Way too in depth Reggie Bullock Season Preview
Season previews continue with Reggie Bullock. Usually, I try to do the entire starting lineup first and then move to bench guys, but the two wing spots could have several different guys in them.
About last year:
Bullock started out the season in a similar place to his previous two seasons in Detroit. Occasionally in and out of the rotation and some injury bugs occasionally getting him for a day or so at a time. Then injuries to Avery Bradley and Stanley Johnson struck and Bullock found himself in the starting lineup. Once Bullock finally got his first proper shot (that wasn't ruined by injury) of his career, Bullock took hold and never let go. Before being rested at the end of the year Bullock would start in 49 of the next 52 games and played at an incredibly high level. Bullock's numbers as a starter are pretty staggering. In 52 total games as a starter, Bullock scored 12.8 points, grabbed 2.7 rebounds, and dished 1.6 assists per game in 30.9 minutes. He shot 49.5% from the field, and 46.4% from deep on 5 attempts per game, those percentages combine for a true shooting percentage of 62.5%.
Throw in that Bullock mostly played respectable defense and quickly developed great chemistry with Blake Griffin at the end of the season and it was a fantastic season for Bullock. Later in the year the Pistons even let him stretch himself as a ball-handler a bit and the results were not terrible. It will be interesting to see how the Pistons use him in whatever their offensive system ends up being under Dwane Casey, but he was nothing short of brilliant last year.
What to expect next year:
Any combination of Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, and Glenn Robinson III could end up starting on the wing for the Pistons. I would say that of those four, Bullock is the closest to a lock for a starting spot. The question is if the Pistons view him as a guy who should be playing most of his minutes at shooting guard or small forward. There is a good argument for making Bullock a small forward and starting Kennard, both in terms of maximizing your shooting and also the roster makes more sense. With Bullock at the 3 and Kennard at the 2, Galloway is your full-time backup shooting guard instead of a very expensive bench warmer, Stanley Johnson gets to fulfill his destiny as bench-mob-Ben-Simmons, and you either give Henry Ellenson his shot in the rotation or go small on the bench with Glenn Robinson III at the 4. The problem with that is that Kennard may not be quite ready to be a starter and Bullock has fared much better defensively as a shooting guard than a small forward. So in the end, I would be pretty confident that Bullock will be starting, who is next to him on the wing will be the question, and either way, his role will be pretty similar. The only difference is who he is defending on a nightly basis.
Hopefully, more of the same. Matching his 44.5% mark from deep again may be a bit overly optimistic, but he now sits at 40.3% from deep on his career and 43% in his time with the Pistons so anything short of 40% on high volume would be a disappointment at this point. The good news is that last season provided enough of a sample size that we can be pretty comfortable that Reggie Bullock is a very high-level shooter.
As long as Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin stay mostly healthy, Bullock's role should be pretty simple. He will be used as a complementary player and with so much creation around him he should thrive. Bullock should be able to find plenty of open spot-up looks off of Jackson and Griffin's playmaking and if Dwane Casey is smart he will allow for plenty of possessions where Bullock and Griffin reprise their brilliant duet together. One area where Bullock could especially thrive this year is as a cutter. Generally speaking, big men who can pass have an easier time finding cutters due to their height allowing them to more easily see over the defense, and by some metrics, the Pistons will enter the season with the best passing front-court in the NBA. With Griffin, Drummond, and even Jon Leuer handling the ball around the elbows for Bullock's already excellent and active cuts to the basket, Bullock could have a shot to set some sort of record for points via back-door cuts.
Other than his shooting, Bullock has always been a reliable ball-mover and quick decision maker. He rarely catches the ball and is unsure of what to do, which means that the ball doesn't stick much with him. Given that both Jackson and Griffin are guys who often like to slow it down and pound the rock a bunch, Bullock's quick-hitting decisions should help the Pistons to avoid their offense getting too bogged down in isolation plays.
The question mark around Bullock is how much ball-handling he will end up getting and how he does with those opportunities. Ideally, both Jackson and Griffin will be mostly healthy all year so it never ends up being an issue, but realistically at least one of them will miss some significant time. Last year the Pistons let him dip his toes into running some pick and rolls and the results were not bad. His handle is a bit loose for dribbling in heavy traffic, there were times he was too willing to pull-up for long twos, and he doesn't really have much in the way of an in-between game with floaters or runners. That said, he's such a good shooter that you don't really mind him pulling up for long twos, and his passing vision showed clear benefits even in the limited sample size of last season.
