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Rough Start to December Raises Questions for Ailing Pistons

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Rough Start to the Month

As predicted, December has been a tough month for the Pistons already.  The month opened with a win over the Warriors at home, but it’s been bad news since then.  Detroit has now dropped four games in a row, some of which weren’t even close.

The scoring margin is not the biggest issue facing Dwane Casey’s team, however.  Against Oklahoma City, Reggie Bullock left the game early with a sprained left ankle and is currently questionable for the next game.  Then, Ish Smith went to the locker room against the Bucks with a strained right groin.  While both of these injuries should be short term, the Pistons will have to adapt to try to right the ship.  Here are some options they can explore.

Lineup Tweaks

Casey decided to start Langston Galloway in place of the injured Bullock against the Bucks alongside Glenn Robinson III to compliment the core three starters.  They would combine to shoot 3-7 from the field and didn’t have much of an impact on the game.  Following Smith’s exit from the game on Wednesday, Jose Calderon took over in his biggest role of the season which went as expected.  So what does the current roster have to offer other than these options?

Luke Kennard recently returned from his shoulder injury, and while it has been a slow start so far, he still has a chance to provide much needed three-point shooting that the team will be missing with Bullock out.

Rookie Bruce Brown has started at times this year, and while he does not bring much on the offensive end, his defense has been impressive and may help the Pistons continue their reign on that end of the floor.

Finally, Khyri Thomas, the Pistons’ other second round pick in the 2018 draft, played in only his fifth game of the short season but could be in line for a bigger role now.  He was a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year at Creighton while also averaging 15 points a game.  He has developed a chemistry with Brown and the two together could see play alongside each other on the second unit.  Casey is known for developing young talent, so this could be the most promising option Detroit has currently.

Potential Call-Ups?

When it comes to Detroit’s G-League affiliate, the only name that really can cause some excitement currently is Zach Lofton, the undrafted rookie who earned a two-way contract with the Pistons following his pre-season play.  While not all the numbers stood out and it was a small sample size, he was a 40% three-point shooter in Vegas and has played well for the Grand Rapids Drive.  His shooting percentage has dropped, but he is a 6’4” shooting guard averaging 18 points over 32 minutes per game.  This is not a long-term solution, but he could absorb some spot minutes if needed.

Trades?

The Pistons have been suggested as suitors for John Wall and Kemba Walker in the past, but that is not in the cards currently.  Detroit doesn’t have the assets for the cap space to make this happen and it is quite possible Kemba isn’t currently available.  Given the contract statuses of Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson and Ish Smith following this season, it would not be surprising to see the Pistons make a move.

The available guards on the market leave a lot to be desired, however.  Trading for a small forward and shuffling the roster seems more likely than going after the likes of Michael Carter-Williams or Brandon Knight.

Certainly more options, including those, will become available following the December 15th marker when contracts signed over the summer can be traded, but until then, Dwane Casey’s squad will likely be looking internally to weather the injury storm and the tough schedule ahead.

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