3 goals: Langston Galloway – avoid slumps, diversify, stay ahead of the kids

Langston Galloway was a central figure in the hot stretch the Pistons put together out of the All-Star break last season to put them in playoff position
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)

(Editor’s note: Today continues a series looking at the 17 players – 15 under standard contracts, two on two-way deals – who comprise the 2019-20 Pistons roster heading into the home stretch of the off-season. Today: Langston Galloway. Coming Tuesday: Jordan Bone.)

Pressure comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s pressure on Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond to perform every night if the Pistons are going to realize their goals.

It’s a little different when you’re Langston Galloway. For him – and, to be sure, the majority of NBA players – pressure is in playing well enough, often enough, to hang on to your spot in the rotation. Or, for that matter, on the roster. There are only 450 full-time NBA jobs and a thousand players for every one of them who thinks they deserve it.

Galloway’s foothold in Dwane Casey’s rotation was hanging by a thread coming out of the All-Star break last season. Casey was eager to get a glimpse of rookie Khyri Thomas, who kept impressing him in practice with his tenacity, defensive potential and shot-making threat. So when Galloway struggled as the Pistons narrowly beat Atlanta on Feb. 22 – he played eight minutes, missed his only shot and was a minus-15 – Casey turned to Thomas.

In a big game the following night at Miami between two teams fighting for the final few playoff spots, Thomas got a cameo to see what he had to offer. In a little more than six minutes, he missed two shots and picked up two fouls, finishing at minus-7. With the Pistons up eight at halftime, Casey decided to go back to Galloway off the bench in the second half.

Good call.

In 16-plus minutes, Galloway scored 17 points, hitting 4 of 5 3-point shots and 6 of 7 overall. The Pistons won by 23, outscoring Miami by 17 in Galloway’s time. They went 8-1 coming out of the break and Galloway was right there with Griffin and Drummond, Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson in leading the charge. He averaged 10.7 points and hit 62 percent of his 3-point shots over those nine games.

So if you think a guy who started four seasons at St. Joseph’s and then still had to claw his way into the NBA as an undrafted free agent is giving up his job without a fight, think again.

Casey’s practice is to present his players with a three-item card with their core values to the team before training camp starts. In keeping with that protocol but with a twist, we’ll look at the three goals for each player on the roster heading into the 2019-20 Pistons season. For Langston Galloway, those are …

MORE PEAKS, FEWER VALLEYS – Shooting inevitably blows hot and cold – even elite shooters go through extremes – but Galloway’s swings tend to last a little longer than the norm. Galloway went from shooting 14 percent from the 3-point arc in October last season to 41 percent in November. He shot below the league average for all of December and January – tough to overcome for a player whose value is heavily tied to 3-point shooting – before rebounding to 37 percent in February and a sizzling 46 percent in March, but then tumbled to 23 percent in April. Nobody works any harder at it than Galloway – when amid shooting slumps, he’ll go back to the court after home games in full uniform to get up a few hundred more shots – but prolonged shooting slumps could threaten his spot in the rotation as the Pistons return for 2019-20 with better perimeter depth.

DIVERSIFY – It’s no secret that Dwane Casey’s shot spectrum encourages a greater percentage of 3-point shots than the Pistons had been accustomed to taking in the past, so it’s not necessarily a red flag that a career-high 65 percent of Galloway’s shots in 2018-19 were launched from the other side of the arc. Though Galloway has played almost exclusively at shooting guard in his two seasons with the Pistons, he’d played more at point guard in his previous NBA stops. In other words, he’s not uncomfortable playing off of the dribble. Yet fewer than 10 percent of his shots last season came within 3 feet of the basket. Galloway is tough and a creative finisher at the rim when he gets there. Because he’s established a firm reputation for a quick trigger from the arc, there should be ample opportunities for him to beat aggressive closeouts with dribble penetration. Galloway also had a career-low 7.3 percent assist rate last season, another indicator that he’s become more wedded to his 3-point shooting.

START STRONG – Luke Kennard finished his second season surging and enters training camp right behind the trio of Griffin, Drummond and Reggie Jackson in the pecking order. Bruce Brown’s value defensively separates him from the field. Tony Snell brings the size and length on the wing the Pistons lacked after dealing Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson last season. Thomas is ready to pounce on an opportunity. Svi Mykhailiuk’s size and shooting puts him on the radar. In other words, Casey has a lot of ways he can go with the minutes available on the wings. Galloway’s fearlessness and diligence have carried him a long way and those qualities are what kept him in the rotation at mid-season despite his shooting woes. Casey loves his willingness to battle players a half a head taller. He’s not going to training camp looking for any reason to leapfrog one of the kids over Galloway. But it’s on Galloway to hold them off, too. If he doesn’t, it won’t be because the pressure of hanging on to his job got to him.

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