While the Reggie Bullock trade is a marginal win for both teams, the two franchises involved are looking for more than just marginal wins.
The Lakers, with Anthony Davis seemingly off the table, elected to bring in a role player for the short term instead, by sending Svi Mykhailiuk with a second-round pick for Reggie Bullock.
Bullock should bolster the shooting of the Lakers, who rank 29th out of the 30 NBA teams in 3-point percentage. He has hit 38.8 percent of his attempts this year on a fairly large volume of 6.7 attempts per game. While that volume will likely come down as he slides into a bench role with the Lakers, Bullock should still be able to trend the Lakers towards the more traditional style of play next to LeBron, which involves floor spacing at a level that little of the current roster is as qualified to execute as Bullock is. Bullock will likely chip in a little bit of defense and a little bit of rebounding, but the primary role for him is always going to be shooting, and given his historical success out of catch-and-shoot settings, that should be helpful.
Mykhailiuk, meanwhile, is a young talent that the Pistons are hoping benefits from a change of scenery. Billed as a shooter coming into the draft, Svi wanted to prove he could do more than that at the NBA level but has mostly just shown so far that he can’t even shoot at the NBA level, much less defend or make plays on the ball. His Real Plus-Minus ranks 422 out of 484 NBA players, but it’s fairly likely that his defense is being bolstered by his listed height’s influence on the statistical prior. Longtime draftniks may remember that Mykhailiuk’s wingspan is three inches shorter than his height, which limits his defensive ability heavily but doesn’t change anything on RPM’s end as far as I’m aware. For the Pistons, he would need to show improvement in his actual play in order to have his non-guaranteed deal kept around for the 2019-20 season. The larger reasons the Pistons elected to do this deal are twofold: It clears the rotation spot for Luke Kennard, who has been playing solid basketball as of late, and it gives them access to an additional second-round pick in this year’s draft.
The reasons for pushing Kennard forward are obvious. He’s tied for the youngest player on the roster, he’s performing well in spite of what seems like a bad variance spike on his shooting percentages, and he’s a second-year player under long term team control. The reasons for valuing a second-round pick are a little less obvious. Picks are generally good things, sure, but they aren’t as good as having a knockdown catch-and-shoot guy next to your power forward who backs people down in the post like he’s Mark Jackson. Further, the context of the 2019 draft has to be considered; it’s generally perceived to be the weakest draft out of it and the five before it, and that means that the second-round picks especially suffer. It’s even worse when you consider the context of the Pistons, who don’t have a single second-rounder of theirs from before 2018 on the roster still (Even though two of their former second-round picks, Khris Middleton and Spencer Dinwiddie, are very good players for someone else). But it’s a new era for Detroit, and after firing Stan Van Gundy their track record has at least one hit in Bruce Brown, so it’s likely the new administration prioritizes the second round more, even in a weak draft like this one.
So both teams get something valuable, and in the scope of the NBA this is a fairly routine transaction. Detroit didn’t really have the leverage to demand much more for an expiring Bullock, but the Lakers had to get someone, so it makes sense in both directions. It probably hurts Detroit’s playoff chances and bolsters the idea that the 2018 offseason was not properly handled by the Lakers front office, but both teams are coming away from this with a win, it just may not be a big enough win for what the franchises need.