Pistons in Review: Reggie Bullock
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AUBURN HILLS – A season that began with great promise – a 14-6 start and stirring road wins at Golden State, Boston, Oklahoma City and Minnesota – ended short of the playoffs. For the second straight year, an injury to Reggie Jackson threw a roadblock to the postseason in front of the Pistons.
Since winning 44 games and giving Cleveland four tough games in the 2016 playoffs, the Pistons have endured two frustrating seasons tied to Jackson’s injury absences, finishing with 37 and 39 wins while Jackson missed 30 games with a left knee injury and 37 more with a severely sprained ankle.
But if Jackson’s injury cast a shadow over the 2017-18 season, the ray of light for the future was the acquisition of five-time All-Star Blake Griffin. It cost the Pistons Tobias Harris, pending free agent Avery Bradley and a first-round draft pick, but left the Pistons with a Griffin-Jackson-Andre Drummond core that Stan Van Gundy feels can push the Pistons toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
Almost every player who held an important role with the 2017-18 Pistons is under contract for next season. Over the next few weeks, Pistons.com will take a look at each of them and what the future holds.
PLAYER: Reggie Bullock
PROFILE: 6-foot-7 guard/27 years old/5 NBA seasons
2017-18 STATS: 11. 3 points in 28 minutes per game, .445 3-point shooting
STATUS: Bullock has one year left on a two-year, $5 million contract signed in July 2017
DID YOU KNOW? Bullock was a McDonald’s All-American in 2010 – along with Tobias Harris, Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight and Harrison Barnes – and a five-star recruit who stayed home to attend North Carolina. He was part of a Tar Heels recruiting class that included Barnes and Kendall Marshall, another McDonald’s All-American.
A LOOK BACK: Bullock played three years at North Carolina, starting for the last 1½ seasons. His strong junior season – Bullock averaged 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting .436 from the 3-point arc – led him to declare for the 2013 NBA draft, where he was picked by the Los Angeles Clippers at 25th in the first round. On a 57-win team loaded with veterans at his position – Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Danny Granger, Stephen Jackson and Willie Green all were with the Clippers at one point that season – Bullock played sparingly as a rookie. He was part of a three-team deal in which the Clippers acquired coach Doc Rivers’ son, Austin Rivers, from Boston in January 2015. The Pistons acquired him in trade that July when Phoenix, looking to clear cap space for what would be an unsuccessful run at LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency, sent him along with Marcus Morris in return for a 2020 second-round pick. Bullock won a job with a strong training camp, but shot poorly to open the season – 1 of 17 over his first 10 games – and fell out of the rotation until after the All-Star break, when he shot 49 percent from the 3-point arc to cement a rotation spot on a playoff team. Minor injuries, including a cleanup procedure to remove knee cartilage, held Bullock back in 2016-17. After some ups and downs over the first few months of 2017-18, Bullock moved into the starting lineup on Dec. 12. From that point on, Bullock’s 3-point percentage of .466 was the best of all NBA players who attempted 3.0 or more 3-point shots per game.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Pistons have until July 15 to guarantee Bullock’s contract for next season, which will be the easiest decision the front office makes over the summer. Wing players who can knock down 3-point shots at or above the league average of 36 percent and defend are likely the most coveted commodities in today’s NBA and to get one capable of playing 30-plus minutes – Bullock averaged 31.2 minutes per game from Dec. 12 on – constitutes an outrageous bargain. Bullock’s length gives him the flexibility to guard many small forwards as well as shooting guards. He’ll go into training camp as the established starter at shooting guard, though Luke Kennard’s ascension makes it possible – likely, even – that they’ll be on the court together for significant minutes in addition to occupying most or all of the 48 minutes a game at shooting guard. Bullock averaged less than one turnover per game last season, in line with his career trend of playing error-free basketball. His cutting ability will be a critical component of an offense whose two pillars will be Reggie Jackson’s pick and rolls with Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin and Griffin’s ability to score and make plays in isolation.
MONEY QUOTE: “It’s great, the confidence that (Stan Van Gundy) has in me as a coach and as a player that I have in myself and my teammates have in me. They know what I’m going to do every night: shoot the ball, cut, defend and just know how to play and get others involved. As long as I do that at a high level, the minutes just continue to keep coming.” – Reggie Bullock