Season Check In Part 2: The Bench. 10 (really 11 now) games in. 6-5
Anthony Tolliver: Tolly has returned and appears to have not really missed a beat from last year. He has still been doing all the same things that he did last year that so endeared him to fans and teammates. He goes out there off the bench, plays his tail off, and shoots open shots. He never forces the issue on defense, and will not do stupid things to hurt the team on offense. His defense also looks like it has been a bit better so far this year. It might just be that he is compared to Ersan, who is severely lacking in the quickness to stay with a lot of guys, but Tolly has some quicks and is hyper active on defense. He is not a great defender by any stretch, but he is good enough and active enough that in short stretches he can give a real spark to the defense through his hustle. The only thing with him that has not been good is his shooting. (once again, this is a theme with the Pistons) He has a long history of being a pretty good outside shooter (just over 35% on his career) but he is down at 30% right now. He mostly falls into the same area as KCP and Morris here. He has done all of the little stuff right and has enough of a history of being a good shooter that I trust he will turn it around. But if he does not start to hit from deep before to long it will become a real worry. And this is even more true for Tolly, because unlike those other 2. Tolly cannot really give much to the offense beyond his outside shooting, and he is not a good enough defender/rebounder to make up for a shooting slump. But, for now I will trust that he will come out of the slump, likely in a big way.
Stanley Johnson: He has not come out to the start that it maybe looked like he would after killing it in summer league and preseason, but he is still looking pretty good. His defense is awesome for a rookie, which is that he still does stupid rookie stuff like die on screens and fall for pump fakes and the like. (which are things that literally every rookie does to some extent or another.) When he is not making rookie mistakes he is being a real problem. He is big, strong, and athletic. It will (probably) take till around his third year, (just going off of what most guys take) but he looks like he will be a top level defender in this league, no worries there. On offense it is a little different. He (also) is really struggling with his shot, not just outside but any jump shots of any kind. Where he has showed promise is in both getting to the rim, and finishing when he gets there. It seems to me that his biggest issue is that he tries to think to much when he gets the ball. He often will catch, stand, and then make a move. But often seems a little to afraid of being out of control. This results in his windows for open shots closing, and his drives sometimes ending in him stopping, turning around, and desperately trying to find someone to bail him out. But when he does just put his head down and go to the rim, he does good things. He finishes, and shows good vision in passing as well. Although, like several others, if he does not start to hit SOME jumpers soon it will be time to worry a little bit about that. Basically when watching Johnson you need to separate the "rookie mistakes" from "bad mistakes." Getting to the hoop and going for a nice reverse layup just to hit the side of the backboard? (and yes he did do this.) Is a rookie mistake. Catching the ball beyond the arc, stopping and watching a man close out, and then jack a shot after a couple seconds? Bad mistake. Overall though he has shown the potential he has, he already does good things for the defense, and he sometimes does good things for the offense. That's pretty good for a rookie.
Steve Blake: I don't really want to talk about it. He clearly has lost a step. He cannot guard anyone, and he is a non-threat to score inside. It appears that he has lost the backup spot to Dinwiddie for good, which is good. For now he will do the "Veteran leader" thing which he will be fine at. (There was an interview with Andre where Andre just beamed and said "I am so happy that dude is here.") However, once Jennings comes back he could be on the chopping block. The roster has 4 point guards, and none of them figure to be useful playing next to the others. Now let me clarify that Blake was a good idea. Be a veteran backup until Jennings comes back, and then once Jennings comes back he can be the 3rd PG and also spot some minutes at SG. But that has gone out the window because he has lost too much of his athleticism. It would make me a little sad because he is a real pro who obviously already has the respect of the rest of the guys on the team. But he will be largely useless once Jennings comes back. But who knows what will happen there.
Spencer Dinwiddie: Has just taken over the backup PG spot, hopefully for good until the return of Jennings. There is not a large enough sample here to really judge how he has played. But you can already see that he is a lot better than Blake. In that he is not visibly hurting the team when he is on the floor. He plays decent defense, and his length visibly bothers opposing point guards. And on offense he is able to take advantage of small breakdowns in the defense to get to the hoop. He is a pretty good finisher when he gets there, and he also is good at drawing fouls. One thing to watch, is that he has taken his jumpers with a lot of confidence in two games, and actually hit a few. I am not holding my breath because he has not shown any signs of being a good shooter so far, HOWEVA, if he can find some semblance of a reliable jumper he suddenly becomes much more useful. At 6'6 he is big enough to stick with most wing players, so if he can shoot a little bit that means he can play off the ball a little bit, and still see some time after Jennings returns. So he could do the whole stand outside and shoot open jumpers thing, while also providing a dash of ball handling/playmaking that would be desperately needed. So watch that, but for now just be happy SVG has put him above Blake.
Aron Baynes: I would like to start by apologizing to Aron. I now see that he does not have 2 As at the beginning of his name. I have been spelling it wrong. I am sorry. He has shown to be a perfectly acceptable backup center, while sometimes being a really good one. He is not that athletic but he is big enough to occasionally bother guys at the rim, and he is a legit rock in the post. He also has a really nice skill set on offense. He can hit some jumpers (even if we have not seen much of that so far) and he has good enough touch around the rim that when he gets a smaller guy on him he will just back him to the hoop and hit one of his goofy-slow-ass hook shots. He also sets some really mean screens. He is not some hub of offense, but he has real value on the offensive end, and he is generally just fine on defense. The one thing that confuses me is how little he has played. He got a pretty big contract, and is playing 11 minutes a game. SVG defended the signing on the Lowe Post this offseason by saying that even if it was a bit of an overpay, he was the best available so they wanted him. But given how little he has played, it would not matter if they had gotten, say, Brandon Wright instead. When a guy only plays 11 minutes he will not be able to have a lot of impact either way. Hopefully he gets some more playing time, and I am still waiting to see the Baynes/Drummond jumbo lineup. It might not work very well, but it also might be useful for some situations. Contract aside, Baynes is a perfectly acceptable backup center.
Jodie Meeks: RIP in pieces.
Reggie Bullock: In his first chance in the rotation he wet the bed, throwing up two air balls. In the last two games though he has done better. It all really does come down to if he can shoot at all or not, but I hope he gets a little more playing time. First off because KCP and Morris are playing a TON right now, and also because Bullock might actually be pretty good. He seems to have a really good basketball IQ, making good cuts, and smart, quick passes. I think he could help with the Pistons poor ball movement in this regard. But there is not enough sample size here to say if he is really worth playing much. But I would just assume SVG give him enough time that we can all find out if he is worth playing or not.
Joel Anthony: Has not played at all, which is good. He most likely continues to be a "Veteran leader" type. And I feel safe in the knowledge that if he is needed to spot a few minutes, he will be ready to come out and surprise some fool by blocking a shot into the 5th row out of nowhere. Keep on keeping on.
Darrun Hilliard: I kind of wish SVG would give him some sort of chance to play too. The Pistons should not play KCP as much as they have, and Hilliard is young. Give him some chance. If he is just going to ride the bench I would rather him go to GR so he can actually play.
Brandon Jennings: How he will impact the Pistons once he returns needs its own post. Just know this, he is the ultimate wild card with this team.
What do you think? Think I'm stupid? Let me know! We all get smarter!