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Previewing the 2014-15 Pistons: Aaron Gray

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Of all the journeymen signed by Stan Van Gundy this offseason, Aaron Gray is perhaps the most puzzling. Is Gray just a practice dummy or does the new coach look for him to play a role this season?

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Entering his first free agency with the Detroit Pistons, Stan Van Gundy moved quickly out of the gates signing Jodie Meeks, Cartier Martin, and Aaron Gray within the first week. Aaron Gray?

The 29-year-old center isn't exactly the player who you expect to see signed within the first week of the free agency season. He's played for four different teams and never surpassed 900 minutes in a season. Even more puzzling was that his contract was reported to be a multi-year deal.

With the roster size already near bursting heading in to the offseason, Gray's signing foretold the decision not to pick up Josh Harrellson's non-guaranteed contract despite a promising season with the Pistons last year.

2013-14 Year in Review

After two years as the reserve big body for the Toronto Raptors, Gray was packaged as part of the deal with the Sacramento Kings that shipped Rudy Gay out of town. Gray had only seen 20 minutes by that point, even though the season was more than a month old.

He found some minutes in Sacramento, helping back up DeMarcus Cousins at time and providing some bullk to their frontcourt. But he was mostly ineffective, putting up a career-low field goal percentage and turning the ball over at a career-high rate.

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Gray at least seemed to provide some help defensively, with the fourth-best defensive rating on the team. But according to NBA Stats player tracking, he was ineffective protecting the rim, allowing opponents to score at a 70.9 percent clip at the rim.

The things that earned Gray a multi-year contract aren't what show up in the box scores. Things like being 7 foot, 270 pounds, toughness, boxing out, and setting teeth rattling picks.

2014-15 Projected Production

Gray has averaged 550 minutes each season for his career, so not much. With Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe splitting the majority of the minutes at center, there shouldn't be many left for Gray unless if the situation changes.

If we see much of Gray, it means something went wrong.

The hope for the biggest role for Gray will be as a physical presence in practices going up against Drummond and Monroe. There aren't a ton of players with his size and competitiveness willing to sign for a minimum contract and content with a spot at the end of the bench.

If we see much of Gray, it means something went wrong. That could mean Monroe's impending free agency. If Monroe were traded at some point this season and the Pistons did not receive a center in return, Gray would be forced into the rotation. While Monroe and Drummond were a durable duo last season, if one of the two missed time it would also mean playing time for Gray.

Prediction

Aaron Gray has a history with two influential members of the new Pistons' leadership. He was a favorite of new general manager Jeff Bower from his time in New Orleans and played for assistant coach Brendan Malone last year in Sacramento, so they know what they're getting.

With the 12th man spot, Van Gundy and Bower opted for reliability over upside. Hopefully the biggest impact Gray has is off the court, helping Drummond's development and providing some leadership in the locker room.

15 games, 10 mpg, 2.5 points per game, 3 rebounds per game