Could a Galloway-Kennard combo be Pistons future at shooting guard?
AUBURN HILLS – Some hand-wringing over the possibility of Avery Bradley leaving after the 2017-18 season aside, reaction to the Pistons abandoning the pursuit of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope by dealing Marcus Morris to Boston for Bradley was positive.
Most folks get it, Pistons fans included. NBA trades can almost never be judged solely on the basis of the talent-for-talent swap any more. The contract is 50 percent of the equation. You can’t separate a player from his contract in evaluating deals in a league governed by a salary cap.
But by acclamation, people see Bradley as a more accomplished, more rounded player than Caldwell-Pope today. Over the course of their next contracts, that could change. Emphasis on “could.” Bradley is more finished product. Caldwell-Pope perhaps has more room for growth. We have a pretty good handle on what Bradley will look like in 2020 and beyond, less so with Caldwell-Pope. There’s no guarantee, after four years in the league, he’ll become better off the dribble or a more consistent 3-point shooter.
There’s another interesting aspect of the roster shuffling in the two players the Pistons have added to fill the minutes Caldwell-Pope leaves behind.
Here’s a look at the per-36 minute numbers of Caldwell-Pope, Bradley and Langston Galloway from last season:
By that measure – and, yes, statistics don’t paint a complete picture – Caldwell-Pope and Galloway are virtually the same player. True, Caldwell-Pope played 33.3 minutes a game to Galloway’s 20.2 and it’s always possible, likely even, that a player’s per-minute productivity will decrease modestly if given extended playing time.
But it’s just as possible Galloway, 14 months older but with one less year in the NBA, has the same room for growth as Caldwell-Pope.
Even the thing the Pistons apparently give up in swapping out Caldwell-Pope for Bradley and Galloway – size – isn’t quite what it appears. In the most recent available measurements – Caldwell-Pope from the 2013 NBA draft combine, Bradley the 2010 combine, Galloway the 2014 Portsmouth Invitational – Galloway and Caldwell-Pope had the same 6-foot-8 wing span. Galloway measured 6 1½ without shoes, so he gives up 3 inches to Caldwell-Pope (6-foot-4½ without shoes at the combine) but nothing in length. Bradley’s wing span was just a tad shorter at 6-foot-7¼.
At the defensive end, all three are above average on the ball and, almost surely, a poll of NBA coaches would yield a definitive 1-2-3 ranking of Bradley/Caldwell-Pope/Galloway.
Galloway will have a tough time averaging 20 minutes a game for the Pistons if everyone’s available to Van Gundy next season. Bradley’s going to play about the same as he did last year, about the same as Caldwell-Pope did, somewhere in the 32 to 36 range.
The wiggle room could be if he’s so good that Van Gundy looks for ways to get him minutes at point guard, too, maybe at Ish Smith’s expense – but, remember, Smith probably came closer to meeting or exceeding expectations last season than anyone on the roster.
Here’s one pretty safe bet: In end-of-quarter situations when the Pistons are on defense, Van Gundy is likely to often employ a Bradley-Galloway backcourt. Three-guard lineups, with other teams more apt to go that way, is another avenue for more minutes for Galloway or Luke Kennard. Bradley is gritty enough to guard a lot of small forwards in spurts.
And Kennard is the wild card. His Summer League gave Van Gundy plenty to ponder.
“It went beyond reconfirming it,” Van Gundy said of Kennard’s performance validating the draft-night decision to make him the 12th pick. “I came out of draft night thinking he was pretty good. I came out of Summer League thinking he was better than what I thought that night and has a chance to play a lot earlier than I thought.”
Just for fun, and acknowledging it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, here are Kennard’s per-36 minute numbers for his sophomore season at Duke: 20.0 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game, 2.3 assists per game with a .630 true shooting percentage.
As the events of July’s first week showed, it’s hopeless to try to figure out what’s going to happen next July. But based on the numbers and what the Pistons know and expect of Galloway and Kennard, it’s not the craziest idea to think they’d be comfortable entrusting shooting guard to them a year from now if Bradley’s stay only lasts one season.