And now we might have a genuine point guard controversy, too. Reggie Jackson is obviously the better basketball player, but is he better for the team? He doesn’t pass or move as well as Ish Smith, and opposing offenses are clearly targeting his still-hobbled knee. Jackson has a probably-deserved reputation as a selfish player, and his shot selection led to a players-only meeting not long after this return.


Furthermore, is Jon Leuer better than Andre Drummond? No, he’s not, but the four-year Wisconsin Badger and Frank Kaminsky prototype provides the range, spacing, and adequate free-throw shooting that Drummond does not, giving Detroit a different kind of firepower as they pursue comebacks. Last night, Leuer notched 22 points in a game where Drummond went 1-10 from the free throw line and caught an ejection in the third quarter.

Leuer, Smith, and the acquisitions of Harris and Morris have all panned out excellently for a mid-market front office that doesn’t have the latitude to screw up many decisions. Morris, in particular, absolutely exploded Tuesday night, dropping a career-high 37 points in another comeback overtime win, this time against the Trail Blazers. In between those two games was a last-minute loss to Boston, in which Caldwell-Pope led the team in scoring and Stanley Johnson had one of his better games in an otherwise-disappointing sophomore season.


Of course, the Pistons are still the Pistons—a below .500 team—and despite Leuer’s good play, they lost to the Pelicans by 23 last night, albeit on the back end of a home-and-away back-to-back. The revolution won’t be immediate, as evidenced by KCP’s five points on 11 field goal attempts, or Johnson submitting another anonymous game.

But as these low-key players make more of a name for themselves, the Pistons have tough decisions ahead. With so much money already tied up in Jackson and Drummond, they’ll have to let at least some of their guys walk. Caldwell-Pope might even be eyeing a max contract as he enters restricted free agency this offseason. He might not be reliable or efficient enough to warrant that kind of investment, but as KCP has put together spectacular games more consistently, the 24-year-old’s talents might be too enticing to pass on. All it takes is one team, after all.


As painful as it is to watch two of your best, most talented, and most expensive, assets ride the bench in big moments, that just might be what the Pistons have to do for the rest of this season, relying on guys like Caldwell-Pope and Smith to make or break the team, instead of Reggie Jackson. Van Gundy, as of now, won’t change a starting lineup that usually forces a need for comebacks, oddly claiming he doesn’t want to mess with a formula that leads to wins. But the play of his alternative lineups might eventually force his hands.

At the very least, the Pistons have a real shot at the sixth seed, which would place them in a more competitive matchup against the Washington Wizards. And the little-used backup point guard on those Wizards? Trey Burke. A couple of things need to happen first, but it would provide a fitting coda if KCP takes his first big step onto the national stage against the guy the Pistons were criticized—wrongly, in retrospect—for not taking, against the guy Caldwell-Pope has proven to be much better than.