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2017-2018 Pistons preview: Reggie Bullock finally has his chance

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Reggie Bullock has a golden opportunity to carve out a place in the Pistons rotation.

Christopher Daniels

Reggie Bullock’s career so far can be defined by one word: inconsistent. His production on the court has been inconsistent, his playing time has been inconsistent, and his availability to play has been inconsistent

After being drafted 25th overall in the 2013 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Clippers, he would be dealt to the Phoenix Suns halfway through his second season. He would finish out the season with the Suns only to be traded once again along with Marcus Morris to the Detroit Pistons. The two years he has spent with the Pistons is already the longest time he has spent with one team in his short professional career. Now after signing a two year, $5 million deal to stay with the Pistons in the offseason, the opportunity is there for him to seize a spot in the rotation of the Pistons.

Gone are the days of Marcus Morris manning the small forward position, and with more depth at the shooting guard position, Reggie Bullock will play more minutes at small forward. His main competition for minutes at that position has been the offensively challenged Stanley Johnson.

It is now Bullock’s time to shine.

Season in review

Reggie Bullock’s inability to stay healthy last season is what really hindered him from earning a consistent role. With the early season struggles of Stanley Johnson, Bullock had himself a golden opportunity to seize a role as the backup shooting guard to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Instead, he tore his meniscus in a game against the Miami Heat on November 23 and would be out until mid January. Once he returned Stanley Johnson had re-established his role in the rotation and there was not a role for Bullock.

After an injury to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 12, Bullock stepped into the starting lineup for a few games after he returned from his knee injury. He established a bit of a role in the rotation, but would miss time during the closing months of the season due to illness and a sore foot.

In total, Reggie Bullock played 31 games in the 2016-2017 season, starting five. He averaged a career-high 4.5 points per game on a 42/38/71 shooting slash line. He also averaged 0.9 assists per game and 2.1 rebounds.

It was a relatively forgettable season out of Bullock as injuries never allowed him to establish a consistent role. He did score a career-high 17 points in a game on April 12 against Atlanta, but other than that he was mostly unimpressive.

If you had not heard, Bullock will be suspended for the first five games of the season for violating the NBA’s drug policy. Once he returns, he will have an opportunity to earn a consistent role in the Pistons rotation, which has eluded him throughout his young career.

One big question

Can Reggie Bullock finally become a consistent part of the Pistons rotation?

Reggie Bullock brings a few skills to the table that other players on the team either don’t do at all, or don’t do that well. With less depth at the small forward position, he has an opportunity to move into the rotation at that position.

Let’s take a look at some of the things he does well and why that will help him earn a place in the Pistons rotation.

Bullock Cuts

A key part of Reggie Bullock’s game has been his ability to move off the ball. A notable aspect of this has been the patented #BullockCuts. On a team that did not feature many cuts to the basket, this was a welcomed sight whenever Bullock saw the court last season.

Reggie Bullock cut on 12.1 percent of his possessions last season, which was third on the team. The only two players who cut more based on NBA.com’s statistics on cuts were Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes. That makes sense as both players get a majority of their offense from rolling to the basket after setting a pick.

It is likely due to a small sample size, but Bullock’s stats off of cuts are not all that great. He only averaged 1.06 points per play off cuts, which was in the 17th percentile.

However, in an offense that was many times stagnant last season, any off-ball movement is a welcome site. The Pistons were 28th in the league for frequency of cuts at 5.6 percent. It made up 496 possessions for them. Just for a picture of how little the Pistons cut, the Golden State Warriors are first in the league with a 12.3 percent cut frequency and 1114 possessions.

The Pistons have to find new ways to create offense in the 2017-2018 season, and cutting is one of those ways. If Reggie Bullock continues to #BullockCut and knock down threes, he will find a place in the rotation. That leads me to my next point.

The Pistons need shooting and Reggie Bullock can shoot

People will try to argue that Reggie Bullock has not played enough to be considered a reliable shooter. While that may be true, there is no better time to find out than next season. The Pistons are desperate for shooting and Reggie Bullock has provided that during his time with the Pistons (just ignore the 5 percent shooting he had in 2015-2016 before the All Star break).

During that 2015-2016 season, Bullock shot 42 percent from beyond the arc on 1.4 attempts per game. Last season, he shot team high 38 percent from beyond the arc on 2.4 attempts. There is enough there to call Reggie Bullock a good shooter.

On a Pistons team that shot 33 percent from beyond the arc, 28th in the league, anybody who can shoot can find a role on the team. Reggie Bullock has proven to be a good shooter over the last couple seasons and deserves a chance for an extended look to see what he has.

