AUBURN HILLS – The Detroit Pistons front office reached a consensus following an extensive off-season evaluation of their wing players: The team played well when Reggie Bullock was on the floor.
Injuries limited the 6-7 swingman to 68 games with the Pistons the past two seasons, including just 31 in 2016-17.
In limited minutes, he has been their best 3-point shooter (39.7 percent, 50-of-126) in two seasons.
That’s not the only reason the club brought back Bullock, 26, on a two-year, $5 million contract last month, after declining to extend him a qualifying offer, which made him an unrestricted free agent.
“A lot of people focus on Reggie’s shooting, which is very good, but to me it’s more the way he plays the game,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “The ball moves when he’s out there, he makes quick decisions, he moves very well without the ball, he helps other people play well. And at the other end he defends, so he’s a two-way player who helps your team function at both ends of the floor.
“We’re looking forward to having Reggie back, healthier than he’s been, hopefully, and available for a lot more action because he has helped us play very well.”
Bullock averaged career highs of 4.5 points and 2.1 rebounds last season, making five starts.
His off-the-ball movement is important. Van Gundy called him the team’s best cutter.
“This league has become one where being able to move the ball is very, very important and Reggie is someone who promotes ball movement,” Van Gundy said. “The ball does not stick in his hands. If he’s got a shot he takes it, if not, the ball moves. So, people enjoy playing with him.
“So, as important as the shooting is, and we certainly needed it, it’s a lot more than that that we see in Reggie and that’s why we wanted him back.”
The Pistons value Bullock’s flexibility. He provides depth at shooting guard, where they have Avery Bradley, Luke Kennard and possibly Langston Galloway. He’ll get more opportunity at small forward, behind Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson.
“The way the league has gone over the last few years there’s a lot of guys like Reggie who are twos that are playing a lot of three because the league is trending smaller,” Van Gundy said. “Then, when you look at our roster, I think there will be a lot of times we’ll play lineups with essentially three guards, where Reggie will be at the three.
“If you go back 10 years, he’s definitely a two, but those guys are all playing the three and there’s not a whole lot of difference between the positions. The other thing is Reggie has always rebounded the ball well for his size, so we don’t lose much if we play him at the three, in terms of rebounding the ball.”
Bullock will sit out the first five games of the regular season, following his suspension by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. Bullock called it “a regrettable situation for me to be in but obviously I will continue to learn, build on that as a player and not let those distractions into my career anymore.”
He said he’s 100 percent healthy.
“All the little aches and bruises I had throughout the season that shut me, it was small injuries that led to bigger problems,” Bullock said. “I just had to continue to work on my flexibility.”
Bullock was confident he would return, saying Van Gundy has provided him a better opportunity than any other coach.
“They believed in me as a player,” he said. “I know the system, I know the organization. I know pretty much how he wanted us to play. I bring that skill-set.
“I feel like I turned over a new leaf, given a new sheet of paper to be able to show what I’m capable of doing. I’m off my rookie deal, headed into another contract, given another opportunity to play a game I love.”