The Detroit Pistons have been making noise all summer with their signings of touted free agents Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings and the return of Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups. One signing for the team that flew under the radar, though, was the return of guard Will Bynum. Bynum was efficient last year as a backup guard for the Pistons, and all signs point to him filling a similar role this coming season; however, with Jennings and Billups joining the fold, new head coach Maurice Cheeks may find himself with one too many guards and not enough minutes to go around.
At first, Bynum’s signing made sense. He was one of the few Pistons off the bench with an ability to change a game last season. Even with Billups coming to town, it seemed the Pistons had enough combo-guards to find time for them all. Brandon Knight and Billups were set to be the top two point guards, though both have the ability to slide to the two when necessary. Rodney Stuckey is a shooting guard trying to masquerade as a point guard with an ability to play the three at times. And recent-draftee Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could serve as an undersized three to stretch the floor when needed. Kyle Singler was also ready to compete for minutes at the two after some positive play last year, though he always seemed destined to be in a battle for minutes at small forward on this roster.
This was pre-Jennings. Post-Jennings, Bynum’s fit with the roster is unclear. Unlike Knight, Jennings is clearly a point guard. One with an affection for jacking up shots, but a point guard nonetheless. The heavy-majority of his minutes will come at that position. Billups has made it clear he doesn’t want to be a shooting guard and returned to Detroit with the point guard position in his sights. Unless coach Cheeks can convince Billups to play the two, where he could likely start, the two of them seem poised to dominate the minutes at point guard.
Last season, Bynum played every one of his minutes at point guard, and there’s no reason to believe this will change. How many minutes he can earn at that spot is the question now. While his pick-and-roll skills could be beneficial to the team, he shoots just .316 from three and won’t help this team’s spacing issues at all. Just 14 percent of Bynum’s shots were threes last year and 65 percent were within 16 feet.
At two years, $5.75 million, Bynum’s contract is not crippling the Pistons’ cap space. The free-agent market showed demand for Bynum’s skills as a backup point guard, and he will remain a trade chip for Detroit, especially next year on an expiring contract. Last season, however, he played just 18.8 minutes per game, and with increased talent above him in the rotation, that number may drop even further. Perhaps the most valuable part about his re-signing is insurance. Should an injury knock out Jennings or Billups, the Pistons have a player they can trust to step in and take those minutes.
Chris Copeland, Gary Neal, Byron Mullens, Dorrell Wright and former-Piston Jason Maxiell all signed similar contracts to Bynum and could be a better fit than he in Detroit. The first four especially would have brought with them an ability to stretch the floor that this Pistons team desperately needs. And Maxiell, along with Mullens and Copeland, would have given the Pistons another big-man off the bench to play spot-minutes.
It’s impossible to tell if any of these players would have been interested in joining Detroit, but someone like Wright or Copeland, shooters who can play both the three and four in smaller lineups, could have been very useful as one of the first two guys off the bench. Instead, Bynum will attempt to prove his worth in Detroit and fight for minutes at an all-of-a-sudden loaded point guard position.