AUBURN HILLS – There’s a fair chance that nearly every meaningful minute logged by a Pistons shooting guard this season will be done so by someone who wasn’t on the team last year.
Stan Van Gundy says he doesn’t have a depth chart in a training camp where he claims his mind is more open than it’s ever been over his 12-year run as an NBA head coach. But if he did, it would certainly start with Avery Bradley and then include, in some order, rookie Luke Kennard and free-agent addition Langston Galloway.
Stanley Johnson might get a few cameos there in certain defensive matchups and Reggie Bullock when Van Gundy is looking to cram his lineup with as much shooting as possible. But Bradley, Kennard and Galloway are in line for 90-plus percent of the minutes at that spot.
And so far, so good.
Even though Van Gundy had never coached Bradley until Tuesday, he’s already seen exactly what he anticipated.
“He’s just really, really good. That’s what he’s shown,” Van Gundy said after Wednesday’s morning practice on the second day of training camp’s double sessions. “You can ask any of these guys in here about him. I think we all knew who he was. He’s a guy with great speed and quickness who plays hard all the time. He’s a great shooter coming off handoffs and pick and rolls. He shoots the three. He’s an elite defender.”
Kennard’s development figures to be accelerated, too, by going against Bradley in practices every day.
“Avery’s such a smart player, so just to go up against a guy like that each and every day, you feel like you learn so much,” he said. “He’s a competitor, he plays really hard, so you know of just follow that. He gives everybody a sense of urgency when he’s on the floor. I’ve been trying to follow that and it’s fun playing with him.”
Galloway is temporarily slowed by a bone bruise to his knee, but expects to be cleared for all activity by Friday. In the meantime, Kennard is getting a few extra repetitions and continuing to leave the same positive impressions that began with an eye-opening Summer League body of work. Van Gundy described Tuesday night’s scrimmage as “frantic, sloppy but with a lot of energy and a lot of intensity,” yet Kennard stood out in contrast.
“Luke has a calm about him,” Van Gundy said. “In a night that was chaotic and sloppy, Luke slows down and looks at what’s going on and makes good, solid decisions.”
“I know from college to now, I’ve developed a sense of being poised during game time and practice and just being on the floor,” Kennard said. “They really coached us on staying calm, being poised and that’s what I try to focus on.”
Van Gundy said Monday that “I think it’ll be hard to keep Luke off the floor” and hasn’t come off of that yet. In fact, he’s doubled down.
“I think it’s going to be really hard to keep him off the floor. We’ve got good depth at the wings, so it’s possible he could end up out of the rotation. He’s just really good. He’s got great skills, he can shoot and pass – which are two great things – and he’s just got a very good feel for the game. The game comes pretty easily to him, particularly at the offensive end.”
How about the other end – the one that usually determines playing time for Van Gundy? Well, after airing his draft-night concerns over Kennard’s defense publicly, Van Gundy has been convinced it no longer will be a thing that holds his career back.
“We loved his offense and we bet on his toughness and intelligence which would lead him into being a good enough defender,” Van Gundy said. “But even in Summer League, the very first practice, I got the feeling like he was going to be a lot better than I thought defensively. He can move his feet, he’s got decent size, he’s strong. He actually should develop into a good defender. It should be a strength of his as he learns systems and rotations. He should actually be at least an average if not an above-average defender very, very quickly.”
Bradley is the odds-on choice to lead the Pistons in minutes played, likely getting at least 32 a game. Galloway’s 3-point shooting – not just his 39 percent accuracy but the fact he averaged eight triple attempts per 36 minutes for New Orleans last season – makes him the more certain bet for playing time right now than Kennard.
But if you’d have told Van Gundy three months ago that the Pistons wouldn’t retain Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in free agency, he’d have had some restless nights over how he was going to fill the 48 minutes a game at shooting guard. Three weeks before the season opener, it now looks like he’s got three terrific options at his disposal.