AUBURN HILLS – There might be a way all four Pistons power forwards find regular minutes. The 22-point win over Atlanta on Friday is the blueprint.
But it would come at the expense of Boban Marjanovic and, to a lesser degree, Luke Kennard or Reggie Bullock.
And, Stan Van Gundy says, it’s not very likely to happen.
For Tobias Harris, Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson and Anthony Tolliver to claim a role in Van Gundy’s rotation, Harris will have to take a lot of his minutes at small forward and Leuer perhaps most of his at center.
“I don’t see how,” said Van Gundy, who’s remarked more than once in the past two weeks that he has some difficult decisions ahead. “The only way to do it is you’d have to play Jon pretty much exclusively at center and you’d have to play Tobias almost all of his minutes at the three. And then you can play A.T. and Henry. I don’t anticipate that. But I guess it’s possible – down the road.”
With Stanley Johnson playing well and integral to Van Gundy’s defensive scheme, he’s likely to play 30 minutes, at least, at small forward. That means as many as 18 minutes there for Harris, which would probably mean 12 to 14 for him at power forward – and as many as 36 minutes for Leuer, Tolliver and Ellenson to split at the position.
Leuer is probably going to get at least 20 minutes, more likely 25 or more. If he were to become Andre Drummond’s more or less everyday backup – and his 11 rebounds and ability to defend from the rim to the 3-point line in Friday’s win make it a worthy consideration – that would account for at least 50 percent of his minutes and still leave about 20 or 25 for Tolliver and Ellenson.
So, doable. Still unlikely.
And Eric Moreland became more than just a wild card with his performance in Friday’s win, grabbing 13 rebounds and playing solid defensively in a 21-minute stint.
“Eric Moreland was tremendous the other night, too,” Van Gundy said. “It’s very competitive right now. I still don’t really have a great idea of who’s going to play. We missed Reggie (Jackson) for two games. We’ll probably miss Andre for a second game tomorrow. Bullock hasn’t played yet, so we really still haven’t seen our group to make those decisions.”
Drummond missed practice Thursday and sat out Friday’s game after contracting conjunctivitis. As long as his eye is still crusty and he’s unable to put contacts in, he’ll be held out. He went through conditioning drills while the team practiced for three-plus hours on Sunday. Jackson, who missed most of last week and both preseason games with tightness in his groin, was full go and looked aggressive, Van Gundy said, though he stopped short of saying Jackson would play Monday when the Pistons host Indiana.
Bullock did practice after being held out of Friday’s game with a sore left knee – the same knee that underwent arthroscopic surgery last December. Bullock is competing for minutes at shooting guard and small forward with Langston Galloway and Kennard behind starters Avery Bradley and Johnson.
But there will be fewer minutes to go around if Harris is used more at small forward than at power forward. That’s a possibility the more Van Gundy sees from his stable of power forwards, all of them making a strong bid to be in the opening-night rotation.