“Why sign Langston Galloway if you aren’t going to play him! SVGIAFI!”
Yes, the Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower front office regime had a tendency to sign role players to hefty contracts. They’re usually decried as overpays at the time. Sometimes it winds up being the case (Boban Marjanovic, Jon Leuer), sometimes not (Aron Baynes, Ish Smith).
But the Galloway signing is a bit different.
At the time, the Pistons had given up re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and was in the process of trading Marcus Morris for Avery Bradley. Luke Kennard was on board as the team’s first round draft pick and Stanley Johnson penciled in for the starting lineup. Reggie Bullock also came back the following week.
Outside of Bradley, it was looking like a lot of unproven names on the wing. But with that many bodies, someone has to be the odd man out. Once Bradley was traded and Bullock burst onto the scene, either Johnson, Kennard, or Galloway was going to have to be relegated to the bench. When it was Galloway, folks complained. When it was Kennard, folks complained. If it would have been Bullock or Johnson, folks would have complained then too.
So yeah, Galloway didn’t play that much. Not what you’d expect for the highest paid offseason acquisition of the summer. Especially when that acquisition put the team on the ropes for the luxury tax.
And hell, when he did play, his numbers mostly were unremarkable. He launched a ton of threes and connected at just 34 percent and didn’t really put anything else in the hoop.
So how was he not just another SVG/Bower role player overpay?
It’s because he was a serviceable option. The team didn’t wind up needing him. Bullock was great, Kennard was solid, Johnson needed to play. But it could have easily been different. It wouldn’t have taken much for Galloway to have found himself in a similar position as Anthony Tolliver. AT might never have had his breakout season if Jon Leuer hadn’t gotten hurt. Or if in those first eight games of the season, when Ellenson got his chance to make a mark in the rotation, if he’d have looked like he was ready.
Anthony Tolliver might equally have looked like the sunk cost that Galloway was. Not as expensive of one, sure. But the intent was the same.
Galloway was brought on board as an insurance policy. Just like Tolliver was. Just like Bullock was. Simply because the insurance policy wasn’t needed doesn’t mean it was a bad policy - especially when two other policies on the team definitely were needed.
Like Tolliver, Galloway brought a quick three point trigger, mostly reliable and tough defense, and absolutely no ego. When Galloway was in the rotation, he didn’t make any waves. When Galloway wasn’t in the rotation, he didn’t make any waves.
He played the same way every night. If he could get off a three, he’d take it. He’d put his nose in the chest of his assignment. He didn’t really make any mistakes on the court. Really, what more are you looking for out of a mid-level player?
Assuming the Pistons come back next season with Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard, and Stanley Johnson, it’ll be tempting to try to cut ties with Galloway for salary cap purposes. But the Pistons shouldn’t. Between the four of them, they’ll make just $17 million. To have the whole wing rotation with the emergency depth included taken care of for just $17 million is a solid deal. And after dumping Galloway, they’d just need to add a new player with a quick three point trigger and solid defense anyways.
Langston Galloway’s season with the Pistons is why the numbers and eye test are both important. Gallway’s season on paper was meh. A three point specialist shooting 34 percent from three and his .08 win shares per 48 minutes isn’t bad, but does little more than inspire an enthusiastic yawn.
But this is where context comes in. Shooters need a rhythm. When he got that, he mostly delivered. In games where he got 20 or more minutes, he averaged 12 points per game a shooting line of 46 percent from the field and from three. You can always use a player like this:
That kind of player creates serious spacing.
Galloway wasn’t a perfect defensive player, but he played with energy and was really good in the passing lanes.
He averaged 1.5 steals per 36 minutes and was in general a pain in the ass, doing a nice job of punishing teams for lackadaisical play. He’s not going to hold DeMar DeRozan scoreless in a playoff game, but he can definitely take advantage of second units.
Really, the big failure with the scouting department in regards to Galloway was pegging him as a guy who could also fill minutes at point guard. That failed quickly, as Galloway isn’t the type of creator that SVG needed from the position. That much should have been obvious.
But the rest was on point. As a shooter and defensive-oriented player, I’d rather have Galloway on the hook for $7 million next year than whatever Avery Bradley winds up making.
Hopefully he’s again unnecessary. That would mean that Bullock stays healthy, Kennard and Johnson continue to progress, and the wing rotation is stable. But if something does happen like the Jon Leuer injury, don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself in love with Galloway in the same way love Tolliver.
Well, maybe not quite as much though, Tolliver is awfully lovable. But similarly.