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Detroit Pistons: Sorting out the Suddenly Deep Small Forward Position

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Detroit Pistons: Sorting out the Suddenly Deep Small Forward Position
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons have been incredibly busy during the beginning of the NBA offseason.

They swung a great move (in my opinion) in getting rid of disappointing guard Ben Gordon and his ludicrously large salary.

They got lucky in the draft when Andre Drummond, a player thought to be a lock to go in the top five, slid to them at No. 9.

Additionally, they had two very good prospects slide to them in the second round. Khris Middleton would have been a slam-dunk first-round pick a year ago, and Kim English was one of the best shooters in this draft. 

Furthermore, they signed an athletic seven-foot Ukrainian who should provide some much needed depth. And last year's second-round pick, Kyle Singler, is slated to come back this year from Spain.

Add to that the fact that Jason Maxiell decided to stay put for another year, and Ben Wallace is likely to stick around as well, and the Pistons suddenly have some intriguing names on the roster.

That being said, with every solution there always seem to be problems that spring up in its place.

In this case, the Pistons suddenly have a ridiculously deep small forward position.

 

The crew

First on the depth chart is life-long Piston Tayshaun Prince.

The only starter remaining from the team's heyday of the 2000s, Prince is now 32. He still is a long, active defender who has a nice touch in the post and provides professionalism and some leadership. He also still is under contract for a few years, so he really isn't going anywhere.

Next on the list is Corey Maggette, who came over in the Gordon deal.

Maggette is an active, albeit undersized small forward who contributes athleticism and a strong body. He is only under contract through this year, and his future with the team is very much up in the air provided he even makes it to this year's trade deadline.

Austin Daye is also in the mix here. The former first-round pick could only be summed up as a disappointment so far in his NBA career. He is long but not very strong, and while he has deep range, his shooting took a huge nosedive this year. Overall, it is fair to question his desire to become a good NBA player, and he should be viewed as a candidate to be traded at some point.

Next we have Singler who spent last year in Spain.

Singler is a smart, gritty player who has good range and was a very good team player in college.

How his game translates in the pros is anyone's guess, but he certainly will play hard and has the right pedigree to become a solid player.

Middleton is a long, athletic scorer who has the right frame to become a good defender at this level. He had some injury issues last year, which diminished his draft stock. At this point, it would be safe to assume that any contribution he brings is a bonus, and if he makes the team he should be a bench player exclusively, and perhaps the 12th man most nights.

For fairness sake, you also have to include Jonas Jerebko here. Sure, he is more of a power forward type of player, but at this point he figures more as a 'tweener. At his best, he is a good energy guy off the bench and can play both positions with limited success.

 

The ideal situation

Detroit needs to unload at least one of these guys, and perhaps even two.

The Austin Daye experiment needs to finally be unplugged.

Sure, it is fun to pair him with Brandon Knight and unload the "Knight and Daye" pun.

But at this point, that pretty much is all he is good for.

He is a weak defender, a weak rebounder and really can only shoot. And this year, he didn't even shoot it well.

Daye really doesn't seem to fit the mold that the Pistons are looking to become, and they should probably part ways with him for anything they can get. I personally would settle for a future second-round pick and a cup of coffee from Tim Horton's.

Prince still has value as a team defender and tentative scorer. He is what he is, and that still has value to a young team. Therefore, the Pistons should continue to start him, but cut his minutes considerably.

Start to phase in Singler and Middleton as future contributors.

The Pistons aren't going to contend for a title next year, but they should have enough talent to challenge for the eighth playoff seed. Therefore, they still need to play the best player at each position, and that still is Prince.

But Singler and Middleton can help in bursts and should be given the opportunity to log some playing time.

Maggette still needs to get on the court for no better reason than to boost his trade value. He could be the primary backup at small forward, but he also could log some minutes at the two-spot. He is a big, athletic swing man who could offer a nice look against players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

Obviously, he isn't an elite defender, but the Pistons have only had Rodney Stuckey to throw against guys like James and Bryant, and the Pistons need him to focus more on offense if they are going to take a big step this year.

Additionally, Maggette is a dynamic full-court scorer who would pair well with a running Pistons squad.

 

Overall, a good problem

For years, the Pistons have lacked ideal depth at the small forward spot.

They have always had Prince, but they have failed repeatedly to groom a decent backup or future replacement.

By the sheer number of options, the Pistons have the odds in their favor for finally developing a good swing man. That being said, too much depth could hinder everyone's growth, so this situation needs to be handled well.

Personally, I think this is a good problem to have, and I like the Pistons' odds to work things out and field a team that is finally worthy of the fans.

 

(Special thanks to B/R Pistons community member Tony Jordan for the article idea.)

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