It took a while longer, but with Frank Jackson and Hamidou Diallo now returning, I think they offer a great pair of complementary skills that should be utilized in the main rotation for the Detroit Pistons. This duo forms two of the five in the potential lineup combination with the most intrigue for me:
Frank Jackson, Hamidou Diallo, Cade Cunningham, Jerami Grant, and Isaiah Stewart.
First and foremost, this lineup offers a great mix of skills. It also features four players 23 or younger with Grant as the elder statesman.
Most importantly, however, I am arguing for seeing more of this lineup because of the amount of pressure this lineup can put on the rim. Let’s take a look at some shot charts to get a better idea how this lineup could work. Make sure to scroll through the gallery to see all five guys shot charts. Captions at the bottom will name the player’s shot chart.
This lineup places five guys on the floor who do not have any below-average abilities getting to the cup and finishing as evidence by these shot charts. There is no blue—meaning that player shot below average from that spot—in any of these players’ charts as you get closer to the rim. Grant is the exception, however, which is part of why I went with the zones shot chart, but we will return to that in a minute.
The Frank Jackson chart may be surprising to some, but if you actually go back and watch his film, you can get the sense that he has fashioned his game to bust threes and attack the rim. He might not do much else, but when you share the court with Cade and Grant this type of skillset is a perfect complement.
We also know that Stewart offers an intriguing mix of skills including being the team’s best big-man on defense. Kelly Olynyk is fully capable as a 3-point threat at the rim and from the perimeter, but he’s not the defender Stewart is, and at 30 years old, he might as well have gray hair (gray chin beard?) and be considered ancient in Pistons’ terms.
Grant has room to grow too
Back to Jerami Grant, though. Now before any of you go and criticize Jerami based off his shot chart, there is a reason why I did not go with the diverging shot chart and instead with the zones shot chart.
First, Grant had little help when it came to finishing at the hoop. Killian was hurt, Saddiq was bad, and even the vets that started the year in Delon Wright (53.3% at the rim) and Derrick Rose (49.4% at the rim) were below average. Beef Stew and Mason Plumlee were really it when it came to other consistent finishers, but even then neither guy was asked to create at the level of Grant.
Second, Grant took a ton of attempts as the No. 1 option on a 20-win team last year because there was often no other choice. Just imagine what Grant will be able to do once he gets another lead scorer and ball handler in Cade PLUS other teammates that can keep consistent pressure on the rim. In addition, we also know the level of athlete Grant is, so if you are still questioning his ability to finish, I implore you to go Google some of his games from last year.
Today’s NBA is about spreading the floor and knocking down the three, but I also think teams that can keep pressure on the rim are just as deadly—and this lineup has the potential to do both things with all five guys. It’s obvious Jackson, Cade, and Grant can shoot a lot of threes and knock them down at a high rate, but all three guys are also good finishers. Stewart and Diallo both have games that attack the rim—Diallo through his driving and cutting, Beef Stew through being a roll man, offensive rebounder, and post-up scorer. Yet, both guys also have flashes of shooting potential (which we will get to in a bit).
What Diallo offers
Now is the part where we spend some time breaking down Diallo, a player who is among the least-known commodities on this roster. It is unclear what his consistent skills are—but there are indicators we can draw from.
Luckily for us at DBB, we already have a breakdown of Hamidou Diallo’s strengths courtesy of Bryce Simon. Diallo’s ability to attack off the dribble as a driver and distributor works great as a shooting guard between a jumpshot-heavy Frank Jackson and the primary offensive initiator and scorer that is Cade Cunningham. He also slots in as a third ball handling option behind Cade and Grant—he may even be the secondary ball-handling option in this lineup with Grant’s off-ball abilities at the four and Diallo’s continual improvement as a playmaker.
Another reason I am really intrigued by this lineup combination is that is provides Hamidou and Beef Stew more space to develop as shooters. Both guys showed promise as shooters last season as well even if it was in limited time. Glance at their shot charts again and you will see orange spots from deep. Diallo in particular looks like he is legit from the right corner. Frank, Cade, and Jerami are shooting threats at all times that cannot be left wide open. Jerami and Cade in particular score in so many different ways from a variety of different spots on the floor, they need extra defensive attention at all times. This allows Stewart and Diallo more open looks to get more comfortable with their in-game mechanics to knock down jumpers.
What about Saddiq?
BUT, if you have known me for a while, you know I was driving the Saddiq Bey Bandwagon all 2020 draft cycle, so I would be remiss if I didn’t include him in this projection. Really he can be swapped for either Jackson or Grant should the team want either more size or more spacing. Move Jackson out and Saddiq gives the team a big and tall lineup. Hamidou would then be the “smallest” guy in the lineup at 6-foot-5 and 202 pounds. Sub out Grant and sub in Saddiq and you have a lineup of guys 23 years old or younger so it would be incredibly worthwhile to see if these guys can all mesh together the way their shot charts suggest they could. And while Grant is not a bad shooter, Saddiq is a level or two above him as his shot chart reflects.
BUT Saddiq does have two things working against him that put him on the outside of the most intriguing lineup: One being that he is ice cold inside the three-point line. Another being that he is a downgrade from Jermai Grant at power forward in terms of athleticism and versatility. Some of these things can change as Saddiq improves, but he is never going to be as springy and rangy of an athlete as Grant. Grant’s game as the roll man, in addition to his vertical lob threat abilities, are things Saddiq just doesn’t have. This doesn’t mean I think Bey’s long-term potential is not great, it’s just that if you slot him in at the 4, he does not do as many things as Grant RIGHT NOW.
Constant pressure on the rim
And again, my main level of intrigue with the Frank/Hamidou/Cade/Grant/Beef Stew lineup is the ability to put constant pressure on the rim. Grant’s vertical spacing whether cutting, as a lob threat, as a roll man, and driving to the hoop unlocks a lot for his teammates. This lineup, also, unlocks Grant’s game even more as he is not going to be the only threat attacking the rim. And with Saddiq in there, almost all of Grant’s abilities as a screener, roll man, and cutter disappear.
I envision Cade as the lead ball handler, Hamidou as the secondary, and Grant as third because he can do much more without the ball and contribute to wins. Jackson slots into a Mario Chalmers-type roll (as Scott likes to call it) hitting 3s and doing off ball things to complement his star teammates. Beef Stew continues to do the dirty work and be an monster screener and roller. Diallo and Stewart will have more open looks for their jumpers. And Cade and Grant have plenty of options to provide assists for when the defense collapses in on them.
Let us know what you think in the comments, and tell us what lineup combination you are most intrigued by going into this season!