AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — After reaching the postseason for the first time since 2009, the Detroit Pistons had a bit more credibility during free agency.
That’s Stan Van Gundy’s view, at least, after his team signed guard Ish Smith and forward Jon Leuer.
“I think that guys look at us probably a little differently — you know, young team on the rise,” said Van Gundy, Detroit’s coach and team president. “I think both Jon and Ish liked the idea that they were sort of playing with guys in their own age group, and even younger.”
The Pistons introduced Smith and Leuer on Friday, and they’ll be counting on both players to add depth to the roster. Detroit’s long-awaited return to the playoffs was short-lived when the Pistons were swept in the first round by Cleveland, but last season was still a significant step forward.
Detroit came out of the draft last month still needing to acquire a backup to point guard Reggie Jackson. That’s certainly a role Smith can fill after averaging a career-high 12.6 points in 77 games with Philadelphia and New Orleans last season. Leuer gives the Pistons a versatile big man who shot 38 percent from 3-point range a season ago with Phoenix.
Smith and Leuer are both 27.
“Last year, I thought we had a really good year, but we were really fortunate that we didn’t have injuries that set us back or anything like that,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t know that we would have had the depth to overcome that. I feel like now, really at every position now, I feel like we’ve got four guys we can play at each position, because we’ve also got very versatile guys.”
The Pistons have built around center Andre Drummond, whom they drafted in 2012. They traded for Jackson in 2015 and also have added starters Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris in trades. Detroit hasn’t been much of a destination lately for top free agents, with the team in a rebuilding mode, but now Van Gundy can sell a brighter future.
Smith, for example, is looking forward to tossing alley-oop passes in Drummond’s direction.
“Dre better be ready to go get lobs from the first team and the second team,” Smith said. “Reggie does a great job of throwing them, I’m most definitely going to throw them.”
The move to the Pistons might bring some stability to Smith’s career. He has been in the NBA six seasons, and 2013-14 (with Phoenix) is the only one in which he played exclusively with one team. Detroit will be his 10th team. He joins Louis Amundson and Drew Gooden as the only active NBA players to play for 10 teams.
The 6-foot-10 Leuer averaged a career-high 8.5 points last season and has the ability to help spread the opposing defense out as a forward or even a center.
“That’s kind of the way the league’s going,” Leuer said. “Small ball and versatility is becoming a unique and effective lineup, so that’s something I was able to do last year a little bit, was come in at the five. … Definitely something I feel comfortable doing.”
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