AUBURN HILLS – Stan Van Gundy didn’t lack for ideas when he pitched his vision for how an NBA franchise should operate to Pistons owner Tom Gores three years ago. Perhaps the one that did the most to end the organization’s six-year playoff drought and has them in solid position to return to the postseason in 2018 is the decision to commit to a full-blown pro scouting staff.
The latest product of the work of the four pro scouts who view virtually every NBA game and file standardized weekly reports on pretty much every play who logs a minute of playing time: Langston Galloway.
Undrafted out of St. Joseph’s in 2014, Galloway cracked the Knicks roster later that season and worked his way into the rotation as a rookie. He did the same with New Orleans after signing as a free agent in 2016 and with Sacramento when he was included as part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade in February.
Yet Galloway flew well under the radar of even avid NBA fans, playing with three lottery teams that weren’t often on national TV. So when he struck a deal with the Pistons on July 1 – the first day of free agency – for a reported three years and $21 million, the general reaction involved a lot of “who?” and “why?”
But the work of the four Pistons pro scouts – Al Walker, Tom Barisse, Quentin Richardson and Rob Werdann, who this summer accepted Van Gundy’s offer to become coach of the Grand Rapids Drive – left little doubt that Galloway was the right man for what the Pistons needed.
“He was at the top of our list,” Van Gundy said of Galloway, “because of his ability to play both spots and the flexibility that gives us.”
While the pro scouts, under the direction of assistant general manager Jeff Nix, were doing their thing to help shape the free-agent wish list, Van Gundy, Bower and their inner circle were conducting their review of the 2016-17 season.
The priority needs became clear: bring on more tough, competitive players; add 3-point shooting to a roster that finished 28th in 3-point percentage and 26th in attempts; and add secondary ballhandlers to ease some of the burden of creating offense for point guards Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith.
“He hit all three of those on a good contract,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a young guy with a chance to develop. There were some other wing guys we liked that could’ve provided us with similar protection” – a reference to the possibility of not re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was just soliciting offers as a restricted free agent as the Pistons struck their deal with Galloway – “at that position. But what put him to the very top of our list was his ability to play both spots and his 3-point shooting.”
When Boston landed Gordon Hayward as a free agent and needed to cut salary, the chance to trade for Avery Bradley presented itself. That gave Van Gundy two such players.
“(Galloway) shot 39 percent on a very high volume of attempts. Those two things really thrust him to the top of the list and the reports on his character were off the charts, as they were with Avery. So we’re really lucky to be able to add two guys that can do what we need done on the floor and are also real high-character leaders.”
Van Gundy had seen a bit of Galloway during his days at St. Joe’s when he worked as a college basketball analyst doing Atlantic 10 games during his two-year hiatus from the NBA. And he knows St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli and had talked to him about Galloway, too. But when it came time to make the call on which perimeter players to target in free agency, he put his trust in the collective work of his scouting staff.
“You go back and you’re reading 60 reports on a guy, 70 reports, you have a pretty accurate picture of who the guy is,” he said. “Then we went into the off-season, before July, and we went in with our four pro scouts and two other guys who did a more extensive study on him, so we spent a lot of time on him.”
It was another confirmation for Van Gundy of the merit of his idea to pour unprecedented resources into pro scouting.
“We’re really happy with our pro scouting system and the dynamic,” he said. “I think it’s been one of the strengths we’ve had in the three years. Our coverage has been really good. I think we’ve made solid decisions.”