We are less than two weeks away from the start of the 2015-16 NBA season. By that time, every NBA team will need to make sure their rosters, if over, are cut down to 15 players. At present, the Pistons have 18 players with contracts. That means that at the very least, three players will be sent packing. After Wednesday's performance against the Chicago Bulls, Reggie Bullock has all but made sure he will not be one of them.
Bullock was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers as the 25th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Coming out of the University of North Carolina after three years, Bullock had shown a very important skill for a small forward: he could shoot. Every year in college, his shooting numbers increased. He shot 36.7/29.6/56.5 in his freshman year, 42.8/38.2/72.7 in his second year, and then 48.3/43.6/76.7 in his final year. If he was going to make it in the NBA, it was going to be on his shooting and his defense.
Upon entering the NBA, his college shooting was not translating. He only played 68 games for the Clippers over two seasons and 11 with Phoenix, but in that time his shooting averages were 35.1/31.1/72.2. In his 11 games with Phoenix, he went 1-for-16. That is what probably led Phoenix, along with needing the cap space, to add him to the trade that sent Marcus Morris to Detroit. Well, thanks again Phoenix. Last year Anthony Tolliver, this year Reggie Bullock (and maybe Morris).
On Wednesday evening, when the Pistons only led the Bulls by one after three quarters, Bullock contributed 12 points in a Pistons 38-16 fourth quarter. Six of those points came from wide open three-point looks, two on a fast-break dunk, and the other four on another dunk and a layup. His final stat line for the evening was 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting (3-for-4 from the long line), two rebounds, four assists, and a turnover. All of this in 24 minutes.
So far this preseason, Bullock has seen action in three games. For players averaging 20 minutes or more per game (Bullock is averaging 20.6), Bullock has the best field-goal percentage, second best three-point percentage, leads the team in plus/minus, and is perfect from the line (so is Reggie Jackson, Tolliver and Jordan Bachynski). His averages this preseason are 12.3 points per game shooting 60.9/50.0/100.0 while also collecting 2.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
Of the 18 players who could make it to the season, four began camp on the bubble. Danny Granger was probably least likely to make it as he is still rehabbing. That left Bullock, Adonis Thomas and Cartier Martin. Maybe in Bullock's advantage, both Thomas and Martin have been suffering from injuries. Thomas first suffered with an Achilles soreness, now he is dealing with a strained calf muscle. Martin has been suffering with a sprained wrist. Martin, if you remember, was one of Stan Van Gundy's free agent signings last offseason. As was expected, he picked up his team option this year.
Reggie Bullock has all but won the roster battle. He's 5/6 for 12 points with 4 assists in 17 minutes. Pistons up 14— Keith Langlois (@Keith_Langlois) October 15, 2015
Minutes will still be hard to come by for Bullock though as he'll be sitting behind four players in the lineup. It has been said that Bullock is a shooting guard who can play small forward.
Both Bullock and Thomas are capable of playing both shooting guard and small forward, Van Gundy said, though he considers Bullock a little more of the former and Thomas, because of his strength, a little better fit at the latter.
This would mean that barring an injury or really bad play by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jodie Meeks, Stanley Johnson, or Marcus Morris, Bullock is not likely to see many minutes. It could be said that he is out performing Morris, but Van Gundy has already said Morris is likely to be the starting small forward. If he is, then that means Johnson is the backup. If Morris is not the starter, I doubt he would not be the first backup to Johnson or Ersan Ilyasova.
Have you been impressed with Bullock so far this preseason? Are his shooting numbers so far a fluke, or is this just his natural progression? Let us know what you think in the comments.