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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Former Pistons finding their way in new roles elsewhere

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Ryan Van Dusenhttps://detroitsportsnation.com
Ryan is a Farmington native who enjoys all things basketball, particularly when it involves the Detroit Pistons. He spends much of his free time combing through NBA archives and curating footage of meaningless late-90's regular season performances for mass consumption.

Undoubtedly, there was calculated risk involved when the Detroit Pistons agreed to send away a quartet of mainstays in exchange for Reggie Jackson and Tayshaun Prince on the cusp of the NBA’s trade deadline last month.

For Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy, the acquisition of Jackson served as a swipe at potential future star. Meanwhile, Prince was to provide length of veteran savvy at an ailing three spot. After but a small sampling, the verdict remains out on Jackson and Prince, both of whom are due to become free agents following the season.

On the other side of the coin, former Pistons D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler, Jonas Jerebko, Luigi Datome have all had opportunities to show their new clubs what they could do, with variable (but largely positive) results. Here’s a breakdown of how our old friends are faring in new places so far:

D.J. Augustin

Augustin arrived in Oklahoma City knowing full well his new indefinite role was going to be backing up superstar point guard Russell Westbrook. True to the veteran savvy showcased in Detroit, Augustin has responded, averaging nearly 11 points and 4 assists off the bench in eight appearances with the Thunder.

Speaking with NBA.com, Augustin said:  “Most of the time as the point guard, guys are looking at you for poise and control of the game. I’m not really out there thinking. When you think too much, that’s when you can mess up. I just go out, play freely and play smart.”

After Westbrook missed a start due to a dented head (we’re not kidding), Augustin filled the void, delivering 18 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds against the Lakers on Tuesday.

Kyle Singler

Singler’s seen his offensive production dip since arriving in OKC (averaging just 4.5 points a game, down from 7.1 in Detroit), but that may be more a product of playing amongst high powered teammates than anything else. With all-star small forward Kevin Durant succumbing to injury, Singler has started every game since his arrival, as the Thunder have gone 5-3 over that span.

“I like how he plays,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “He moves the ball. He cuts. He sets great screens. He’s just a basketball player. That’s his biggest strength. He knows how to play the game.”

Jonas Jerebko

Formerly the longest tenured Piston, having come to Detroit in 2009, Jerebko’s warmed to his new beginning in Boston, averaging 8 points per game for the Celtics and hitting over 55 percent of his three-pointers thus far (10-18).

Jonas’ production has followed a familiar roller coaster pattern in Boston, only with higher peaks. While he went scoreless in five minutes against the Lakers and scored just three in a loss to Golden State, Jerebko has also had highly impressive performances that saw him drop 20 and 16 points in back-to-back contests. It appears Celtics general manager Danny Ainge may not be adverse to re-signing Jonas this summer.

“Jerebko’s somebody that we’ve tried to get before,” Ainge said. “We like shooting bigs. I love guys that know how to play and can shoot 3’s and have length.

“As a spacer at the 4 position, I’ve always liked him. And that’s what he does well is spread the floor. He can shoot the 3 and he can attack close-outs. He just knows how to play.”

Luigi Datome

Gigi has continued to see sporadic playing time since arriving in Boston. Still, appearing in 25% of his team’s games stands as a significant upgrade over the 17 total minutes of playing time he saw in Detroit this year.

So far, he’s currently averaging 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game for the Celtics, all while channeling former Lions defensive end (and Tecmo Super Bowl stalwart) Dan Owens by rocking the awkward-for-a-basketball-player #70 jersey (one of the byproducts of the Celtics retiring virtually every jersey number between one and thirty).

Bonus: Josh Smith

Lastly, there’s old friend Josh Smith, whom the Pistons will be facing this evening down in Houston (8 p.m., FSD). Smith has settled in for the Rockets, still capable of the familiar wild plays and questionable decisions for which we’d all grown accustomed in Detroit.

However, Smith has trended slightly upward of late. He’s shooting a touch over 44 percent for the Rockets — still substandard for a power forward — but exceptional in comparison to his 39% showing for the Pistons. Houston appears happy with their acquisition, learning to forever accept the good that comes with the bad when it comes to Josh Smith, as best illustrated when he hushed the Atlanta crowd on Tuesday…

… then proceeded to lead his team to an eight-point loss:

After falling to the Pistons 114-101 in their first meeting in January, it’s safe to assume Smith and the Rockets will be seeking a measure of revenge this evening.

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