The Detroit Pistons have struggled to get consistency from their point guards ever since Chauncey Billups was traded in 2008, but GM Joe Dumars hopes he solved that problem this offseason.
Rodney Stuckey was supposed to be their next great floor general, but he never could learn the nuances of the position and played almost exclusively off the ball in 2012-13.
Brandon Knight was drafted in the lottery with the hope that he, too, could learn the position. But Dumars ended that experiment after two seasons, shipping him to Milwaukee for Brandon Jennings.
That acquisition—plus the return of Billups—will make point guard a position of strength for the Pistons in 2013-14.
Note: Projected minutes for each player are overall, not only at point guard.
2013-14 projected statistics: 35 MPG, 18 PPG, 3 RPG, 7 APG, 1.5 SPG, 39.5 FG%, 36 3PT%
Although Dumars isn't ready to name Brandon Jennings the opening day starter, the former Milwaukee Buck won't be coming off the bench for the Pistons.
The 23-year-old has started in 289 of his 291 NBA appearances, leading the Bucks to the playoffs twice in four seasons. He has career averages of 17 points and nearly six assists, and he played over 36 minutes per game last season.
Jennings has an explosive first step and will look for shots out of isolation sets or pick-and-rolls, where he shoots a high number of threes. He looks to score first but has really developed as a point guard throughout his career—he averaged a career-high 6.5 assists in 2012-13.
One of the most underrated parts of his game is his ability to take care of the ball, especially for such a young player. He has never averaged more than 2.5 turnovers in a season, and, according to ESPN Insider, his 9.7 turnover rate was the 15th-lowest of the 82 qualified point guards.
His biggest struggles can be attributed to his slight build.
He's listed at just 6'1" and 169 pounds. Offensively, he can get into the paint consistently, but he's not effective when he gets there. He shot just 45.4 percent from within five feet of the basket, per NBA.com, and only got to the line 3.5 times per game.
Who should start in the backcourt for Detroit?
On the other end of the court he can be overpowered by bigger guards and is liable to getting posted up. His inability to defend 2s will limit the players coach Maurice Cheeks can play alongside him in the backcourt. He will be giving up height and weight to each of the four other starting point guards in the Central Division: Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, George Hill and Brandon Knight.
Jennings hasn't quite lived up to the expectations that followed him into the NBA, but he has been a solid NBA point guard and has shown growth in recent seasons. With a change of scenery and a solid surrounding cast, Jennings should take a big step forward in his development this season.
2013-14 Projected Statistics: 22 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3 APG, 0.5 SPG, 41 FG%, 37 3PT%
After five seasons away from the Pistons, Billups is no longer an All-Star-caliber lead guard. But, as long as he can stay healthy, he can still be a major contributor for the team.
From 2000 to 2011, Billups didn't miss any significant time due to injury, playing in at least 70 games each season. But over the past two campaigns he has missed 106 of 148 games due to injury, including a torn Achilles in 2012.
Before the Pistons acquired Jennings, Billups saw himself as the starting point guard, and the starting shooting guard spot could be his for the taking. But Billups told Marc Spears of Yahoo! this summer that he didn't want to play shooting guard these past two seasons with the Clippers.
I didn't want to be a two-guard anyway ... I never saw myself as a shooting guard. I never wanted to play it.
He added that he signed with the Pistons to get back to playing point guard.
I don't have anything to prove. But to my own personal self, I want to end my career playing my position and just doing what I do.
Billups will be 37 when the season begins and has seen a steep decline in athleticism and ability in recent seasons. There may be situations where he can play the point, and Jennings can move off the ball, but it's difficult to see Billups taking many minutes away from him.
As a career 38.8 percent three-point shooter, Billups will help stretch the floor, and his career 89.4 mark from the line will guarantee he's on the court at the end of close games. His leadership will also be at a premium on a roster with only three players older than 30.
Even if he starts and stays healthy, Billups won't be able to play 30-plus minutes a night like he used to. A workload of 18-25 minutes a night will help him get through the grind of his 17th NBA season.
2013-14 Projected Statistics: 12 MPG, 6 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 44 FG%, 29 3PT%
The most perplexing move of Detroit's offseason was the re-signing of backup guard Will Bynum to a two-year, $5.7 million deal. It's a hefty price for a third point guard who is on the wrong side of 30.
The undersized point guard has been providing the team with an offensive spark off the bench for five seasons, and 2012-13 was arguably his best to date. He averaged 9.8 points and 3.6 assists while shooting a career-high 46.9 percent from the field.
Bynum is capable of scoring points in bunches, but he can also do a lot of harm to a team.
He's careless with the ball, averaging 3.7 turnovers per 36 minutes in 2012-13, and is a defensive liability. According to 82games.com, opposing point guards had a PER of 18.1 against him. And according to ESPN, his five fouls per 48 minutes would have been the third-highest among point guards, had he played enough minutes to qualify.
With Jennings and Billups on the roster, Bynum will see a decreased role this season. He still can be useful as a change-of-pace player against opposing second units, but he is too one-dimensional to see consistent minutes.
2013-14 Projected Statistics: 6 MPG, 1.8 PPG, 0.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.3 SPG, 38 FG%, 26 3PT%
To add even more depth to the position, the Pistons signed the No. 56 pick in June's draft, Peyton Siva.
The three-year starter for Louisville comes to the NBA with plenty of big-game experience—he was named Big East Tournament MVP in 2012 and 2013 and helped the Cardinals win the 2013 national championship. He's a leader and a hard worker—the kind of player who will push the veterans every day in practice.
He's a also a pesky defender who is willing to provide full-court pressure. He averaged 2.3 steals as a senior and is Louisville's all-time leader in that statistic. There's a very real chance he could come in defensively at the end of games, possibly for the aging Billups.
But Siva has a number of things to overcome to ever become a rotation player. At just 6'0" and 185 pounds, he'll give up size to most players defensively, and it's unlikely he'll ever be able to score effectively in the paint.
That issue is especially important because he was not a good shooter in college, making less than 30 percent of his attempts from the arc each of his final three seasons.
Improving his jumper will be essential to his growth as a player.
With so much depth in front of him, Siva won't see much playing time as a rookie barring significant injuries. He'll spend the year watching from the bench and hopefully taking advantage of his chances to play in garbage time.