It is especially helpful that most of Bullock’s three point attempts are of the catch-and-shoot variety. He averaged 2.3 attempts last season off the catch-and-shoot and shot 38 percent on those attempts. That was 2nd on the team behind Beno Udrih, who shot 39 percent on only 0.3 attempts. In an offense where the point guards dominate the ball, you need players who can catch-and-shoot effectively and Reggie Bullock is the best on the team at doing that.

He plays defense and moves the ball

Defensive statistics are a bit unreliable. Everybody has their own preference on what statistic they want to use to measure defense. Watching Reggie Bullock play, I have always gotten the impression that he is a solid defender. He defends his position well, moves his feet, and sticks on his man.

Nobody really talks about his defensive ability in a positive or negative way, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The numbers show Reggie Bullock to be a solid defender. His defensive rating of 99.8 was the third best on the Pistons last season behind Aron Baynes and Beno Udrih. Defensive rating is a simple measure of how many points per 100 possessions a player allows when playing defense. This can be skewed by many different factors like who they are playing with or who they are guarding, but in the case of Reggie Bullock I think it paints a pretty accurate picture of his defensive abilities

Bullock defends his position well and doesn’t get caught too much gambling on defense. He is not going to blow you away and take the toughest backcourt match up on a game-to-game basis. But on a team coached by Stan Van Gundy, who cares a lot about a player’s ability to play defense, Reggie Bullock should be able to find himself a role as a 3-and-D player.

Reggie Bullock also has a tendency to move the ball on a team that doesn’t like to move the ball very much. None of his assist numbers really reflect this, but looking at his touch numbers paints a picture that the ball is not sticking with Bullock.

He averages .48 dribbles per touch, which was the lowest on the team amongst backcourt players for 2016-2017. It was tied for the 3rd fewest on the entire team. He also only averaged 1.29 seconds per touch, which was the lowest on the team besides the seldom used Henry Ellenson.

Both these numbers reflect my eye test when it comes to Reggie Bullock. When he gets the ball, it is not staying with him for long and he is not doing a lot of dribbling with it. On a team that was near the bottom in the league for assists and often had a stagnant offense, Bullock’s willingness to move the ball is the exact kind of fuel the Pistons need to spark their offense.

Here are a couple of videos from a couple of Bullock’s best games last season that showcase some of the stuff discussed above.

What will Reggie Bullock’s role be?

Predicting Bullock’s role on the team for the 2017-2018 season is a bit tough. He could find himself out of the rotation if players like Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard play well during his five game suspension to start the season.

Stan Van Gundy mentioned during Bullock’s re-introductory press conference that he would likely see most of his minutes at the three. He has the size at 6’7 to defend that position, and in the Pistons offense, the small forward gets a lot of catch-and-shoot opportunities, which fits his skillset.

Another key factor in determining Bullock’s role depends a lot on what Van Gundy opts for in the starting lineup. If SVG decides to start Tobias Harris at power forward with Johnson at small forward, it could open up a few minutes for Bullock as a backup small forward. This is especially true if Johnson struggles offensively or Harris spends most of his time at the four.

With all that being said, I think Bullock will find a regular place in the rotation. As mentioned above, he does things on the court that not many other players on the team showed the ability to do last season. If he comes back from his suspension and hits his shots, Van Gundy will have no choice but to play him.

What if things don’t go according to plan?

This scenario is not too difficult to imagine. Reggie Bullock returns from his suspension and does not hit his shots. He falls out of the rotation and finds himself riding the bench for the rest of his contract.

This is not out of the realm of possibility, remember how I mentioned he shot FIVE percent from the field before the All Star Break in 2015-2016? Just because the opportunity is there for Reggie Bullock to claim a spot in the rotation, doesn’t mean that he will.

If this scenario happens, it is not the end of the world for the Pistons. He is only making $2.5 million a year, which is less than half of what the Pistons are paying Josh Smith to not play.

However, Bullock floudering could cause some issues if Johnson also struggles on offense. This would force Harris to move to the small forward position and cause Jon Leuer to move into the lineup at power forward. It would force the Pistons to rely on Henry Ellenson for heavy minutes and they would not have a reliable player to fill in at the three. It could give the Pistons some serious issues in terms of depth.

I am a big fan of Bullock’s game. On a team full of players who seem to not do the little things it takes to win, Reggie Bullock does them. The possibility of him failing to stand out is definitely there. There is a reason he has been on three different teams during his four year career.

Stats prediction

70 games played, 15 games started, 16 minutes per game, 5.1 points per game, 1.6 assists per game, 1.5 rebounds per game, .5 steals per game, .2 blocks per game on 43/40/81 shooting