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Detroit Pistons preview: Eric Moreland is better than your average 15th man

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Moreland continues to prove himself in this offseason.

Christopher Daniels

Eric Moreland was just an end-of-the-bench, minimum contract, 15th man type of signing. Or at least, he was supposed to be. He was supposed to just be that guy who impressed in the Summer League, but we won’t see him in the regular season.

But that may not be the case after all.

Moreland was surprisingly good in the Summer League, but he’s been surprisingly really good in the preseason. He’s been a monster on the boards, averaging 10 per game in just 20 minutes per game of action - and half of those have been on the offensive end. And he’s been excellent defensively, clearly the team’s best big man defensive player - though perhaps that’s not a particularly high bar to clear.

But his engaged, physical play on defense is a breath of fresh air.

Moreland Defense

He’s even flashed some passing chops, dishing out five assists in the win over Indiana.

Moreland pass 1

And:

Moreland pass 2

Not the fanciest reads, but Moreland was at his best when he wasn’t trying to do too much.

Moreland’s obviously not a scorer though, strictly a rim runner. Teammates would get him the ball on the block in a post up type situation - perhaps out of habit of having to feed Boban Marjanovic and Andre Drummond any time they get position - and Moreland basically looked like he went into “The hell am I supposed to do with this thing?” mode.

Still, plenty of guys raise eyebrows in the preseason but never go on to see the floor. But circumstances may be on Moreland’s side.

Moreland’s contrast to Boban couldn’t be more clear, their strengths and weaknesses being in pretty much perfect alignment. While Stan Van Gundy has said that he’s not going to get excessively reactive with how he uses Boban, there will be matchups that just won’t fit for him.

So SVG could go with a plan B of sliding Jon Leuer or Henry Ellenson to center. Well, we got a look at that so far this preseason. It hasn’t been pretty. In theory one might think that lineup would have some issues with rebounding and on defense. That theory looks to be correct.

Which leaves Moreland as the only logical option. So how much Eric Moreland can we expect to see this season? Well, that depends. On, like, a whole lot of things.

Last year Boban saw just a paltry 293 minutes, even with Stan Van Gundy (finally) making a point to get the big fella on the court late in the season. In the year prior, Joel Anthony only had 96 minutes.

These situations certainly represent the low water mark for what to expect to see for Moreland. But in these spots, the Pistons had an excellent, reliable, durable backup center in Aron Baynes. That may not be the case for the Pistons this year.

Boban looks every bit as dominant this preseason as he did in his flashes last year. So you can check the excellent box. But he’s also struggled with his stamina after playing FIBA EuroBasket over the summer, with SVG hold him out at times due to fatigue. And he’s also already made a trip to the locker room in one game.

Those reliable and durable boxes might not get a check just yet.

Hopefully Boban stays healthy and effective all season. Hopefully having Ellenson or Leuer at the center position for spot minutes can resolve its defensive and rebounding woes.

But if not, we could see some pretty steady doses of Moreland. And there’s reason to believe he can make the most of them. If he can stay healthy.

In his first shot in the league, Moreland couldn’t stay on the court with the Sacramento Kings, getting just 11 NBA and 12 D-League games in over the course of two years.

Moreland may still wind up just being an end-of-the-bench, minimum contract, 15th man type of player. But he’s more interesting than most. And if he winds up seeing much time on the court, he could prove to hold his own on it.

Prediction:

32 games at 13 minutes per game, 2 points on 58 percent field goal percentage and 33 percent free throw shooting, 5 rebounds, 1 block