After a promising enough start to the season a bit of a rough patch has had fans clamoring for the return of their starting point guard. With Reggie Jackson’s return hopefully (fingers crossed, knock on wood, stroke the lucky rabbit’s foot) imminent we talk point guard and the near future of the Pistons team.
(*Look for a few questions on your general feeling about this series below the main content.)
1. When Reggie comes back, who is your back-up point guard?
Michael Snyder (mophatt1): Considering the circumstances Beno Udrih was brought here with, he’s been nothing short of fantastic and he’s perfect for the emergency role. The only answer though, is Ish Smith as he’s proven to be able to push the ball and get to the basket, ideal skill set for a second unit. Given the opportunity to go against fellow backups, Smith is going to eat them alive.
Justin Lambregtse: If it were up to me, it would be Beno Udrih. I think he has outplayed Ish Smith and is better at running an offense. However, I don't think Stan Van Gundy feels the same way and Ish will be the backup.
Steve Hinson: I think it'll definitely be Ish, but there may be some longing glances at the dude with the bleached manbun from SVG if the offense continues to struggle with its shooting.
Lazarus Jackson: The guy you gave the three-year, $18 million contract in the offseason probably is going to be playing over the guy picked up the day before the season started.
Sean Wheeler (hypnowheel): It’s going to be Ish… at least at first. He should mesh well with that second unit. But it’s certainly nice to have a 3rd string PG whose play makes that an interesting question.
Ben Quagliata: I think Ish’s pace will be better suited to the second unit because of his penchant for getting inside and creating open looks. Udrih’s second unit so far has gotten the majority of its shots in the midrange, and he’s more of a scorer than a facilitator. Smith gets others involved.
Ken Wallace (revken): Ish Smith is still my first choice as the backup PG.
Benjamin Gulker: Beno Udrih is a more productive player according to stats like Wins Prodced and Win Shares, mostly because he is a dramatically better shooter and is close to identical at the other point guard-y things (assist rate, turnover rate). So, I lean Beno, and I think he will get the chance to earn the spot at some point...but short-term, I would think SVG wants to give Ish the chance to prove himself (or not).
Jacob Kuyvenhoven: Ish Smith is a horrible fit with the starters, so I would like to see him play with the bench unit before I give the job to Beno Udrih. I am not convinced Ish will hold the job for the remainder of the season, and if I had to win one game I would probably play Udrih over Ish at this point. But I think it's in the team's best interest that Smith gets the bulk of the minutes until we know for sure whether he can mesh with the bench unit or not.
Glenn Metzger (GM26): I'm going with Ish to see how he does with the second unit. Hopefully going against the opposition's second squad will help him out too. It's nice to know that Beno has had some quality moments in case Ish doesn't work out or gets hurt though.
Jordan Bellant: I want to see how Ish plays with the second unit. I think we have a solid (and unexpected) insurance policy with Beno Udrih. He's been great, but I still think we should ride with Ish behind Reggie. Smith's style might translate better to fewer minutes as well.
Kevin Sawyer: I would go with Udrih. Smith's shooting is simply unacceptable for the position, and Udrih has posted seasons where he is an efficient scorer (though this is starting to look more and more like a new normal).
2. Assuming that Reggie Jackson comes back at reasonably full strength, do you see the Pistons battling for a top three spot in the East?
Michael Snyder (mophatt1): Record wise, no. In real play, absolutely. It may be late January or even early February before Jackson hits his stride, by that time, the Pistons might be out the running for a top three seed. Doesn’t mean they won’t be a considered a threat in the East.
Justin Lambregtse: At this point, no. If he was healthy the whole season I think you could visualize a slight possibility of it happening if every single thing went perfect. After playing what I assume will be close to 20 games without him, there is no chance
Steve Hinson: Absolutely. This team is playing defense, that's the most important part. To get their most explosive offensive weapon back should take them up a tier.
Lazarus Jackson: I don't think so. Boston is missing Al Horford and Jae Crowder right now; when they get those guys back they'll move into the third-best spot in the East. Charlotte and Atlanta are playing really well right now, too - it would take some regression on those teams' part for the Pistons to catch them, even with Reggie.
Sean Wheeler (hypnowheel): Possibly, but not likely. Starting around .500 while the Cavs/Hawks/Raps are all getting off to hot starts will make it tough for the Pistons to crack the top three. That said, I think the fourth seed is still in play and will be something to shoot for.
Ben Quagliata: I think it’ll probably be a bit too late to make a serious charge at a top three seed. Assuming they’ll be around the .500 mark, the Cavaliers and Raptors will likely be far ahead, and the Hawks and Hornets have been really impressive so far. Boston is in the same boat as us missing some key personnel and the Bulls have surprised everyone, but I do think we’ll settle in the four through six spots.
Ken Wallace (revken): I think the Pistons can battle for top four, but I don't think we're a top three team.
Benjamin Gulker: No, I don't. They still have a lot of work to do to be at .500 when Reggie gets back, and on paper, I have Cleveland, Charlotte, and Toronto as superior teams. All three of those teams are off to good starts, and so far, Atlanta and Chicago are pretty good too. Getting into the playoffs in the bottom four seems like the best-case scenario right now.
Jacob Kuyvenhoven: I expect the Pistons to play near that level when Reggie comes back, yes. So far this has been a great defensive team and a below-average offensive team, and I think Reggie will lift the team's offense up without being a meaningful defensive downgrade from Smith and Udrih. A 48-win pace with Reggie seems reasonable with how the defense has played, and that would be in the conversation for the No. 3 or No. 4 seed over a full season.
