So, why exactly did Stan Van Gundy make the decision to spend a hair over $10 million a year on a 27-year-old journeyman who has never averaged even 20 minutes per game in a single season?
Well, here are three reasons:
Let's take a look at Leuer's shot chart from last season:
My guess is SVG saw the shooting percentage from the center portion of the floor, straight back to the three-point line, and cackled with glee. That is close to the ideal shot chart for a pick and pop PF/C in the Pistons offensive system.
You would like a larger number of attempts to be absolutely sure it wasn't a hot streak, but if Leuer can keep anything close to those percentages in a Pistons uniform, he will be a potentially devastating offensive weapon.
The working assumption is Leuer will be taking Tolliver's place in the rotation as back-up PF. Tolliver's career average on threes is 36 percent; Leuer's is 37.5 percent. Tolliver's shot chart, though more consistent from all around the long line, doesn't have any pronounced hot spots; Leuer's strength on threes from straight on and to the right side of the court are ideal for a team that begins the majority of its possessions with a screen set to a right-handed PG's strong side.
2. Size and Athleticism
Let's call this the "We Need to Talk About Kevin" problem.
There's been ample debate already in the DBB comments, so rather than rehash the two sides, let's just say this - I don't think there's any question that after the first round sweep at the hands of the Cavs, SVG and the Pistons brain trust believed they faced a potentially fatal matchup problem in the form of Kevin Love, which needed to be addressed.
How Jon Leuer actually fares against Love remains to be seen, but in theory he's an upgrade both physically and athletically. Leuer's close to 7 feet tall, with decent length, though not a particularly great standing reach for his height. He's also got great hops for a true big man, showing off a 30" standing vertical and 36" max vertical at the draft combine.
When Love is clicking he's one of the most difficult players to stop in the league, but in Leuer the Pistons have a player who, on paper, should have the mix of size, mobility and athleticism to slow him down.
Tolliver performed admirably for the Pistons the last two seasons, but he was undersized and not quite as accurate from deep as you'd like for a three-point specialist. In Leuer, the Pistons have a player who may be an even better shooter from deep, but one who allows the team to keep a perimeter threat on the court without massively sacrificing size and athleticism on the inside.
3. Bench Help
The Pistons now have a fairly coherent second unit with seemingly enough shooting spread around the perimeter to compensate for the possibility that newly signed back-up PG Ish Smith never develops into a credible deep threat.
Does this bench line-up, maybe, not suck:
Smith/Reggie Bullock/Stanley Johnson/Leuer/Aron Baynes
With Leuer in the fold, the Pistons now have three subs in Leuer, Bullock and Baynes who should be able to reliably knock down open jumpers. And with Ish Smith, the Pistons have a back-up PG whose strength lies in spreading the ball around to shooters.
The big assumption, and the thing that Pistons fans should cross their fingers and knock on wood for, is that Stanley Johnson takes a step forward. If he does, the bench might go from a catastrophic weakness to, dare I say, a strength.
That could be pushing it, but even moderate improvement for the bench will go a long way toward helping the Pistons becoming a serious threat in the East.