Welcome to Detroit: Kelly Olynyk

Detroit Bad Boys

In complete transparency, if you would have asked me at the start of the day on Monday what big man I would have liked to see the Pistons sign, I would have said Nerlens Noel. Heck, even recording a podcast later that evening, before really getting into my breakdown I was still saying Noel. But after watching a handful of games of Kelly Olynyk and what he brings to the table, my mind has been changed.

Some may question if he is worth trading Mason Plumlee and moving back 20 spots in the second round. Some may question if he is worth 13 million dollars per year. That third year team option sure makes that contact more attractive! But there is one thing you can not question about this signing, it provides something this team was drastically missing last season……SHOOTING. So that’s where we will start.


I can throw all of the numbers at you about how good of a shooter Olynyk is, but one thing that stands out to me is how opposing defenses react to a player when he is on the perimeter. If there is one thing for sure, it is that people know where Olynyk is and react to him if/when he gets open. He will provide immediate floor spacing to this team and even allow for some fun ball screen combinations with his ability to be a threat off the ball.


If you are wanting to make comparisons, Olynyk and Plumlee could not be more different when setting a ball screen. Plumlee was almost assuredly going to roll, catch and make a pass out of it (which he did very well). Olynyk, on the other hand, is going to provide the Pistons a tremendous threat to pick and pop OR slip the screen completely. Either way, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense to keep him from getting a shot or making the extra pass to get a teammate an open look.


I would not say Olynyk is going to “wow” you with anything in this regard (though the percentages do look very impressive) but he gives you just enough in post ups, rim running, offensive rebounds, etc. to help compliment what he does from the three-point line.


If I had to guess what the biggest question surrounding Olynyk was for most Pistons fans, it would be “How much of a liability is he on defense?”

I know that was one of the biggest questions for me and why I initially preferred Noel to him. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised as I watched these games. I’m not sure anyone would mistake Kelly for a “plus” defender, and he surely is not going to be blocking a ton of shots. BUT, he is a smart defender, gives good rotations and at least gives you a couple options when defending the PnR. All in all, I would feel okay saying he can be a “neutral” defender.


For the most part, I tried to keep this breakdown positive. But if I had to give a few “areas of concern” they would be:

  1. He might get bullied inside by some opponents (Mitchell Robinson and Steven Adams definitely gave him some trouble) on the boards
  2. Mason Plumlee truly was a very good passer. Although Olynyk had good assist numbers in his short stint in Houston, I would not say he is as good as Plumlee (though he does have some flashes) AND I did not see a lot of short roll possessions for Olynyk. So, I’m still curious to see how he does in those situations
  3. He is not just a catch and shoot three-point guy; he can shot fake, side step, pull up in transition. BUT sometimes, he gets a little zealous, and he is going to take at least one three-pointer game that drives the fanbase crazy

I have very much warmed up to this signing (again, that team option in the third year makes it look even better) and I am one of those that fully trusts Troy Weaver and his staff. Combine that with the handful of games I got to break down over the 12 hours since being announced and I am very excited to see the contribution Olynyk makes with the Pistons, and what his added floor spacing opens up for this young core.

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