Glenn Metzger (GM26): No, but I see them fighting in that four through eight range. I'm confident they'll make the playoffs, and I think home court advantage is still a possibility, but they still have stuff to work through that'll keep them out of top three.
Jordan Bellant: No, I'm sticking with my preseason prediction. 45 wins and the No. 5 seed against the Atlanta Hawks. I think the Cavaliers, Raptors, Hornets and Hawks will all end up with better records.
Kevin Sawyer: No. I'm not sure the Pistons are a top-five team with Jackson, and they have to make up ground to even get there. The Bulls are off to a hot start even though Rondo and Lopez have been flat, and they'd have to stave off a healthy Celtics team even if they caught up with the Hawks.
3. Many would argue that even with Reggie at full strength the Pistons are still not elite. To move towards elite, you can swap a Pistons starter for a player of relatively equal value from any team. Which two players would you swap?
Michael Snyder (mophatt1): If elite means championship contender, then the "many" are correct - they’re not at that level with a healthy Jackson. KCP for JJ Redick (age, contract not taken into account) doesn’t vault them into a championship contender but dealing with only "equal value" players, I’d start with getting a knock down shooter.
Justin Lambregtse: I don't see any way that a one-for-one player swap of relatively equal value would make this team elite. Just for the sake of this exercise, I would swap Marcus Morris for a three-point marksman and start Jon Leuer at power forward.
Steve Hinson: I'm a Marcus Morris fan, also a fan of that contract, but he's probably the least of a difference-maker of the regular starters. Otto Porter has become is quietly becoming awesome and Nic Batum's versatility would look nice, I'll go with them (though I'd rather roll with things as is, letting the team continue to build chemistry).
Lazarus Jackson: The easy answer is Marcus Morris; he is probably the most replaceable starter (and, if you look at the way the Ish-KCP-Harris-Leuer-Drummond lineup has performed this season, that replacement could be coming sooner rather than later), but his contract is such a good value that you'd be hard-pressed to find a wing starter better than he at the price. You could swap Morris for Patrick Patterson and run a Reggie-KCP-Tobias-Patterson-Drummond starting lineup, but you'd lose the wing flexibility Marcus and Tobias offer bench units, and you'd probably have to play Reggie Bullock more. Not sure if that tradeoff is worth it.
Sean Wheeler (hypnowheel): I’ve looked up and down the list of the 2/3/4 guys out there, and there’s no clear upgrade. To get a scorer/shooter at the SG that’s an upgrade over KCP, they’d have to sacrifice defense. Morris provides more value per dollar than any other forward out there, although I’m beginning to agree with the sentiment that Leuer might fit better in the starting lineup due to his size & skill set. To move toward elite, they just need more time. Patience, fellas.
Ben Quagliata: I’m not good at pinpointing players from around the league and I’m not sure any trade makes us better enough to give up a key piece from our team.
Ken Wallace (revken): I'd trade KCP for Klay Thompson, though I assume we'd have to sweeten that deal with some other talent to make it equitable and for salary matching purposes. The obvious guy to include would be Baynes, since he's a quality center and that is a big area of need for the Warriors. But I believe we'd have to add another guy, like Stanley Johnson or Marcus Morris, and that's where things could get sticky.
Benjamin Gulker: The Pistons are definitely not elite right now. They have one of the best big man rotations in the East, but they have pretty big question marks at PG, SG, and SF. Reggie Jackson is a good, not great PG. KCP is a good, not great SG. And Morris is a good, but not great tweener forward. And the backup SG and SF situation is the team's biggest weakness. Given that KCP and Morris are in value contracts, I don't see them bringing back much. Baynes is still the most logical trade piece, but he is also on a value deal that doesn't bring much back either. Reggie Jackson might be the best trade asset, surprisingly. Maybe I just lack imagination, but I struggle to see a one-for-one swap of any of our value contracts that moves the needle much. Maybe a KCP sign and trade this summer?
Jacob Kuyvenhoven: It is hard to find a starter-for-starter swap that theoretically improves both teams and matches salary. Teams tend to value their own players higher than other teams do, so most of the time you will simply see immediate assets get moved for future assets. In order to get anything that would move this team to "elite" status I'd fully expect that the Pistons would have to move a future first-rounder as well. Maybe Paul Millsap in the final year of his deal could be had if we offered Stanley, Baynes and a first-rounder, as the Hawks have a history of being financially conservative. But that also would require the Hawks slipping from their current position in the standings to more of a .500 level.
Glenn Metzger (GM26): Honestly? Looking at age/position/salary, I might swap out Andre Drummond. I don't know if Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns are considered equal value, but I'd love to add some free throw shooting, shot blocking, and stretchiness in his place rather than waiting for him to add those skills himself. I'd also swap KCP for LaVine, which the defense-loving Thibs might be talked into doing in my fantasy world.
Jordan Bellant: "Relatively equal value" makes this difficult. How about swapping Marcus Morris and KCP for Terrence Ross and Normal Powell? Playing Tobias more at the power forward spot, it probably improves the offense and I believe in SVG keeping the defense stingy. Then you can play more of a rotation of players at the 2/3 and find the right balance of younger pieces.
Kevin Sawyer: Marcus Morris might bring back the best value, given his scoring and modest contract. Could he fetch a three-point shooting 2/3 type wing? As importantly, this would let the Pistons move Harris over to the 3, and give more minutes to their bigs, who are the best players on the team.
What are your Reggie thoughts? Please tell us in the comments below.
*If you had your choice for this series do you like the current format of having a lot of people giving shorter answers or would you prefer fewer people giving longer answers?