Small Forward Review: Assessing Pistons’ Player Performance.

Small Forward
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The small forward position, identified as a critical area for improvement, was the focus of the Pistons’ strategic moves in the 2023 off-season. Demonstrating their proactive approach, they drafted Ausar Thompson and acquired Joe Harris. They further bolstered the position by acquiring Troy Brown Jr. and Simone Fontecchio during the trade deadline, ensuring the depth and competitiveness of the position. These strategic maneuvers were a testament to the team’s commitment to enhancing the small forward position.

This week, we will be grading the small forward position for the Pistons. In my last two pieces, in which I discussed the point guards and shooting guards, I will have to make some exceptions for the small forwards. Of the five guys listed as small forwards, only two played the required amount of games to be graded (Thompson and Troy Brown Jr). I will include Simmone Fontecchio in the grading to make this fair for the position. How will the position fair with the lenient rules? Let’s discuss it.

Small Forward: Ausar Thompson

Ausar Thompson, the number five pick in the 2023 NBA draft, has shown immense potential and has exceeded expectations. Despite a slightly less impressive second half of the season, Thompson’s performance was solid. In his first fifteen games, he averaged 11.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.7 blocks. He recorded ten or more rebounds in eight games during that stretch, demonstrating his potential all-around game. This performance is a promising indicator of what we can expect from Thompson, a player with a bright future.


Despite not being the greatest of shooters, Thompson showcased the defensive impact needed to win games in the future. Opponents had an offensive rating of 115.9 when he was on the floor, compared to their 121.5 when he wasn’t. His athleticism in the paint was evident, shooting 65% from 0-3 feet, 54% from 3-10 feet, and 46% from 10-16 feet. This performance indicates his potential to be a dynamic two-way player, a prospect that should make the audience feel hopeful about his future.


While Ausar was a dynamic defender with superb athleticism, His shot was terrible. His 18% three-point percentage was well below the 36% league average, and his 59% free-throw shooting was below the 78% league average. I don’t blame Thompson for a lot of the things that Monty Williams put on his plate. Despite being just 215 pounds, Thompson played 28% of the time at power forward. Going from starter to bench player also dramatically affects a young player’s psyche. Overall, I have seen a lot that I love from Thompson, and I genuinely believe he will be a Shawn Marion type of small forward for the Pistons as he continues to develop.

Grade: B

Small Forward: Troy Brown Jr.

Acquired in the trade deadline deal for Monte Morris, My expectation for Troy Brown was for him not to play that much, if not play at all. He played in 22 games, including 12 starts for the Pistons. With Thompson missing the remainder of the season due to blood clots and Fontecchio out due to a groin contusion and toe, Brown Jr was counted on to provide minutes.


Like Evan Fournier, Troy Brown Jr. was the ultimate professional for the Pistons. He could have made a big grip about not wanting to be on a historically bad team, but he went out there and did his work. It would be best to have guys like Troy Brown Jr. on your team when trying to change the culture. He was pretty solid on the court from 16+ feet, shooting 46% from that range.


Troy Brown Jr. was a significant liability on the court. He shot 29% from the field and 28% from the three-point line. From 0-3 feet, He shot 33% and 19% from 3-10 feet. The Pistons’ offense with him on the floor was 104.6. Without him on the floor, it jumped to 111.1. He brought no impact on the offensive or the defensive end of the court. I credit him for playing out there when he was called upon.

Grade: D

Small Forward: Simone Fontecchio

Another player who was acquired during the trade deadline week, Fontecchio, came in and made an immediate impact for the Pistons. Fontecchio averaged 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in his sixteen games with the Pistons. His 47/42/84% was impressive enough for Monty Williams to count on Fontecchio as a crunch-time player in close games. Unfortunately, he had to miss time due to various injuries, but his long-term fit with this team excites me.


