SVG: Ersan Ilyasova belongs in the same category as Ryan Anderson, Kevin Love
Greg Monroe's injury late into last season opened the door for Stan Van Gundy to shape the starting lineup in a way he was more comfortable with, letting journeyman Anthony Tolliver start in the Louisiana big man's stead. The results were telling. Detroit's offense was more open with four shooters in the lineup, Andre Drummond had more space on the block and Reggie Jackson could operate the lanes easier; the Pistons looked like a Van Gundy team.
As the season came to a close, Motown's main offseason concern was adding a starting-caliber stretch-4 according to MLive's David Mayo, and the Pistons did indeed find him, trading Caron Butler and Shawne Williams to the Milwaukee Bucks in return for Ersan Ilyasova. The move made sense for both teams, and gave the Turkish player a chance at re-igniting his career in Detroit after a couple of disappointing seasons in Wisconsin. Expectations have always been high for Ersan amongst Pistons fans, especially after his strong showing in EuroBasket, but as training camp kicks off, the forward received quite a lot of praise from SVG:
"It's rare, guys in this league who can stretch the defense and rebound the ball," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "You've got Kevin Love, you've got Ryan Anderson, and you've got Ersan. That's about the list. There's just not that many. So he can't lose that part of his game (rebounding)."
Over the course of his seven-year NBA career, the 'Turkish Thunder' averaged 37 percent from three to go along with 10.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists in just under 24 minutes per game. Ersan's rebounding numbers have been declining over the past three seasons however, correlating with a loss in production due to a reduction of his minutes, something Ilyasova said he was weary of, as the Bucks' internal turmoil and coaching carousel affected multiple personnel moves over the past five seasons.
"What I'm looking for is just kind of stability, be around the same guys for a long time," Ilyasova said. "I think when you achieve those things, you kind of read each other better, and you know you don't have to prove yourself and do an extra something.
Darrun Hilliard's versatility could lead him to play some point guard
In an interview with MLive's Aaron McCann, rookie guard Darrun Hilliard explains that should the team need him to fill in at point guard, he is ready to make the transition, a somewhat unexpected statement considering the team currently has four point guards signed to guaranteed contracts - Reggie Jackson, Brandon Jennings, Steve Blake and Spencer Dinwiddie. However, with injuries affecting the group, the Villanova product has squared up against Reggie Jackson in team workouts and pickup games, a sign that Stan Van Gundy has toyed with the idea of using the 6'6" rookie at the position.
"I'm not going to be shy about it," Hilliard said. "I did it before, it's a little different because you're playing against guys like Reggie Jackson, but it's all good. I was excited about it and I thought I played pretty well. Whatever the coach wants me to do, I can do," he said. "I know that he knows that and I'm going to keep working toward it. If he wants me to play the point, I'll play the point. If he wants me to play the two, I'll play the two."
Without reading too much into it, Hilliard at point guard doesn't make too much sense for the Pistons, but could help the team with upcoming roster decisions if the rookie shows some promise at the 1. Second-year man Spencer Dinwiddie had a lackluster Summer League, leading to the team's acquisition of veteran Steve Blake as insurance policy, whilst mercurial floor general Brandon Jennings is expected to miss the start of the season thanks to his continued rehabilitation, so there is certainly some potential for the the former Big East Most Improved Player to sneak into the point guard rotation... or elsewhere.
"If he wants me to get into the weight room and play the three, I'll play the three."
Anthony Tolliver on contract year: "It's going to be the best year of my career"
The frontcourt rotation has some newfound depth after the Pistons' busy offseason, with Anthony Tolliver expected to compete for minutes with Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes, certainly no small ask. The NBA veteran and journeyman will start the season with the same team for only the second time in his career, and he welcomes the stability that comes with it, as he outlines in his blog. Tolliver explains that he is excited to play in Detroit again, and tells his fans to expect more of the same out of the 30-year-old: hustle, shooting and hopefully, added efficiency, better conditioning and versatile defense.
I worked out at a place called Michael Johnson Performance, and they did a phenomenal job at doing what they do and getting me in really good shape. In the past, I've always trained as just a basketball player. This summer I trained as an athlete, with the goal of improving my overall athleticism - my speed, my endurance, and my strength.
Fans can expect to see more of what they've seen out of me in the past, just at a more efficient rate. I feel like I'm known as a shooter, and I'm shooting the ball at a higher percentage than I ever have before. That's definitely a big part of my game. Defensively, I'm really trying to be versatile, guard multiple positions, and help my team out in more ways on the defensive end. I feel like that is where I will surprise some people this year.
The eight year NBA veteran is entering the final year of his contract, and is coming off a season where he averaged 7.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 52 appearances (11 starts) after being acquired via trade from Phoenix in December. He holds career shooting averages of .414/.356/.784, and will be expected to spread the floor for Reggie Jackson and the Pistons as they look to make their first post-season appearance in six years.
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