One of the many storylines to watch out for during the Detroit Pistons’ preseason is who will set themselves apart from the rest and make a case for being the first big off the bench. Surely, one of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith will see some time with the second unit for stretches, but who of the rest of the Pistons’ front court players will see the most playing time?
So far Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Jerebko and Tony Mitchell have seen the most minutes, in that order with 58, 53, and 46 minutes respectively. Josh Harrellson has also seen some time with around 10 MPG, but he doesn’t appear to be in the conversation.
Through the first few games, it appears that Jerebko could be playing himself into position to be the favorite to win the job. Despite not seeing the court in the Pistons’ preseason opener against Maccabi Haifa, Jerebko hustled his way to a total 16 points, 15 rebounds, and two blocks off the bench against the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets. While he hasn’t shot the ball incredibly well, going only 4-of-11 from the field and missing both three point attempts, his greatest competition for being the team’s stretch forward, Charlie Villanueva, has looked even worse shooting the ball.
Villanueva could have made a case for himself to help the Pistons’ spacing issues by doing what he does best, make shots. Unfortunately for Villanueva, he shot a horrific 0-for-8 from beyond the three point line through the first two games before finally getting two of his four attempts to fall through the net against Brooklyn. His overall field goal percentage of only .350 is even worse than Jerebko’s .364 clip, and he hasn’t rebounded well either, averaging only four RPG. Even if Jerebko hadn’t been playing well in his two appearances, Villanueva has certainly appeared to be playing himself out of the competition.
Tony Mitchell made a nice case to earn some minutes after exploding for 10 points, 10 rebounds and a block in 26 minutes against the Nets. He saw the most playing time of his short preseason career against Brooklyn, and he definitely took full advantage. He didn’t see the free throw line, but his 10 points were scored on a very efficient 5-of-6 from the field. If the Pistons aren’t going to see any forwards stretching the floor off the bench, rebounding and efficient scoring will be enough to win the job. While it was only a single performance, Mitchell showed he has the potential to provide that kind of production with this outing.
It’s still early, with five preseason games and a little over two weeks to go before the Pistons tip-off their regular season, but at this point, it appears that the backup power forward position could be coming down to a competition between Jonas Jerebko and Tony Mitchell.