Here’s a fact you might not know about Langston Galloway – he’s not a very good point guard. Here’s another – he might be a very good signing by the Detroit Pistons. After a largely forgettable season split between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings, many were shocked the Pistons handed him a three-year, $21 million deal.
Making the decision even more inexplicable was the move meant that the Pistons hard-capped themselves and took themselves out of the running to re-sign their own restricted free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. To many it seemed like Detroit was picking the little-known Galloway over the known quantity of the much-loved KCP.
Year in Review
Galloway has a reputation as an extremely skilled perimeter defender and it’s not hard to see why. He’s a 6-foot-2 guard with a reputation for never taking a play off and, more importantly, an enormous 6-foot-8 wingspan. With the speed and lateral quickness of a point guard, and the length of a shooting guard, Galloway can guard any position on the perimeter and switch effortlessly, helping to keep the defense from collapsing.
Galloway never really found his place in the offensive systems in either New Orleans or Sacramento last year. You could say that both the situations he’s coming from were dysfunctional, but things aren’t exactly rosy - especially on the offensive end - in Detroit. After showcasing excellent rebounding and steal rates in the G-League and with the New York Knicks in the first two years of his career, Galloway regressed on that end last season.
Where he excelled was as a perimeter shooter, which isn’t a shock for a 25-year-old player. Galloway shot 37.7 percent from three with the Pelicans and an amazing 47.5 (!) percent from three in a 19-game cup of coffee with the Kings. He also averaged 8.6 three-point attempts per 36 minutes with New Orleans. Numbers like that would definitely improve the Pistons’ perimeter offense.
Another reason to be excited for Galloway is that he was signed primarily to play off the ball. His vision isn’t great, and his finishing ability runs hot and cold. He shouldn’t really be asked to initiate the offense. Even though he’s spent 82 percent of his career and 75 percent of last season as a point guard, it’s not his natural position. He spent the majority of his time playing off the ball in college and has been forced into the point guard role because of his small stature.
The Pistons, however, brought him in to do three things – defend, shoot and serve as a secondary ball handler.
One Big Question
Is Langston Galloway the next Ish Smith or the next Ish Smith?
We’re just one year removed from the Pistons fan base roasting an SVG overpay and then being pleasantly surprised. That player was Ish Smith. Smith was an undrafted player turned NBA journeyman whose hard work and determination eventually won players and fans over. He was finally rewarded with a three-year, $18 million deal. Galloway is also an undrafted NBA player turned NBA journeyman whose hard work and determination eventually won players and fans over. He was finally rewarded with a three-year, $21 million deal.
The only problem is I’m not sure just how many Smith’s a team can have. Even with an extremely dangerous three-point shot, Galloway’s offensive game is limited. He’s pretty much a catch-and-shoot threat only and isn’t really going to take many people off the dribble. Last year, even after shooting 39 percent from three with more than 56 percent of his shots coming from three, he only managed a true shooting percentage of 51 percent.
Galloway might not be much of a point guard or a creator, but what were minuses as a backup point guard can turn into pluses quickly as an off-ball player. His tight handle and ability to navigate through a defense as a shooting guard can help keep plays alive and the offense from locking up as defenses focus in on Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith. That safety valve to relieve offensive pressure was sorely lacking last season.
A year ago, if a team had stymied Jackson or Smith, the team would alternate between tossing the ball into Drummond in the post or tossing the ball to Marcus Morris in isolation and seeing if he could work his magic. Stan Van Gundy has preached the need for better and continuous ball movement. By giving Tobias Harris a larger offensive role, adding quality catch-and-shoot options at shooting guard in Avery Bradley, Luke Kennard and Galloway - players who can successfully dribble without turning it over - the offense won’t grind to a halt nearly as easily. That’s the plan, anyway.
Galloway also doesn’t need a lot of daylight to get his shot off. While he has a tendency to bring the ball down to his waist as he begins his motion, he makes up for that with a high high release point which makes it more difficult to bother his shot.
Consider this clip. Here, Galloway runs a pretty simple pick-and-roll. Our old friend Jonas Jerebko is switched onto Galloway. Jerebko, a 6-foot-10 power forward, backs up just a little bit to protect the lane. That is all the room Galloway needs, however, and he buries the 3 with a hand in his face.
Consider also that he has deep range, which is a sign that Galloway is a truly serious threat from distance. Check out two clips from a game last season against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Here, another pick-and-roll forces Galloway’s defender to go under the screen. Galloway, however, stretches three feet behind the three-point line, meaning there is no way for his defender to truly recover.
In this clip the Grizz defense double (triple?) teams Anthony Davis, but because Galloway is willing to stretch his range out to 27 feet he makes it impossible to recover after Davis passes out to his open man.
In diving into the three-point shooting numbers around the NBA, Galloway had a relatively low percentage of wide open looks. Wide open looks are needed for players that shoot infrequently or those that have a slower release. It’s a way to separate out the truly effective three-point threats. No prolific three-point shooter in the NBA had more of his overall three-point attempts come from open looks than Galloway, who had 46.4 percent of his three-point attempts come within 4-6 feet. On those attempts, Galloway shot a blistering 41.3 percent.
Detroit will ask him to do much of the same, with a high rate of threes in his shot profile as he looks to create space for Drummond and Jackson to work their pick-and-roll or for Smith to slash through an open lane. He’ll also run the break and handle the ball if a play is breaking down, or if the Pistons want to put less of the burden on one of the traditional point guards.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if Stan Van Gundy tinkers with defensive-minded lineups featuring both Avery Bradley and Galloway in a ball-hawking backcourt. Neither has the vision or playmaking ability to be a true point guard, but both are dangerous enough with the ball in their hands to make sure the rock is moving and to keep defenses honest.
Best Case Scenario
Galloway fits in nicely as a frequent Ish Smith (or Reggie Jackson) running mate who, like Avery Bradley in the starting lineup, is tasked with defending the opposing team’s most dangerous threat in the backcourt. He also hones his three-point stroke so he is hitting around 40 percent of his treys on about seven attempts per 36 minutes.
Worst Case Scenario
Neither Smith nor Galloway is a dangerous enough threat to finish at the rim and defenders don’t sag off of them. With little room to operate or find open looks and without the court vision to make something out of nothing, Detroit’s reserve unit sputters on offense, giving up leads or turning small deficits into insurmountable ones.