Detroit Pistons’ off-season: Positional needs going forward

Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Henry Ellenson (Marquette) walks to the stage after being selected as the number eighteen overall pick to the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Henry Ellenson (Marquette) walks to the stage after being selected as the number eighteen overall pick to the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2017 NBA draft and free agency are less than a month away. With that in mind, here’s a look at the Detroit Pistons’  positional needs entering  the summer.

As the calendar turns to June, the NBA off-season is quickly approaching.  The draft will be held on June 22 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reported back in May that the Detroit Pistons are targeting the best player available.

Regardless of who the Pistons select, a single pick won’t address the handful of issues surrounding this team.  Detroit has roughly three months to reshape their roster in time for the regular season.  Let’s take a look at the Pistons’ biggest positional needs going forward.


This one may sound a bit surprising since the Pistons currently have three centers on the team. But Aron Baynes has a player option in his contract for the 2017-18 season.  It remains unclear as to whether or not Baynes will choose to exercise his option.  If he opts out of his deal, then Detroit would be left with Andre Drummond and Boban Marjanovic as their two centers.

Baynes’ absence would significantly weaken Detroit’s front court depth.  The Australian appeared in 75 games last season while averaging 15.5 minutes per game, 4.9 points per game, and 4.4 rebounds per game.  Those numbers might not sound impressive, but Baynes (unlike Marjanovic) was constantly involved in the rotation.

Marjanovic only played in 35 games last season and averaged a measly 8.4 minutes per game – mostly in garbage time.  This causes his per game averages of 5.5 points and 55 percent shooting to be a bit misleading.  Not to mention that his footwork defensively remains very raw.

Is Stan Van Gundy willing to give him a chance as the first center off the bench?  More importantly, can Marjanovic handle playing heavier minutes?  Conventional wisdom (along with Van Gundy’s usage of him last season) says no.

Shooting guard

Perhaps the biggest story-line this summer will be Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s status as a restricted free agent.  Detroit can match any offer that’s made to Caldwell-Pope.  Now here’s where the debate comes into play.  Should the Pistons pay serious money to retain him?  Ash Vanclay thinks so, and I highly recommend checking out his piece.

Let’s assume the Pistons keep him.  After Caldwell-Pope, the depth at shooting guard really comes into question.  Darrun Hilliard, Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock all played shooting guard at some point last season.  Yet the results were somewhat underwhelming.

More from PistonPowered

Hilliard and Johnson both took a step back in their sophomore season.  Shooting woes plagued Hilliard, who shot just 26 percent from beyond the arc.  His indecisiveness with the basketball was particularly frustrating for the 24-year-old.  There’s a team option in his contract for 2017-18, and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s back in the fall.

Johnson wasn’t much better.  After an encouraging rookie year, the former Arizona Wildcat saw his minutes per game decrease from 23.1 to 17.8.  He fell out of favor with Van Gundy early in the season and never seemed to regain it.

Despite a better second half, he was largely a disappointment.  Johnson’s scoring was nearly cut in half from 8.1 points per game to 4.4.  Yet his youth and defensive ability mean that he’s not a lost cause.

Bullock is the enigma of the group.  The 6’7″ swing man played just 31 games for the Pistons in 2016-17 largely due to a torn left meniscus he suffered in November. Bullock shot the ball relatively well with a field goal percentage of 42 percent.

Bullock is 26 years old and hasn’t played more than 43 games in a season throughout his four-year career.  He enters the summer as a restricted free agent.

Small forward

What’s interesting about the small forward position is how fluid it’s become in the modern NBA. Normally your shooting guards and power forwards can rotate into the three spot.  This is the case with the Pistons, as Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock, and Tobias Harris have all served that role.

But outside of Marcus Morris, the Detroit Pistons appear to lack another “true” small forward.  Harris is more effective at the four spot thanks to his ability to score in a myriad of ways.  Johnson hasn’t found his offensive stride on a team that already has difficulty scoring.  That’s why Morris’ overall consistency is so important.

In his two seasons with the Pistons, Morris has averaged 14.1 points per game while shooting 43 percent from the floor.  He’s only missed three games in his tenure with the Pistons.  He’s gone through his fair share of slumps too.  But his presence in the locker room carries a lot of weight on a generally young and inexperienced team.

Much like Caldwell-Pope, Morris’ position features a handful of unproven understudies.  Stanley Johnson is technically the backup small forward.  However, his role was expanded to a part-time shooting guard last season.  So now you’re looking at a rotation of Johnson and Bullock at the back up three spot.

Next: Simulating the Detroit Pistons offseason

That simply won’t do, and neither will the current roster.  The Detroit Pistons would be wise to address all of these positions, and they can start with the No. 12 pick.