The Pistons will be introducing a new member of their backcourt next season. How will Avery Bradley and Reggie Jackson co-exist?
The Detroit Pistons had a relatively low-key offseason, but the one high-impact move they did make was the deal that sent combo forward Marcus Morris to the Boston Celtics in exchange for two-guard Avery Bradley. Boston needed to move salary to work the newly acquired Gordon Hayward into their cap space, but the Pistons were not expected to have a hand in the process.
Part of the reason this trade came out of left field was the fact that Detroit was presumed to be ready to re-sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the shooting guard position. With Bradley on the roster, there was no point in doing so, and KCP wound up signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. Given that the Pistons could have only signed Caldwell-Pope due to their bird rights, many questioned the trade from Detroit's perspective as it was essentially a swap of Caldwell-Pope and Morris for Bradley, rather than a one-for-one deal.
Of course, evaluating the deal in hindsight is of no consequence to us now, so what's more important is exploring how Bradley will function in replacing Caldwell-Pope in the Pistons' backcourt. Although Detroit starting point guard Reggie Jackson had a down season last year, he still is likely to demand the ball in high capacity next season, whether running pick and rolls or penetrating the lane.
Luckily for Detroit, Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas likes to play in a similarly high-usage manner, posting a whopping 34 percent usage rate last year. Bradley often played off the ball next to him, spacing the floor and acting as a secondary handler. According to Synergy, he generated 0.832 points per possession operating off screens, which ranked in the 61st percentile.
KCP also ran pick and rolls with a fairly high frequency, putting up a comfortable 0.888 points per possession, although his frequency of doing so was more than likely inflated due to Jackson's prolonged absence. Both players are also capable shooters, with Bradley hitting 39 percent of his triples compared to Caldwell-Pope's 35 percent rate.
On the whole, Bradley is more efficient in just about every offensive department, although it's important to consider the fact that he did play in a much more functionally sound offense than the Pistons'. Caldwell-Pope also went through a shooting slump towards the end of last season, which served to tank his numbers below what may have been expected.
Both players also excel on the defensive end, with Bradley narrowly missing being awarded a spot on the All-Defensive team, much to the chagrin of many of his peers. At 6'2", he can lock down either guard position, which came in handy in covering up for the deficiencies of Thomas in Boston. He excels in isolation, where his speed and quickness can overpower ball-handlers.
KCP did not often match up with 1's, but he is still versatile enough to switch back and forth at 6'5". Jackson isn't quite the sieve Thomas is on defense, but he needs a strong partner in that area, finishing last season with the lowest defensive rating of all the Pistons' regulars.
The Pistons are receiving a very similar player to replace the shooting guard they let go. Bradley may even be better than Caldwell-Pope in the areas that matter most for what he's being brought in to do, but there are some other things to consider. For one, Bradley is two years older than Caldwell-Pope, and thus further along in his development, which could allow the latter to "catch up."
For another, Bradley will be an unrestricted free agent next year, at which point the Pistons will have minimal capital with which to retain him. It's likely that the 2017-18 season will go a long way towards determining Bradley's future with the team. Reggie Jackson returning to his previous form will be especially critical, but Detroit will need big seasons from both members of their new-look backcourt.