Pistons midseason grades: Shooting guards edition
In our continuing midseason grades series, it’s time to turn our eye to the Detroit Pistons’ shooting guards and assign grades.
Perhaps no position for the Detroit Pistons has been more top-heavy than the two-guard or shooting guard spot. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been perhaps the best and most valuable Piston this season, while Darrun Hilliard has barely been playable at times and both Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock are somewhat ill-fit at the two.
By most accounts, Stanley Johnson is a three, or a small forward, not a two. So even though Basketball Reference lists his minutes as split 52 percent two and 47 percent three, we’re going to consider him a three for the purposes of these grades and address him with the small forwards corps in the next edition of our series. Reggie Bullock, on the other hand, has played 95 percent of his minutes thus far at the two, so we’ll include him in these grades.
When KCP is off the floor, the Pistons struggle mightily, and that’s due not just to his inherent value but also to the dearth of NBA-level talent behind him on the depth chart at this point. Shooting guard depth is one of the biggest lineup concerns facing the Pistons.
With no further ado, let’s grade the twos.
Stat line: 14.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3 assists, shooting splits of .426/.404/.837, true shooting 55 percent.
What more can you ask of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? It was hoped that he would take a big step forward in a contract year, and he’s done that and more. It’s been documented to death on this site how valuable he is and how worthy he is of a big pay day, so we aren’t going to dig too deep on that topic.
What we will say is that he has checked off every box we hoped he would this season. He’s shooting over 40 percent from long range, he’s the best perimeter defender (mind you he is also the Pistons’ only decent perimeter defender, along with Stanley Johnson), he’s taken leaps and bounds forward as a ball handler and distributor.
His assist totals have increased by over 60 percent year-over-year, and he’s been one of the most productive pick and roll ball handlers on a team that really needs the pick and roll to be effective.
For once, I don’t have a whole lot to say about KCP on the pages of this site. Suffice it to say, he’s earned his paycheck.
Stat line: 3.4 points, 0.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists, shooting splits of .333/.265/.682, true shooting 41.9 percent.
Darrun Hilliard is hard to grade because there weren’t high expectations on him coming into the season, but he received unexpected opportunities when Stanley Johnson was pulled from the rotation in December. The thing with Hilliard is that when opportunity presented itself, he simply wasn’t able to capitalize.
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It’s hard to penalize him much for that, but he’s basically played himself out of the rotation. Even in situations like the Pistons found themselves in against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, playing an eight-man rotation in the final game of a grueling road trip, Hilliard was never able to get on the floor.
With the exception of a splendid outing against the Chicago Bulls in mid-December in which he was effective on offense and played competent defense on Dwyane Wade, Hilliard hasn’t shown much. He’s making it hard for Stan Van Gundy to find room for him on the floor no matter how injury-depleted they are.
Stat line: 4.5 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists, shooting splits of .429/.200/.500, true shooting 46.7 percent.
There’s simply no way to grade Reggie Bullock based on his season so far. He’s played just six games so far after missing the first 12 games of the season with back spasms, and a subsequent 26 games with a torn meniscus.
Bullock was slotted into the starting lineup at shooting guard against the Lakers in Caldwell-Pope’s absence, but in just his second game back it was hard to expect much from him. Sure enough he had a fairly pedestrian performance, scoring four points on six shots.
Bullock’s calling card is his shooting, so expect his numbers to trend upwards the more playing time he gets under his belt. Much like last season, once he got a shot at playing regularly, his efficiency and production went up dramatically.
Hopefully the Pistons can get something similar out of him this season, because they’ll need it with the depth issues they have at the shooting guard position.