If you haven’t heard, Kelly Olynyk has been cleared to play and could be returning to action as early as tonight against the Sacramento Kings. He is officially listed as probable. Having Olynyk back will be a huge spark to the Detroit Pistons bench, but what if it could be a spark to the starting lineup?
The Pistons are 5-5 over their last 10 games and appear to be hitting their stride a bit with their small starting lineup of Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Hamidou Diallo, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart. Although you could argue that a lot of this could be tied to Saddiq Bey and Cade Cunningham really settling in with Trey Lyles playing really well off the bench.
As the unraveling of Isaiah Stewart’s 3-point shot continues, he is currently shooting 10% from 3-point range, adding somebody like Olynyk could add a size and shooting spark to the starting lineup without upsetting some of the positives that have come with the smaller lineup.
Olynyk is not the defender that Isaiah Stewart is, but he provides a bit more size up front to go along with 37% 3-point shooting for his career. Just the general threat of his offensive game will open up more driving lanes for the likes of Cade Cunningham and Hamidou Diallo. It also gives Cade and Killian Hayes another reliable 3-point shooter to pass the ball to.
Isaiah Stewart has left a lot to be desired in the pick-and-roll game, and while Kelly Olynyk isn’t a vertical threat out of the pick-and-roll either, he at least can pick-and-pop and hit some outside shots. It could do wonders for the Pistons young guards and give them more room to operate and probe the defense while also giving Hamidou Diallo more lanes to cut to the basket.
The Pistons currently sit last in the NBA in Offensive Rating, while their defensive rating is 23rd in the NBA. The decision ultimately comes down to whether you want to continue following your “strength” as a team, or trying to create a more spaced out floor for your young guards and risk making your defense worse.
Even though Isaiah Stewart is a better defender than Olynyk, there are times where his shorter height can cause problems when facing a bigger center. And while Olynyk isn’t going to be a magical solution to those problems, he at least provides a clear need offensively and would fit better with the current composition of the starting lineup.
At the end of the day, I think the trade off is worth it. When you play a small lineup with Saddiq Bey at the four and Hamidou Diallo at the 3, having somebody in the lineup that is over 6-foot-10 makes things a bit easier so you aren’t getting bullied by bigger players. Olynyk isn’t as good of a rebounder as Isaiah Stewart, but you already have players like Bey, Diallo, and Cade that are solid rebounders for their position.
Moving Isaiah Stewart to the bench could help him recapture last year’s form where he bullied bench bigs and was able to get some confidence in his outside shot. He would be able to be more of a focus offensively, and could be a defensive sparkplug at the center position. Long-term that could end up being Isaiah Stewart’s role on a theoretical Pistons contender.
With how young the Pistons starters are, it could help a bit to have a veteran presence in the starting lineup. Playing 5 starters that are all 23 and younger is great for the rebuild, and while they have hit their stride a bit lately, it might not be best for long term development of everybody in the lineup.
What are your thoughts? Should the Pistons make a change in the lineup or keep things how they are?