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2015 Pistons preview: Reggie Bullock battles for roster spot, future role in rotation

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The Pistons ‘other Reggie’ hopes his 3-and-D abilities will keep him in the Motor City this season.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Life in the NBA offers few guarantees – even if first round draft picks are granted a guaranteed contract. But if Reggie Bullock, the 25th pick in the 2013 draft, feels inclined to lament the fact that he’s already with his third team, he need only consider the fate of the first pick in that draft: Anthony Bennett. Having been bought out by his second team, the Timberwolves, Bennett is currently hoping to latch on with his hometown Toronto Raptors. And while Bullock has not received nearly as much playing time in his young career, even his sparing time on the court has been more effective than Bennett’s.

Bullock came to Detroit this summer as part of a cap-clearing move by Phoenix, which at the time was in hot pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge. He subsequently left the Suns pining at the altar, but not before they had unloaded three wings on a Pistons’ roster that was bereft of small forwards. Morris was the chief prize Van Gundy desired, but he may have been intrigued by Bullock’s potential, too. And his performance off the bench in the last two preseason games indicates that he may become a valued addition.

2014-15 Year in Review

Bullock was originally selected by the Clippers. He appeared in 43 games as a rookie, garnering mostly garbage minutes – like a typical late pick on a playoff team. Last year he was able to establish a slightly larger role in Los Angeles, even starting two games, before being shipped to Phoenix in January as part of a three-team trade that also included Boston. Unfortunately for Bullock, he saw minimal playing time the rest of the season on a Suns team that already had a well-established rotation at small forward.

If we’re looking for present signs of promise, the chief one is his three-point shooting. He shot 38.5 percent in 25 appearances for the Clippers last season. Over 72 percent of his shots were threes, so Bullock’s True Shooting Percentage was .578. He took nearly half of his threes from the corner, where he made 47.4 percent. (He showed this same ability in three seasons at North Carolina, where he made nearly 39 percent of his 486 threes, with his accuracy approaching 44 percent his junior year.) That is a valuable skill for a team whose offense will be based on Jackson penetrating the paint off the pick-and-roll, looking for open shooters when the defense collapses on him or Andre Drummond.

2015-16 Projected Production

When you were traded along with a more experienced player who was targeted as a potential starter at small forward (Marcus Morris), and your new team drafted another candidate for that job with the eighth pick of the 2015 Draft (Stanley Johnson), the battle for minutes is guaranteed to be tough. And there is a similar logjam at shooting guard (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks). Barring an injury to one of those four players, Bullock will be hard pressed to merit meaningful minutes this season.

Realistically, the former North Carolina Tar Heel is competing with Cartier Martin and Adonis Thomas for a final spot on the roster. Martin has experience in his favor, but was a major disappointment last year, failing to win a consistent role at a position of weakness. Thomas played well for D-League affiliate the Grand Rapids Drive in 2014-15. Since both of those players have been hurt in preseason, an opportunity to step forward has been handed to him, and Bullock looks to be making the most of it.

He started the third quarter in last Tuesday’s loss to Indiana, as Van Gundy looked for a greater defensive effort out of his team, which gave up 59 points in the opening half. The next day he commended Bullock for his defense and energy, and had to be pleased as well that he made two threes and distributed four assists. Saturday night in Milwaukee, Bullock scored 14 points, canning three of his seven three-point shots.

Bullock is slated to make $1.25 million in 2015-16, and will get a million dollar raise if the Pistons pick up his option the following year. Assuming he makes the team this fall, he will need to show the ability to contribute in order to be retained into 2016-17. While Johnson is expected to be the eventual starter at small forward, Morris might see more time at power forward down the road. In that case, Van Gundy will be looking for a capable backup for Johnson. At shooting guard, Caldwell-Pope and Meeks both appear entrenched, but the latter will enter the final year of his contract in 2016-17. So the opportunity to fill a key role in the rotation will develop later, if not sooner.

If the "other Reggie" continues to show that he can defend well and knock down three-pointers at a near 40 percent clip, he will make a strong case for being a player Detroit needs to keep – even if he is parked on The Palace bench most nights this season.

Prediction

30 games, 11 minutes per game, 4 points per game, 38 percent three-point shooting.