes next season. I tend to lean toward the latter.

If Marjanovic gets more minutes next season, where can he improve and what does he currently bring to the table?

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Firstly, Marjanovic is practically a vacuum under the rim. His ability to seal the opposing player out with perfect boxout position allows for him to grab a ton of a rebounds in the short spurts of time he has been given. Pair that with his towering 7’3″ nature and he is flat out dominant on the boards.

The best rebounder in the league is Andre Drummond, grabbing 25.2% of available rebounds. Boban Marjanovic ranks 3rd, behind DeAndre Jordan, with 24.1% (min 30 games played). His fellow backup center, Aron Baynes, is significantly worse with a 15.8% rebounding percentage.

So why does this matter? Boban Marjanovic can allow for the team to rest Andre Drummond without compromising the team’s rebounding ability. In fact, when Aron Baynes is on the floor this season, the team rebounded 2.1% better. When Boban Marjanovic was on the floor, the team rebounded 3.4% better.

In addition to quality rebounding, Boban Marjanovic’s ability to seal the opposing team out of the paint allows for him to be pretty efficient in post-ups and when he gets the ball under the rim.

One of the biggest knocks on Andre Drummond is that he catches the ball in the post and his efficiency is average around the rim. Take a look at his shot chart:

The blue on his shot chart shows that he demonstrates average abilities around the rim when he gets the ball there. Drummond has a 54.1% field goal percentage within 10 feet of the rim.

Also, you can see that the blue is spread out over a greater area. Drummond consistently catches the ball away from the paint and takes contested shots from those positions.

Now take a look at Boban Marjanovic’s:

The dark blue shows that Boban Marjanovic is consistently above-average around the rim and his ability to master post position and get practically under the rim allows for him to take high percentage shots – something that Drummond struggles with.

Boban Marjanovic does need to improve his defense, however. His large stature makes his lateral quickness slower than most and he sometimes gets beat to the rim, especially in transition. Also, he struggles to defend the perimeter. Centers who have the ability to step out and shoot threes make Marjanovic defend a greater space, so he struggles to defend in those scenarios.

Marjanovic (as well as Andre Drummond) needs to improve on passing out of the post. His ability to get so close to the rim and collapse the defense opens up opportunities for the other shooters on the court, but often those opportunities go to waste. Having a dominant big man is supposed to improve spacing, but it seems to do just the opposite with him and Drummond.

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Fans are enamored with Marjanovic’s numbers, as they should be, but they need to be taken with a grain of salt. His numbers are a result of an extremely small sample size, and often he’s going up against other team’s second or even third string players. However, his numbers are encouraging and should be given an uptick in his minutes going into next season and beyond.