In the end, Bullock is almost certain to at least be a really good role player. He can shoot, cut, and move the ball. If he comes close to replicating his efficiencies as an outside shooter from last year he will cement himself as one of the top shooters and role players in the game today. If he gets the chance to handle the ball more there is a chance he becomes more than just a high-level role player, but if all goes well the Pistons probably won't have much need for it.
Bullock probably is what he is on defense. At 6'7 he has solid length to play either wing spot, while he's added some muscle since he first got to Detroit any hope that he would really bulk up significantly is probably gone by now, not that it's the worst thing in the world. He is a high-effort defender which combines with his length to generally be a plus on that end, especially since he kicked his previous habits of fouling three-point shooters and committing other dumb errors. Bullock is not, and never will be, a defensive stopper, but he can hold his own against most good scorers in the league. The only guys he really struggles with are the huge wing types who can bully him inside, but his effort lets him still compete with those guys at least. Essentially, Bullock is a guy who can be a part of a good defense and will generally make your defense better, but he is certainly not going to be a defensive anchor or anything close to it.
Bullock is, by all accounts, a good guy and teammate. His activity and unselfishness on the court are contagious and he is the type of guy that anyone would love to have on their pickup team. Throw in that, despite likely being new to an opening day starter, he has been around the team for a while so there should be no worries with his fit with everyone.
One thing with Bullock is that he does still stand as a bit of an injury risk. It has often been tough to tell for sure since he's spent so much of his career out of the rotation, but he's been listed as out with various bumps and bruises enough that it isn't clear that he can make it through an entire NBA season healthy. When considering that he is pretty thin it makes sense as well.
Biggest Question for Next Year:
Long-term will he be an elite shooter or just a good one? The question of what position on the wing he spends most of his time at is a big one too, but either way, he is likely to spend plenty of time at both. Last season Bullock was one of the most deadly shooters alive, he has actually been that in his entire tenure with the Pistons. It is still a small enough sample-size that there is a possibility that he comes down to earth a bit. If he can retain his pace of being one of the best shooters alive he can cement himself as one of the premier 3 and D threats in the league and should prove a long-term piece for the Pistons. It would also do wonders for the Detroit offense, an elite shooter can cover up for a lot of spacing issues that otherwise are present.
Best case scenario:
Bullock replicates his success from last year but has clearly worked a bit on his ball-handling and defense a bit. His shooting and defense make him one of the premier three and D players in the NBA, and his improved ball-handling allows him to be an offensive focal point on occasion with bench mobs and in the inevitable 10-20 games that the Pistons are without Blake Griffin and/or Reggie Jackson. He stays healthy all year and is an integral piece for the Pistons on their run to the Warriors slaughterhouse in the Finals. After the season he decides he loves Detroit so much that he decides to take a slight discount to stay with the team long-term and the Pistons have another true core piece.
Worst case scenario:
Bullock spends most of his time defending forwards but his body struggles to take the hits. He spends the season in and out of the lineup with various small injuries which keeps him from ever really finding good chemistry with the team. On top of that, he regresses to being just a good shooter in the 38% range instead of elite and the flashes of ball-handling from last year remain nothing more than flashes. On top of that, Dwane Casey's talk of more passing and ball movement prove to be just talk and Casey allows the offense to revert to cave-man ball by Jackson, Griffin, and Drummond. This results in Bullock spending almost all of his time standing and watching off-ball while only occasionally getting a spot-up look. The Pistons don't impress this season and Bullock walks to the Warriors in free agency where he thrives and wins a championship.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Bullock is hitting three's of every type from every spot.
Griffin and Drummond's passing from the elbows results in an absolute field day for Bullock.
He stands strong consistently on defense, even against the top wing scorers in the league.
Run for the hills if:
He misses several games in the first few months with small things like "sore hip".
Bullock is reliably hitting spot-up looks but not doing much more than that.
Bullock somehow finds himself buried in the rotation again.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Last season was the real deal for Bullock.
He starts every game he plays.
45% from deep.
The Bullock/Griffin two-man game makes Zach Lowe's things he likes
What do you think? Can he replicate last season's shooting? Can he stay on the floor?