Pistons vs. Knicks preview: One of league’s worst benches faces one of league’s best

Detroit Bad Boys

Detroit’s brief two-game road stint continues tonight as the Pistons encounter the New York Knicks on their home floor for the second and final time this season. Both teams enter the night fresh off double-digit drubbings and are looking to secure a victory to restore fan hope.

Each franchise will likely be without a key starter, with Cade Cunningham recently listed as questionable due to reported shin soreness. New York’s defensive stalwart Mitchell Robinson is out after suffering a knee injury in the Knicks’ Nov. 5 clash against the 76ers.

With a brutal six-game west coast trip looming, tonight provides Detroit an opportunity to nab a moral-boosting W prior to a tough couple of weeks on the road.

Game Vitals

When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +8

Analysis

3 Things to watch for

1. Is Killian Hayes back?

Killian Hayes has been flat-out disappointing so far this season. Even those who considered themselves ‘out’ on Hayes as a prospect couldn’t foresee the 21-year-old beginning the season shooting 26% from the field and 20% from distance. After a lifeless start to the season, Hayes finally showed a pulse in Boston on Wednesday night. The Frenchman was dialed-in, connecting on myriad pull-up jumpers in the mid-range:

He finished the night with a season-high 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor. For perspective, Wednesday night was the first time the former-lottery pick has scored more than 5 points in a game for the year.

With Cade Cunningham’s availability in flux, Hayes could receive additional playing time and ball-handling responsibilities, providing a chance to show his recent performance wasn’t just a blimp.

2. Battle of the reserves

Early season absences have resulted in Detroit trotting out one of the league’s worst bench units. Without Marvin Bagley and Alec Burks, the Pistons’ bench has struggled to put points on the board. Per NBA.com, Casey’s reserves are producing a measly 25.3 points per game, an output which places them 29th in the NBA for bench scoring.

But reinforcements could be on the way, with former Knickerbocker Alec Burks potentially being available tonight for his Pistons debut. The 31-year-old veteran spent this summer rehabbing from a foot injury and was recently listed as ‘probable’ for tonight’s showdown at the Mecca.

If Detroit wants to knock off the hometown Knickerbockers, they will need key contributions from their reserves to counteract New Yorks’s elite bench production. Led by Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin, the Knicks bench ranks 4th in the league for offensive rating, combining to score 38.7 points a night.

Detroit Pistons v New York Knicks

Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

3. 2020 Draft Class Progression

The Pistons and Knicks will field 5 first-round picks from the 2020 NBA Draft class tonight. We highlighted Killian earlier, but Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey are currently playing at a career-best pace, each averaging their highest point totals to date.

Another tireless summer of offseason work has led to Bey posting a career-high field-goal percentage, mainly due to his improvement as a shooter within the arc. The Villanova product currently ranks third on the roster for two-point percentage, behind only Stewart and rookie Jalen Duren.

After somewhat of a slow start, Stewart has been an essential ingredient to the rare success Detroit has experienced through 12 games. His rebounding, in particular, has been vital to the height-deficient lineup. Per Cleaning the Glass, opponents have grabbed 5.3% more offensive boards with Stewart off the floor. Such a differential places Stewart in the 81st percentile amongst bigs.

For the Knicks, Obi Toppin appears to be finally earning the trust of coach Tom Thibodeau. After registering 20 minutes or more in only 1 of his first 7 games, Toppin has exceeded this mark 3 out of his last 4 outings. Thibodeau has even paired the rangy forward with Julius Randle in the front-court of late, electing offense over defense. A rare feat for the defensive-mind Thibs.

Immanuel Quickley is currently in the midst of his worst stretch as a pro. The third-year guard is posting career lows in points, field goal and three-point percentage. However, his best performance to date came against Detroit back in October, blasting the Pistons with a 20-point, 7-rebound, and 7-assist display.

Projected Lineup

New York Knicks (5-6)

Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Julius Randle, Jericho Sims

Detroit Pistons (3-8)

Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart

Question of the Day

Whose return is more important to the Pistons; Alec Burks or Marvin Bagley?

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