The moment Jerami Grant was traded, the big question became, “Who is going to take his place in the starting lineup?” As it stands, the Detroit Pistons have zero prototypical power forwards on their roster. As we search for answers, Detroit Bad Boys will be examining five candidates on their potential as the starting 4.
The Detroit Pistons were able to address some concerns that had plagued the team for years with the additions of Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. The two lottery picks add a level of explosion and elite athleticism that has been sorely missing in Detroit, and not the calling card of even the team’s best young players in Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart.
What would make that elite athleticism even more effective would be a player or two who could knock down 3-point shots at high volume. That is also an issue years in the making for Detroit, which has ranked in the bottom 10 in 3-point percentage in three of Dwane Casey’s four seasons including 29th last season.
While the team and fans are expecting better perimeter shooting from the aforementioned Cunningham, Bey and Stewart, if those three are back in the starting lineup and joined by Ivey, the team could be seeking a little more reliability.
Enter the player every fan seems eager to trade as soon as possible — Kelly Olynyk. Yes, the player that people are eager to ship out at the earliest possible convenience to make room for Duren could not only stick in Detroit all season, but you could argue he deserves a starting slot to help balance the starting lineup.
Olynyk is a career 36.5% shooter as a hybrid PF/C, and before his injury-marred 2021-22 season, Olynyk had attempted at least 200 3s in five of the previous six seasons. He was particularly effective playing as a facilitating power forward alongside center Christian Wood in Houston, and played nearly half his minutes in 2019-20 alongside Bam Adebayo, shooting 40% on 3.5 3s per game.
The nine-year veteran isn’t the buzziest name on the Pistons roster, but he is a smart, veteran player who could help fill in all the little gaps needed to help a talented but young starting lineup set a quality early tone, and facilitate some efficient offense.
With Olynyk as the trusted veteran in the starting lineup, the team could then take him off the floor first an sub in fellow veteran perimeter threat Alec Burks with Bey sliding to the four. Or you could put in Duren or the veteran Noel at center and slide Stewart to the four for further seasoning and perimeter shot-seeking as the team looks to grow his game and role.
If the Pistons elect to throw Olynyk on the floor, it creates spacing for the big position that opens up driving lanes for young Jaden Ivey to feast, and an easy kick-out opportunity for both Ivey and Cunningham.
He’s also someone who won’t be a ball-stopper, with solid court vision and playmaking for a 6-foot-11 big man. As poorly as he played last season, the Pistons still played +2.8 per 100 possessions better with him than when he sat. And that’s the been case for Olynyk his entire career, whether on young, rebuilding teams or playoff teams, Kelly is a player that does all the little things on a basketball court that contributes to winning. He was a net-positive player in seven of his nine seasons.
Sometimes there is nothing wrong with knowing exactly what you’re going to get, especially when what you get is a solid shooting and passing big man who won’t soak up possessions and be trusted to knock down his shots at a regular clip.
The biggest concern with this plan would be trusting Olynyk’s body to hold up through the grind of an NBA season against team’s starting power forwards. That can be mitigated somewhat by subbing him out early and being selective with his minutes on the floor.
The Pistons could have a wild team full of potential, highlight dunks and guys who want to run the floor and put pressure on defenses. But that cause is aided best by teammates who can punish a scrambling defender or the guy trying to cut off the lane by being a willing shot-taker and shot-maker on the perimeter.
It might not warrant any highlights or get the LCA crowd buzzing, but Olynyk in the starting lineup could be the move that really unlocks the potential of the Cade and Ivey backcourt sooner rather than later.