The Pistons re-signed Reggie Bullock to a 2 year, 5 million dollar deal after initially pulling their qualifying offer. Does he have a place in the Pistons rotation? We break down his game and predict how he'll fit in with the team moving forward.
Who is Reggie Bullock?
Reggie Bullock is a 6'7, 205-pound 26-year-old wing player who has played for the Pistons over the last two seasons. He attended Kinston High school in North Carolina, where he led them to 3 state championship games, winning two of them, averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds per game in his senior season and making the All-state team 3 straight years. He was a highly touted recruit out of high school and went on the play for the North Carolina Tar Heels, where he played for 3 seasons and made good on his reputation as a sniper from deep and a good rebounder from the wing.
He was drafted by the LA Clippers 25th overall in the 2013 NBA draft but played very sparingly before being traded to the Suns part way through his second season. After finishing out the season with the Suns (and playing sparingly) he was traded to the Pistons in the offseason, along with Marcus Morris, in a salary dump as part of the Suns' ill fated attempt to sign LaMarcus Aldridge. He has spent the last two years with the Pistons, and although he has still played sparingly, he has gotten the occasional run in the rotation. In his two seasons with the Pistons, he shot 39.7% from 3, with a per 36 line of 10.6 points, 2.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and a steal. It is still a small sample size, but the results are mostly good with Bullock.
Reggie Bullock is still a sniper from deep, possessing a deadly combination with an accurate and quick release on his shot, capable of pulling up off the dribble, spotting up, or rocketing off a screen to stop on a dime to get a quick shot off. In his limited time he has been, by a fair margin, the Pistons' best shooter the past two years, and while his competition for that title figures to be a bit stiffer this coming year, he is still a very good shooter.
Beyond his shooting, he brings a lot to the table offensively as a guy who clearly has a very high basketball IQ. He is a very good cutter who is always watchful of his defender for any lapse in concentration to get occasional easy buckets at the rim, and the knowledge that he can and will cut at any time puts extra stress on defenders. He makes quick decisions with or without the ball, and rarely stands in one place for too long. If he catches the ball, he rarely will simply stand and watch, he will almost immediately either shoot it, pass it, or put it on the floor. The fact that he makes really good decisions most of the time at that high speed is a boon for the offense. Reggie Bullock's best trait (yes, even better than his shooting) may well be his passing, the accuracy and quickness of his passes are a thing of beauty, regularly finding open cutters and shooters, and then flinging the ball right into their pockets for easy looks. I honestly think that SVG said it best with regards to Reggie Bullock's IQ. "When he was on the floor, we just played better."
Defensively Bullock is not any sort of a stopper, but his effort and fight are there. He doesn't take plays off, generally gets to the right spot at the right time, and has a knack for getting out into transition at the right times in order to get easy buckets from defensive stops. It's hard to say how effective a defender he is, but he is definitely not a bad one.
First off, Bullock will be serving a 5 game suspension at the start of next season for a violation of the league's drug policy, this is bad no matter how you cut it. Beyond that, the biggest issue Bullock has had in his two years with the Pistons is an inability to stay healthy, which is extra concerning given the low number of minutes he has played. It is not totally clear how often he was hurt to the point that he was unable to play since he was not regularly in the rotation regardless, but it is pretty clear that he was not very healthy.
As far as his actual game goes, as excellent as he is a role player, he is still a role player. He is not a guy who is going to be getting you buckets or creating great looks for teammates. He can throw great passes, but he isn't going to draw extra defenders to create an open look for someone else. And just as he is an excellent shooter, he is not an excellent finisher and even has a bit of a penchant for blowing open layups. His ball handling is very limited as well, showing little ability beyond a very basic pick and roll leading to a pull-up midrange jumper. Once again, this is all ok because he isn't going to be asked to do many of these things, the Pistons know what his role is on the floor and that is what he will be asked to do, but he isn't a guy who is likely to be capable of doing much beyond that offensively.
Defensively is a similar story. As much as he does good things by simply putting an effort and keeping his head on a swivel, he simply does not have the tools to be much beyond "ok" defensively. He is very skinny and as such can struggle with bigger guys on the wing, and he gets over active defending smaller guys often resulting in him getting blown by. Lastly, with his defense, I don't know if it is really a problem or if he is just really unlucky, but he seems to foul jump shooters and generally get really unlucky defensively a lot. Since it's a small sample size it's hard to say for sure, but it's still something to watch.
Lastly in the bad column is the fact that even though his time on the court has generally been very good, he just hasn't been on the court a lot. With such a small sample size it is hard to say for sure if he would be capable of doing as well in larger minutes if it came to that.
How will he fit with the Pistons?
The Pistons team will look quite different this fall from where it was left at the end of last season. Bullock spent almost all of his time on the floor the past two years at the shooting guard spot but is likely to be slotted almost exclusively as a small forward this coming season. After the acquisitions of Bradley, Galloway, and Kennard there does not figure to be much need at the shooting guard spot, while after trading Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson is the only true small forward on the roster. This does not mean Bullock will be in the rotation though, regardless of what starting lineup SVG goes with, Tobias Harris is likely to split a lot of time between both forward spots. So even if Stanley starts next to Tobias, it is likely that Tobias will effectively be the starting 4 and the backup 3. Small forward is still Bullock's most likely path to minutes though since it will only take one injury to Stanley or Tobias for Bullock to be in the rotation. Small forward also is more likely for him since he brings a ton more shooting than the other two small forwards, (Stanley and Tobias) so if SVG ever decides they need more shooting at the 3 spot (whether for a short stretch of a game or perhaps a permanent change to the rotation) then Bullock is the only option, whereas all 3 of the other guys at shooting guard figure to be good shooters.
With that said, he will likely be competing with Kennard for 3rd place in the shooting guard rotation, and given that Galloway is also the de-facto 3rd point guard, an injury to either point guard could open up minutes at the shooting guard spot. I would still expect Kennard to get them, but it is nice to know that Bullock has the flexibility to go to either position with comfort.
The biggest question moving forward?
The main question with Reggie Bullock going forwards is whether or not he can be a regular rotation guy. Given his small salary, he is fine as a bench warmer who occasionally plays, but he has shown real promise when he gets on the floor. The answer to this question will likely come out of whether or not he can stay healthy, and whether or not he can convince SVG to actually give him minutes. Either way though, it is a nice luxury to have a guy at 2.5 million per year who you know can play a little bit.
When free agency initially started, it seemed unlikely that Bullock would return, but as it progressed it just made sense, and I think this is a really nice deal for the Pistons. Bullock is a guy who they know can play a bit, and even if he never is a regular in the rotation, his salary is the equivalent of a guy who is a bench warmer, but there is the upside of that he may actually be good enough to be a regular rotation guy. Throw in the fact that if things turn to make him a bad fit (whether through his poor play or a roster change) that the Pistons can get out of the second year, and there really isn't a downside for the Pistons. It is also a good sign that he chooses to return despite there being other options open to him. Obviously, he isn't some huge free agent get, but it says something positive about the organization that a guy who mostly rode the pine for two years choose to return to the team.
What do you think? Should he get into the Pistons regular rotation next season?