News and Views: Pistons’ latest injuries provide opportunity to experiment with lineups

Detroit News

Los Angeles — The Pistons will begin their six-game west coast trip without two of their best players, Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Stewart.

Cunningham and Stewart are nursing injuries, which presents Pistons coach Dwane Casey with opportunities to experiment with different lineups and rotation combinations.

“It’s experiment by necessity,” Casey said after Wednesday’s practice,” which is good because (Jalen) Duren gets a bigger role for right now. It’s not a good situation, but an opportunity for other guys to get those reps, possessions, and be in that position where plays are run for you.”

This edition of News & Views looks at the Pistons’ latest injuries and what opportunities might arise as a result and the recent resurgence of Killian Hayes.

News: Recent injuries to Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Stewart leaves the Pistons without two players from their starting five.

Views: Health has been the Pistons’ biggest Achilles heel this season. You can talk about their abysmal defensive rating, which is last in the league. There was also cause for concern with their lack of offensive bench production, which has since improved due to the insertion of Alec Burks into the second unit along with a recent spark from Killian Hayes. However, when you dissect the root of what’s hindering Detroit the most, it stems from the inability to field a fully healthy roster.

Burks and Nerlens Noel arrived in Detroit dealing with injuries. The team’s frontcourt was depleted severely when Marvin Bagley sprained his right MCL during the preseason. Rookie center Jalen Duren missed three games because of a sprained left ankle. Jaden Ivey was sidelined for one game because of the flu. Cory Joseph missed the Pistons’ last game because of a sprained hip. And now, the team will be without Cade Cunningham for the start of their 6-game road trip and Isaiah Stewart won’t be re-evaluated for another two to three weeks because of a sprained big toe.

It’s a bad string of luck for the 3-12 Pistons, which rank last in the Eastern Conference and second to last in the league next to the Houston Rockets. It’s difficult to build continuity within a new team when so many players are in and out of the lineup. Pistons coach Dwane Casey has tried multiple rotations this season and now he’ll try to do the same with his starters.

News: Dwane Casey’s starting lineup is as fluid as ever.

Views: The Pistons have used five starting lineups this season, and the combination of Cunningham, Ivey, Bey, Bogdanovic and Stewart has been used the most (11 games). That group is 3-8 when it plays together.

Now that Cunningham and Stewart are sidelined, Casey has inserted Hayes and more recently Marvin Bagley III into the starting group. Bey was moved to the bench for the last game, but he could return to the starting lineup during the team’s upcoming west coast trip in lieu of Stewart’s injury. The Pistons could also insert Burks, who has averaged 16 points in two games, into the first unit in order to keep Bey as the offensive focal point on the bench.

Casey said the lineups aren’t set in stone and since the Pistons are toward the bottom of the standings, it appears that anything is on the table now. Without Cory Joseph in Monday’s game against the Raptors, Burks played point guard in spurts. Burks is a capable ballhandler, but he’s a scorer at heart. The team will need a lead guard at the helm of the offense to get everyone else involved.

News: Since the loss to Boston, Killian Hayes has averaged 12 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

Views: Killian Hayes is actively looking for his shot and playing more aggressive over the Pistons’ last four games. The third-year guard scored a season-high 16 off the bench in Detroit’s loss to the Celtics last Wednesday. It was night and day from his passive play through the first 11 games of the season. Hayes attempted 12 shots against Boston and New York, respectively, and 14 shots in the Pistons’ rematch against the Celtics on Saturday. Hayes is one of the Pistons’ best perimeter defenders and is capable of manning the offense while Cunningham recovers from injury. However, Detroit will need Hayes to continue his offensive assertion in order to have the best chance to compete against the Pistons’ slate of west coast opponents: Clippers, Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns.

Pistons at Clippers

Tipoff: 10:30 Thursday, Arena, Los Angeles

TV/radio: BSD Extra/950 AM or 98.7 FM

Outlook: The shorthanded Pistons will face the Clippers in the first game of a back-to-back against both Los Angeles teams. The Clippers are coming off a two-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. LA currently ranks second in the NBA in defensive rating (107.4) and opponent field goal percentage (44.8), and ranks fourth in opponent points per game (106.9).

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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