Frazier gives the Pistons depth at point guard, allowing Casey to pair Rose & Jackson
Nathaniel S. Butler (NBAE/Getty)
LAS VEGAS – In order to play two point guards at a time, as Dwane Casey is fond of doing, you need a good No. 3 point guard.
Welcome to town, Tim Frazier.
The Pistons had two critical roster needs after their season ended in the playoffs: point guard and small forward. Trading for Tony Snell the night before the June 20 draft – with the added bonus of Milwaukee’s first-round pick thrown in – allowed them to laser focus on point guard in free agency.
To replace Ish Smith and Jose Calderon, the point guards who backed up Reggie Jackson in 2018-19, they added Derrick Rose and Frazier.
The looming question is health with Rose, who played 51 games for Minnesota last season, missing the final 15 with an ankle injury at a time the Timberwolves weren’t actively trying to win games. Rose averaged 18 points in 27 minutes a game last season, re-establishing himself as one of those most coveted commodities – the player who can get his own bucket in the chaotic moments of a tight game.
Smith was durable in his three seasons with the Pistons – at least until missing 26 games last year with a groin injury – but there’s not much argument that a healthy Rose gives the Pistons a second-unit alpha dog they’ve long missed.
Don’t forget about Frazier, though. Jose Calderon was a terrific point guard throughout his lengthy career, but Father Time caught him from behind last season. When Smith missed time, the Pistons lost a lot of winnable games because they gave up too much ground when their first unit sat.
In fact, you can argue that Frazier gives the Pistons a good deal of what they lost via Smith’s exit.
Here are Smith’s per-36 minute numbers: 14.4 points on 14.1 shot attempts (3.9 of them 3-pointers), 5.8 assists. 1.8 turnovers. Here are Frazier’s: 12.8 on 11.3 shot attempts (4.1 of them 3-pointers), 7.2, 2.7. Smith shot it a little more, dished it a little less and took a lesser percentage of his shots from the 3-point arc. Frazier turned it over a little more, in part a function of passing more often than shooting. Frazier was also a little more efficient, shooting .444 overall and .366 from three to Smith’s .419 and .326. Given Frazier took 37 percent of his shots from the arc to Smith’s 28 percent, that’s significant.
Frazier was interested in the Pistons, even after Rose had committed to them, in large measure because of Dwane Casey.
“You saw what he did in Toronto, especially from a guard standpoint,” he said. “I think about Fred VanVleet coming in the same way – a little point guard, undrafted, came in, coach Casey gave him the opportunity and he ran with it.”
Frazier went undrafted out of Penn State, where he left as one of the most accomplished players in program history, in 2014. But he’s hung around the NBA ever since, playing for Philadelphia, Portland, New Orleans, Washington and Milwaukee. In 59 games last season, including 19 starts, Frazier averaged 5.3 points and 4.2 assists in 19 minutes a game. He played about as many total minutes (1,120) as Smith (1,251) last season.
Casey often played VanVleet with Kyle Lowry, especially to finish games. There were times he used three point guards together, adding Delon Wright to the mix. That’s easier to do when you’ve got players with the size of Rose and Jackson.
Jackson is a deadly catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter and Rose shot a career-high 37 percent from the arc last season. They’re both effective off of the ball. Playing with Frazier will make them weapons when the ball is reversed to them on the weak side and they get to attack a defense on the move.
Frazier played with both Tony Snell, acquired along with a first-round pick last month in trade for Jon Leuer, and Thon Maker in Milwaukee. He’s friends with Markieff Morris, another free-agent addition, from their time as Washington teammates. And the signing of Rose certainly caught Frazier’s attention.
“Markieff is a good friend of mine. I think he’s going to bring another edge of toughness to Detroit basketball,” he said. “They’ve done a tremendous job bringing in Derrick, as well. Derrick is going to go in there and be Derrick. That’s the MVP right there. I’m looking forward to it.”