Both Stanley Johnson and Jon Leuer are hovering between questionable and doubtful for Friday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, according to head coach Stan Van Gundy.
Johnson has been out with a hip flexor and Leuer has been sidelined by a sprained ankle.
Both missed Wednesday’s victory against the Indiana Pacers with Reggie Bullock starting at small forward and Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway soaking up the backup minutes.
Eric Moreland and Boban Marjanovic manned the reserve center role behind Andre Drummond with Leuer out.
Van Gundy has lamented his difficulty with and the need to iron out a final rotation. These injuries provide some useful game tape for some players who have been buried, but once they return (allegedly soon), SVG will have some difficult choices to make.
Johnson will again be the starter at small forward, which means rookie Luke Kennard will likely fall out of the rotation. But Van Gundy needs to figure out how much and in what roles to play both Bullock and Galloway.
Bullock has struggled with his shot and maybe this burst of extra minutes can get him in a groove. Galloway, meanwhile, is hitting everything from all over the floor and probably needs some additional minutes somewhere.
The real conundrum is at backup center where Detroit has sorely missed Aron Baynes. Van Gundy has alternated between Eric Moreland’s athletic defense and Leuer as a small ball offensive-minded option. Despite an offseason of talking up Marjanovic as a worthy Baynes successor the $7 million man has only played in two games.
Marjanovic finally got some actual playing time and did what he’s always done on the floor — he was murder in the post, forced fouls, made his free throws and was a liability on defense.
Whether it was enough to convince Van Gundy that Boban deserves a legitimate shot in the rotation above Moreland — well, I have my doubts. In this small ball era, and with Van Gundy a defensive-minded coach, I just don’t think he’ll ever give Boban the keys to the car.
Moreland, for all his faults, can rotate on defense and can adequately pass, rebound and defend.