When Stan Van Gundy announced over the off-season that the failed experiment of Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond on the floor together would be limited this year, it was clear that few frontcourt minutes would be leftover. The odd man out, as usual, was probably going to be Jonas Jerebko.
That's been a recurring theme for Jerebko's career to this point. As a player consistently offering above average performance for a sub-30 win team, one would think that he'd be a regular in the rotation. But his minutes have declined each year since his rookie year.
That trend should stop this year.
While there's not an easy route to Jerebko getting on the court and he's already been forgotten in the rotation once, his skills just happen to align with both coaching and personnel styles perfectly.
It's long been assumed that Stan Van Gundy's arrival to Detroit meant that he wanted a stretch four. After all, players like Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson dominated the power forward minutes alongside Dwight Howard during his time in Orlando.
While I've written in the past that I don't think the 4 out/1 in style that worked so well with Howard is the right fit for Drummond full time, there is certainly are certainly times that having a big man who can help open up the rest of the court.
In the past Jerebko was a reliable shooter, but last year he exploded shooting 42 percent from three - more the 10 percent higher than his previous career high. Such a jump allows for some healthy skepticism about the merits of his newly found range, but so far he has picked up where he left off.
Most of his success from three point range last season came from the corners, where he shot an incredible 68 percent. Above the break he only shot 31 percent, which was just slightly better than his career norms. But this year, all of his threes have been above the break and he's knocked them down at a 57 percent clip.
For a guy whose best chance to hit the floor is as a pick-and-pop threat, this is huge.
Jerebko playing well also stands to help a couple of his fellow Pistons, namely D.J. Augustin and Andre Drummond.
As Sean_Corp pointed out in his player preview on Augustin, he loves to set up his big men for jumpers off pick-and-rolls. He'll attack the pick man's defender to create space for the pop, then set his teammate up for a wide open jumper. However, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond aren't exactly Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah.
Jerebko is a guy Augustin can work with though, and we saw it happen Wednesday.
That's a play that will be there all season if Van Gundy gets Jerebko on the court.
For Drummond, defenses have been paying lots of attention to him on pick and rolls, leaving him with little room to operate offensively. As a result, the young player who has spent his whole career over 60 percent from the field is sitting in the mid-40s to start the season. Jerebko can help.
Take a look at this:
With Josh Smith in the game, both Jennings and Drummond's man are able to focus on handling Jennings off the pick while Faried ensures that Drummond is shut down from filling the lane. Jennings sees his man has left him open, but Smith is unable to take advantage with a quality shot.
Compare that to this this pick and roll between Drummond and Augustin from Wednesday with Kyle Singler, Caron Butler, and Jerebko also on the floor.
The defense collapses to avoid the easy Dre throw-down, but while Jerebko's man stays with him above the break Augustin still has his choice of open shooters in Butler and Singler. He sets Butler up for the high-percentage three.
In that situation, teams are left with two unfavorable options: Dre for an alley oop or an open three to an excellent shooter. Three points are more than two. If Pistons shooters are able to knock those shots down, Drummond is going to eventually find much more room available for his most effective offensive play.
Jerebko is pretty much the only player on the roster as it currently stands able to provide the skills to make that play. It's important that Van Gundy continues to look for opportunities to get him onto the court.