Pistons’ reserve strength to be tested
Auburn Hills — Through the first 10 games of the season, the Pistons have had one of the best reserve units in the league. They’ve utilized the versatility of big men Anthony Tolliver and Eric Moreland and added scoring from Langston Galloway and Henry Ellenson.
Their depth will be tested over the next few days, as they’re without two of their main rotation players, with starting small forward Stanley Johnson (hip flexor) and reserve forward Jon Leuer (sprained left ankle) recovering from injuries.
Both will miss Wednesday’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers at Little Caesars Arena and could miss additional time if their conditions don’t improve.
“I don’t think either one is definitely out on Friday (against the Atlanta Hawks) or Sunday (versus the Miami Heat),” coach Stan Van Gundy said Wednesday. “It’s truly a day-to-day thing, so we’ll just have to see.”
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Van Gundy didn’t reveal how he planned to fill the spots following Wednesday morning’s shootaround but he could use Reggie Bullock or Tolliver in the starting lineup for Johnson and Moreland or Boban Marjanovic as the backup center, where Leuer got some of his playing time.
More most teams, losing two rotation players would be a bigger issue, but for the Pistons, it’s a next-man-up mentality, with 14 players seeing playing time in the first part of the season. In that way, it’s a plug-and-play situation for Van Gundy.
“For our team, which is built on depth, everybody’s important to us so everybody being out hurts us,” Van Gundy said Tuesday, “but we have people who can fill in, so I see it both ways.”
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Johnson had begun to establish good defensive chemistry with Avery Bradley on the wings, so finding another option there will be the hardest part of filling the gaps. Another option could be rookie Luke Kennard, who has seen limited action, but started in a similar situation in the preseason.
While many of the positions are interchangeable, Johnson, at 6-foot-7, offers something the other options don’t.
“Stanley is probably the only true (small forward) on our roster. Our other guys are (shooting guards) playing (small forward) or (power forwards) playing (small forward),” Van Gundy said. “That’s probably the biggest thing. With him and Avery our disposition has been really good. It’s not ideal, but it’s never ideal when anybody is out.”