The Detroit Pistons have signed journeyman point guard Beno Udrih. How does he fit in as Ish Smith's primary backup?
With starting point guard Reggie Jackson out with knee tendinitis, the Detroit Pistons are forced to push Ish Smith up to #1 on the depth chart. After waiving Ray McCallum and Lorenzo Brown, the main competitors for the backup Point Guard spot during training camp and the preseason, the Pistons decided to sign 34-year-old journeyman Beno Udrih to fill in at backup point guard while Jackson recovers.
Udrih spent the majority of last season on the Miami Heat after a trade from the Memphis Grizzlies.
What's he good at?
Udrih is old. In a (mostly) good way. This will be his 8th team in seven seasons, and his 13th season overall. He'll provide veteran presence to a Pistons roster with a very young core. For the majority of his career, Udrih has been a solid, consistent backup point guard, comfortable with steadying more volatile bench units (see: his time with the Sacramento Kings). On the defensive end, Udrih has good size to make up for his lack of quicks (listed by NBA.com at 6'3, 205 lbs.), which will help Detroit out a lot when Ish Smith is simply too small to defend bigger backcourts.
He was also somewhere between a serviceable to above-average Pick & Roll partner to Hassan Whiteside last year, whose role out of the P&R is similar to Drummond's.
Udrih has always been a knockdown midrange shooter, and he's been setting up his roll man for more than a decade now. Stan Van Gundy's offense hinges completely on the threat of the Drummond roll, and the Drummond roll requires a playmaking point guard. Beno can't make a ton of plays, but his bread and butter -- that pull-up jumper from the free throw line -- is pretty dang good. Udrih is ancient, but he's also a proven commodity, and the Pistons need stability from their floor general position right now.
What's he not good at?
Udrih is really freaking old. He was never the fastest, quickest, or strongest guy in his younger years, and he's now in his 13th season. Last year in Miami, Udrih averaged 0.4 FBPs (Fast Break Points -- number of points scored by a player or team while on a fast break). For comparison, Reggie Jackson averaged 1.7 FBPs. Udrih is not going to push the pace, and Detroit has some guys that like to run on its roster (Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ish Smith, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris).
His defense is about league average. Last year, Udrih's opponents shot 43.6% against him on 6.0 attempts per game, which is 0.8% worse than the average defender. He was stingier in the paint (about 6% better than league average defending shots from less than 6 feet), perhaps due to his size and the fact that his lack of quickness forces him to sag off more. Where I think he'll really struggle, however, is defending the Pick & Roll and making long defensive rotations to corner shooters. Although Udrih has the principles down, he just doesn't have the foot speed to keep up with, say, the barrage of P&Rs the Los Angeles Clippers like to run in a single possession. He can probably contain the first Chris Paul/DeAndre Jordan P&R, but over 24 seconds, he will break down. It's an unenviable task for a player of his age.
Udrih is not a good 3-pt shooter. He's got a career 34.9% average from deep over 1.6 attempts per game, which is problematic for a team that projects to struggle with spacing (Ish Smith is also dreadful from outside). He also rarely earns free throws, although he's a knockdown shooter from the stripe.
Is it a good move?
Absolutely. The Pistons need a backup PG, and not only will Udrih be better at that position than Ray McCallum/Lorenzo Brown, but he'll also offer a veteran presence when Jackson returns. Udrih fits well into Detroit's offense, and although he will get torched by the likes of Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, and other elite PGs, his defensive fundamentals are sound. Probably the best option the Pistons could scramble for after Jackson's injury.