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DBB at Freep: Return of injured players mean hard choices, rotation crunch

Jodie Meeks, Anthony Tolliver, Stanley Johnson and Spencer Dinwiddie seem to be near a return. But is that a good thing? The Pistons, on the fringes of the playoffs, can't afford any slip-ups.

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The Detroit Pistons desperately want to make the playoffs this season. Currently, they are in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, which means their margin for error is nil.

Reinforcements are about to arrive, however, in the form of Anthony Tolliver and Stanley Johnson, and soon Jodie Meeks and Spencer Dinwiddie might join them. That seems like great news, but it also means head coach Stan Van Gundy will be playing an extremely dangerous game as he tries to reintegrate his newly healthy players.

For this week's column in the Detroit Free Press, I look ahead at the Pistons getting healthy again, and just what it might mean for Reggie Bullock, Darrun Hilliard and the Pistons chances to make the playoffs.

Meeks was brought in to be a consistent three-point threat, but at this point should he play heavy minutes in place of Bullock or Hilliard? Can the Pistons afford any step back while Meeks tries to get his legs under him?

Johnson has played well in big minutes as a rookie, but his defense is way ahead of his offense (39% overall and 32% from three). If Johnson gets his 24 minutes per night then he, too, eats into Bullock's minutes, and likely plays alongside another non-perimeter threat in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or a rusty Meeks.

Tolliver, meanwhile, would displace the minutes Marcus Morris has played at the power forward spot, and while he is a more consistent three-point threat, he doesn't offer the level of defense Morris has been providing while Harris is on the bench.

When Meeks finally got healthy last season, he was easily the most dangerous perimeter threat in the backcourt. While he had a down season by his standards, Meeks had the highest true shooting percentage of anyone in the backcourt.

While I'm sure Van Gundy is reluctant to lose Bullock's sharpshooting, the Pistons could use Johnson's defensive tenacity on the floor. The short-handed Pistons have actually shot themselves into the eighth-best offense in the league, but have only the 15th-ranked defense in the same timeframe.

What do you think, DBB? Are you excited about the impending return of Tolliver and Johnson? What about Meeks? How would you juggle the roster down the stretch?