While most Piston players shot at or below league average, Fontecchio was above average. His 53% two-point field goal percentage, 42% three-point percentage, and 84% free-throw percentage were well above the league average. He also surpassed his shooting earlier in the season with the Utah Jazz. I also like what he brought defensively. Pistons’ opponent’s offensive rating with Fontecchio on the floor was 110.7; when he wasn’t on the floor, it was a 120.5 rating.


The only cons I can think of regarding Fontecchio are the injuries. I would’ve liked for him not to have been shut down due to his various injuries. Fontecchio played at power forward 67% of the time due to injuries to the guys at the position. While I like his potential as a “small ball four,” I don’t want his long-term position there. Overall, this was one of the rare steals by Troy Weaver. I believe Fontecchio could be a 6th man of the year candidate next season IF they play their card right.

Grade: A

Small Forward: Tosan Evbuomwan

Toward the end of the season, Evbuomwan got his chance to play with the Pistons after playing for the G-League team. Evbuomwan started in eight games with an average of 8.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. He was also a pretty good shooter with his 55/41/71% shooting. As the only Ivy League player in the NBA, Evbuomwan showed that it doesn’t matter what school you attend; if you can hoop, you can hoop.


I saw his potential to become an excellent shooter with his 57% field goal and 41% three-point shooting. He shot 61% from two-point range, which included 72% from 0-3 feet and 52% from 3-10 feet. While this was just a tiny sample, considering he only played in thirteen games for the Pistons, His per 36 showcases him being an 11.2 point per game scorer.


With the Motor City Cruise, Evbuomwan averaged 4.8 assists and 2.1 turnovers. For the Pistons, He averaged 0.8 assists and 0.5 turnovers. He had a turnover percentage of 10.7% per 100 possessions. These numbers you can take with a grain of salt, considering the limited time he had with the team, but that’s still something you want to see him improve upon. Evbuomwan was also a 68% free-throw shooter, which you’d like to see him improve. I would’ve loved to see more games from him, but the summer will be critical for him getting rotational minutes for the team.

Grade: INC

Forward: Buddy Boeheim

Buddy, the son of legendary coach Jim Boeheim, has been affiliated with the Pistons for the past two seasons. This season saw Boeheim play in just ten games for the Pistons, the same amount as last season.


The Pistons’ offensive rating was pretty good, with him on the floor with a 120.4 rating. Defensively, Boeheim made an impact when he was on the floor. The Pistons’ opponents’ offensive rating was 105.3 with him on the floor compared to their 119.6 rating without him. Turnovers were an Achilles heel for the Pistons throughout the season. With Boeheim on the floor, the Pistons turnover rate was 12.6 with him on the floor and 15.3 with him off the floor. These numbers are based on ten games, but they are positive stats to consider if you want to give the coaching staff a reason to play you.


Boeheim shot 31% from the field and 32% from three. For Boeheim, it will all come down to repetition on the court. In his two seasons in the NBA, Boeheim has played in 174 minutes!

Grade: INC

Joe Harris

Brought in to be the veteran presence to get the Pistons over the hump, Harris played in just sixteen games before he was released. Nothing much to say here. His three-point shooting was terrible, and his defense stayed terrible.

Grade: INC

In Conclusion.

You’ve seen me talk about the potential for the Pistons throughout this season. Of all the positions I will talk about, This is the one position that excites me going forward. When building a championship team, you need a guy who can define a role no matter what direction the coaching staff may want to go in. With Ausar, Defense is going to be what keeps him on the floor. As long as he can defend and run the floor for the guards, he will be good.

Fontecchio is a shooter! When the defense collapses on guys like Cade and Ivey, Fontecchio’s ability to knock down that open shot will open up many opportunities. Tosan Evbuomwan has the skillset to be a point forward in this league. He couldn’t show it in the limited minutes with the big league squad, but he can play 1 through 3 and thrive. With Buddy Boeheim, He makes winning plays. Despite all the negatives this season, the small forward position was good.

Overall Grade: B

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