The Detroit Pistons have restructured their roster and are keen on challenging for a playoff spot for the first time since 2009.
The Pistons have made a plethora of moves this offseason in an attempt to improve on their 32-50 record, which was the team’s best finish since the 2009 season. Detroit has added 10 new players this summer through trades, free agency and the draft. All of these moves should make an interesting position battles in training camp, which opens later this month.
In total, the Pistons currently have 19 players under contract, which includes 17 players with fully guaranteed deal according to Basketball Insiders. Detroit can carry a maximum of 15 players, per NBA rules, once the season begins, which means they will have to “eat” some of the guaranteed money unless the team makes a trade or two. 13 of the 19 players under contract are perimeter oriented.
So, which players are on the bubble?
Based on the current composition of the roster, it appears that 14 players are guaranteed to make the team, which leaves five players fighting for the final roster spot. Here is the positional breakdown of the roster for the 14 players that are predicted to be shoo-ins to make team.
Point guards: Brandon Jennings, Reggie Jackson, Steve Blake.
Jackson is projected to be the starter as Jennings is still recovering from a ruptured left Achilles tendon. Jennings told Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press that he has no issue coming off the bench when he returns. Blake will serve as Jackson’s backup until Jennings returns. Also, don’t be surprised if Jackson and Jennings are on the court at the same time at certain points in the game.
Shooting guard: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jodie Meeks.
Caldwell-Pope is the starter. Meeks should see plenty of time off the bench as he has the ability to put up a bunch of points quickly and is one of the team’s best three-point shooters.
Small Forwards: Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson, Cartier Martin, Danny Granger.
The Pistons are loaded at small forward with seven players capable of playing the position. Detroit acquired Morris from Phoenix to be the starter according to David Mayo of MLive. Johnson, the No. 8 pick in the draft, will see a lot of time at small forward and shooting guard. Martin can play three postions — SF, SG, and PF — and is scheduled to make $1.2 million. Granger is a good three-point shooter, who can play both forward spots and will make over $2 million this year.
Power Forward: Ersan Ilyasova, Anthony Tolliver.
Ilyaova will start while Tolliver, who is an excellent perimeter marksman, will provide scoring off the bench.
Center: Andre Drummond, Aron Baynes, Joel Anthony
Baynes will likely get the majority of minutes as the first big off the bench, expect him and Drummond to be on the floor at the same time on occasion. Anthony is very limited offensively but does provide a shot-blocking presence and is a good rebounder.
Reggie Bullock, Spencer Dinwiddie, Adonis Thomas, Darrun Hilliard and Eric Griffin will likely battle for the final spot.
Dinwiddie may or may not be “on the bubble.” Dinwiddie played in just 34 games as a rookie last year and he had an uneven summer league campaign — averaging 10.4 points, 3.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 3.8 turnovers while also shooting just 40.0 percent and 27.3 percent from beyond the arc in 23 minutes of action.
Bullock is long, athletic and is a strong perimeter defender. He just hasn’t been able to put everything together yet.
Hilliard, Thomas and Dinwiddie could probably use some time in the D-League. All three will likely be assigned to the Grand Rapids Drive, the Pistons’ D-League affiliate, if they are cut.
Mayo wrote that he believes that Thomas or Bullock has the edge for the last spot.
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