When dealing with a team with so much youth, the rope has to be a little bit longer before you make any adjustments when players are struggling. The Detroit Pistons currently have a lot of players struggling. When it was 10 games into the season, any talk on changing the starting lineup was premature. Now that we are a quarter of the way through the season, it is not jumping the gun to talk about changes to the starting lineup/bench rotation.
The Pistons usual starting lineup of Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, and Isaiah Stewart boasts a net rating of -16. And while that is not the worst mark on the team, it has a way larger sample size than some of the other lineups with a worse net rating.
The Pistons are not good, but when your starting lineup is struggling and putting the team in holes early, the margin of error is even smaller. The Pistons starting lineup features the Pistons four major building blocks at this point, and you want them to develop chemistry, but that might need to be put aside for the sake of team cohesion, player development and the need to simply find something that clicks.
Let’s take a look at some potential lineup changes and some positives and negatives of each:
Lineup 1: Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Hamidou Diallo, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart
This lineup would be playing into the Pistons current strength, which is on the defensive end. Hamidou Diallo does not provide the potential spacing that Saddiq Bey can provide at his peak, but everything is a mess offensively for Bey right now, so this really isn’t that much of a downgrade offensively.
Diallo is able to provide the starting lineup with somebody who can put pressure on the rim and provide a spark defensively. He could struggle a bit defensively guarding bigger players because he isn’t built like Bey, but Diallo makes up for it with his athleticism. He is more switchable, and it should allow the team to do more switching defensively.
It’s important to note that Diallo is not as much of a threat from 3-point range, so he won’t garner as much attention as Bey does, but the possible improvement defensively and on rim pressure could help the starting lineup.
You could also insert Josh Jackson in place of Hamidou Diallo and get a lot of the same benefits as outlined above. Both players have very similar skillsets, although Jackson has a bit more size. I think Diallo can be trusted a bit more to make the right decision and not try to do too much, which is why I lean towards inserting him into the starting lineup.
Lineup 2: Killian Hayes, Frank Jackson, Cade Cunningham, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart
The hope with this lineup is that you get a spark offensively while not sacrificing too much on the defensive end. He got off to a rough start, but Frank Jackson is shooting 35% from 3-point range over his last 10 games and averaging 12.4 points. He isn’t quite back to last year’s numbers from beyond the arc, but he is getting closer and is arguably the Pistons’ best shooter right now.
In a world where both players are shooting as well as they did last year, I am taking Bey over Frank Jackson due to his size and superior defense. But we don’t live in that world so putting in Jackson over Bey provides the lineup with the shooting you want from Bey while adding somebody who can create a bit more offense for themselves.
On defense, you lose a bit of length, but Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes have the size to defend down a position and leave Frank Jackson defending point guards or perimeter players camped in the corner. He isn’t nearly as good defensively at the point of attack as Hayes, and Cunningham will likely struggle guarding bigger wings for longer stretches, but this lineup could add some punch offensively.
And if you are worried about the lack of size in this lineup, you could insert Kelly Olynyk once healthy at center over Isaiah Stewart. It would be a lot of moving parts, but it would probably be the Pistons best lineup offensively.
Lineup 3: Cade Cunningham, Frank Jackson, Josh Jackson, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart
On the surface it looks like this lineup is “punishing” Killian Hayes by moving him to the bench. The goal of the Pistons right now is to play Killian Hayes and Cade Cunningham as much as you can together to see if they can be a long-term fit, and moving Hayes to the bench does not accomplish that.
However, in this scenario you are moving Hayes to the bench and taking Cory Joseph out of the rotation. Allowing Hayes to attack backup guards while he is still developing his ability to create offense for himself could do wonders for his confidence. We also wouldn’t have to watch Cory Joseph every night. That is called a win-win.
Just like with the other lineup above, Josh Jackson and Hamidou Diallo are interchangeable. I went with Jackson because he is bigger, and I wanted his size to serve as a counterpoint to Frank Jackson being in the starting lineup.
I think this unit has a very good balance of offense and defense and less overlapping skillsets so it could work. You can play fast with Cunningham pushing the ball and you have a slasher and a knockdown shooter for him to pass to.
You also improve the bench a bit by having Hayes run the show off the bench instead of Joseph.
This lineup is probably a no-go because of the fact that you are separating Hayes and Cunningham, but sometimes you have to make some tough calls when the whole team is struggling.
Lineup 4: Cade Cunningham, Hamidou Diallo, Josh Jackson, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart
Let’s get weird! This lineup would leave a lot to be desired in the shooting department, but it would be a fun lineup that can play fast, switch everything, and would probably be better rebounding the ball since Diallo and Jackson are solid rebounders for their position.
The whole idea of this lineup would be to run on every rebound and hope to catch the opposing team off guard. I don’t think Dwane Casey would ever play a lineup that is designed around the sole purpose of running, but it could be a fun experiment.
Just like in the lineup above, Hayes moves to the bench to move Joseph out of the rotation.
It is probably a bit unfair to Saddiq Bey to take him out of the lineup in every one of these suggested changes, but with his current struggles doing, well, everything, he is in need of a reset. You aren’t going to take Cunningham or Jerami Grant out of the lineup because one is the future and the other is the present. You aren’t in a position to take Isaiah Stewart out of the lineup until Kelly Olynyk is back. It leaves very limited options on what you can do with the starting lineup.
What are your thoughts on the Pistons current state of the starting lineup? Should they make a change or keep rolling with the current lineup? Leave your lineup suggestions in the comments below!