| The Detroit News
In previous seasons, the Pistons’ starting lineup and reserves had a very clear dividing line. The only real question seemed to be how the minutes would be split.
There wasn’t much guessing then, but there is some intrigue now in how the rotations will go and how the depth chart will work. With a roster overhaul and four new draft picks, the Pistons will have some things to figure out as the preseason starts Friday.
Killian Hayes likely is the only rookie who will be a starter and Saddiq Bey looks to be the rotation. The roles for Isaiah Stewart and Saben Lee are a little less clear, but with the possibility of COVID issues, injuries and a condensed schedule, there are plenty of roster permutations for coach Dwane Casey to consider.
“There’s a lot of flexibility and things we’re trying to work through right now as we’re going through training camp and there’s a short time,” Casey said Tuesday via teleconference. “We may be doing that on into the season, figuring things out as far as fit, combinations, because we have some versatile guys.
“Allowing the rookies to play through their mistakes and grow, so that’s going to be an ongoing thing with them also.”
The four-game preseason starts this week and the regular season begins in less than two weeks, so given those constraints, there’s a premium on trying to figure things out. Casey only has four players — Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Svi Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya — back from last season’s roster, so how the fits will work is a question.
That’s one of the benefits to the roster construction by general manager Troy Weaver, with the flexibility to have a slew of veterans ready to play in the rotation if they’re needed, but also having the young core ready to play a lot of minutes if that need arises.
“We were just trying to infuse as much young talent as we possibly could into our program. It’s working out that way because you will see an increase in the number of guys in the rotation,” Casey said. “A lot of it is playing their way into larger minutes, so probably shorter stints. It’s going to be an ongoing thing as far as figuring out the rotation and minutes. I don’t think anything will be set in stone early in the season.
“That’s going to be with most teams, in the league that will go going through that. I know there’s been talk of increasing roster size and all that. But you will see more people in the rotation easily.”
Even veterans like Wayne Ellington, in his second stint with the Pistons, could play a major role in certain scenarios. He’s savvy enough to be ready to hit a tough shot if he has to go into a game late and the Pistons need 3-point shooting.
“Time, score and situation, as far as if we need offense or are struggling offensively, it’s a great time for Wayne Ellington. Defensively we have Rodney McGruder,” Casey said. “Different situations will call for different skill sets and I think that’s where that flexibility comes in with guys embracing those roles, staying motivated in those roles and staying excited about having those roles.
“Different nights are going to call for different things, different combinations.”
Sirvydis still out
Deividas Sirvydis, a second-round pick in 2019, hasn’t started in training camp yet and still has to go through COVID protocols before he’s allowed to practice. The 6-foot-7 wing played in Lithuania last season and after signing a three-year deal, with two years guaranteed, it’s time for the Pistons to get a longer look at him in an NBA situation.
Casey said the delay in getting Sirvydis started is more procedural than anything else.
“My understanding is that it was a visa issue and once he comes, he has to have so many consecutive negative tests once he comes in the (Detroit) market,” Casey said. “They’ll get these visa issues under control for him. And then it’s maybe six negative tests you have to have. We knew it coming in; it’s not like it was sprung on us. They’ll work in the legal system to get him legal.”
With 20 players on the roster, there are a few who might go under the radar, especially given the need to get to know the new players. Those include LiAngelo Ball, Anthony Lamb and Dzanan Musa, who was acquired in the trade with the Nets for Bruce Brown.
“I didn’t know any of these guys before they came in. I didn’t know Ball, but he’s an excellent player and great kid,” Casey said. “Anthony Lamb from Vermont, the young man has come in and competed. Musa has done an excellent job coming in and fitting in, working hard. It’s very hard for me to look out on the court and say that this guy doesn’t belong. Lou King has come in and done a good job. I’m really impressed.
“The unfortunate thing for some of them is we don’t have the G League. Some of those guys would be great candidates for our G League program to go into and to play because you can see the talent in all those young men.”