Revisiting the Detroit Pistons’ positional needs

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 6: Reggie Jackson
AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 6: Reggie Jackson /

Back in early June, I wrote about the Detroit Pistons positional needs heading into the off-season. Now, nearly seven weeks later, the Pistons’ roster appears to be set. Let’s take a look at whether they addressed those needs.

A lot has changed for the Detroit Pistons since June 6. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris are gone. Avery Bradley is now wearing red, white and blue. Detroit’s backup shooting guards will consist of Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard. Who would’ve thought?

I chose June 6 for a particular reason. On that day, I identified the Pistons’ positional needs entering the summer. Since then, we’ve seen the conclusion of the draft, Summer League, and (for the most part) free agency.

The makeup of this team is certainly different. But just how different, and is it enough? That question will be answered in the coming months. As for now, here’s a look at where they stand today.


Additions: Eric Moreland

Subtractions: Aron Baynes

It wasn’t much of a surprise that Aron Baynes declined his player option and became a free agent. Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders reported back in February that Baynes had already made his decision.

The Pistons were then left with two centers on the roster, Andre Drummond and Boban Marjanovic. Drummond may be a polarizing figure, but he’s still one of the more dominant players on the glass. Marjanovic, on the other hand, is much more of a question mark.

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He saw limited action in his first year with the Pistons last season, appearing in only 35 games. His time on the floor was just as scarce. Marjanovic averaged 8.4 minutes per contest and most of it was in garbage time. His numbers will increase dramatically this season. Whether or not he can handle a larger role remains to be seen.

Now enter Eric Moreland into the equation. Stan Van Gundy found his third center in a most unlikely place – Summer League. The 25-year-old shined in Orlando, as he led all players in rebounding with an average of 8.4 per game.

Moreland also possesses a great deal of athleticism for a 6’10” player. His rotations on defense were quick and precise, which helped him average 2.8 blocks per contest. He ran the floor and was able to make an impact offensively in transition. Moreland would post up outside of the paint, which opened the lane for his teammates.

Drummond and Marjanovic will still receive the majority of minutes at center. But Moreland gives Van Gundy some insurance at the five spot, and that’s exactly what the Pistons needed.

Shooting guard

Additions: Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway, Luke Kennard

Subtractions: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Darrun Hilliard

If Caldwell-Pope was the biggest story-line heading into the summer, then Bradley is the biggest one coming out. No one could’ve predicted the blockbuster trade that went down between the Celtics and Pistons on July 7.

Shams Charania of The Vertical  first reported the deal which sent Bradley and a 2019 second round pick to Detroit. In exchange, Boston received Marcus Morris. The Celtics needed to shed some money in order to sign Gordon Hayward, and Bradley was the odd man out.

This acquisition rendered Caldwell-Pope’s services useless, essentially. The Pistons quickly renounced their rights to the 24-year-old shooting guard that same day. He eventually signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers on July 11.

Digest that for a second, because we’re not done with this position. Before the trade with Boston, the Pistons had already brought in two new shooting guards. Luke Kennard was taken 12th overall in June’s draft. Langston Galloway agreed to a three-year deal on the first day of free agency.

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Both are expected to provide some much-needed shooting for a Pistons team that ranked 22nd in field-goal percentage last season. The surprising addition of Avery Bradley solidifies those expectations.

Caldwell-Pope will surely be missed. But he isn’t an elite level talent like Bradley, who is one of the better two-way players in the NBA. Guys with his skill set aren’t easy to find. Bradley averaged 16.3 points per game last season playing alongside a ball-dominant Isaiah Thomas. His 6.1 rebounds per game were second to only Al Horford, who finished with 6.8.

The Pistons have completely reinvented themselves at shooting guard. All of a sudden, it’s their deepest position and the most intriguing moving forward.

Small Forward

Additions: None

Subtractions: Marcus Morris

This is a classic case of addition by subtraction. With all due respect to Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris is the better forward. Now it’s between Harris and Stanley Johnson to fill the starting small forward vacancy.

Realistically, either of them can play that position. But there’s a few risk factors involved with each player. Harris is more of a sure thing. He led the Detroit Pistons in scoring last season with an average of 16.1 points per game. He only started 48 games, and did solid job acting as the sixth man.

If Van Gundy brings him back into the starting lineup, then he loses some major production off the bench. Is Henry Ellenson ready to handle heavier minutes as the backup power forward? He might not have a choice.

But let’s say that Van Gundy elects to keep Harris as a reserve. This means that Johnson would most likely start at the three. There’s a fair amount of concern regarding his development. Johnson regressed in every single statistical category last season.

Sure, his minutes were basically cut in half as his averaged dropped from 8.1 per game to 4.4. But that was largely a result of his attitude. He fell out of favor with the coaching staff early last year, and struggled to find his way back.

Van Gundy has no choice but his increase his minutes from now on. The Pistons are a little thin at small forward, and guys like Galloway and Reggie Bullock will certainly see some action here.

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Johnson is only 21, and still has a ton of upside. His defense off the ball is encouraging. But this has to be a breakout year for him. The Pistons need the high-energy rookie they saw two years ago, and not the moody forward from last season.

Roster ready

Take a good look Detroit Pistons fans. The roster you see today is probably the same one you’ll see in the fall. It’s very different from the one we saw back in April. There’s a larger emphasis on outside shooting and perimeter defense. Detroit did a decent job addressing their weaknesses. For better or for worse, these are your 2017-18 Detroit Pistons.