Pistons vs. Cavs preview: Bojan Bogdanovic set to make his return to the Pistons lineup

Detroit Bad Boys

The Detroit Pistons radically remade its starting lineup Thursday against the New York Knicks in an effort to end the team’s 15-game losing streak. They started Isaiah Livers and Killian Hayes in place of rookie Ausar Thompson and Jaden Ivey. It didn’t work. They lost 118-112. But they did look a bit more functional, and it helped produce Cade Cunningham’s best game of the season — a 31-point, eight-assist effort with 60% shooting.

Today, they are likely to alter the lineup once again. Expect to see Bojan Bogdanovic in the starting lineup, unless the team determines he should come off the bench in his first game of the season after missing the season’s first 18 games to injury. I’d presume Monty Williams will replace Livers with Bojan, but I suppose there is an extremely small chance Bogdanovic replaces Stewart.

Can Bogdanovic really help Detroit turn its season around? That might be asking for too much. He can certainly be a main ingredient in helping this team cut down on its epidemic of turnovers and poor shooting.

Game Vitals

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit Extra
Odds: Pistons +9

Analysis

The Cavaliers start two bigs so anticipate seeing more bigs than you’re comfortable with out of Detroit’s lineup. That means Beef Stew is likely starting and getting the Evan Mobley defensive assignment, and that you could see a healthy dose of one or more of Marvin Bagley and James Wiseman.

But I also expect to see a lot of Bojan, even if it is primarily at the small forward position. And while most people immediately think of how much Bogdanovic will help Detroit’s anemic offense with his 3-point shooting, and rightly so, I am hopeful he does a lot to help the Pistons cut down on their turnovers.

He’ll do this by cutting into the minutes and ball handling responsibilities of some of the more turnover prone players on the team. Ausar Thompson and Livers at the forward spots, Jalen Duren doing less freestyling at center, and he should also help by being someone you can trust with the ball in his hands so not everything is working through Cade Cunningham and, on rare occasions, Jaden Ivey.

Bogdanovic was 12th on the team in turnovers percentage last season despite being third in usage. I expect, and hope, Bogey plays a role similar to that of Jerami Grant of yesteryear. Someone who takes the ball, slows the pace, maybe does something entirely predictable, but you can appreciate the steadying influence. Grant ISO ball, and 15-dribble possessions, were frustrating at the time, but I’m desperate for some good old boring competence at this point.

Does this mean the Pistons will break their losing streak against the Cavs? I mean, they are near double-digit underdogs for a reason. But this is a scuffling Cavs team that is still struggling to recapture some of the magic from a year ago. The defensive is good, but not great, and the offense is average with the ability to overpower you in the lane and also with players who can get hot for extended stretches.

If the Pistons win, it will be because they have less than 15 turnovers, have a hot day from the perimeter, and are able to keep pace with the Cavs on points in the paint. That’s a tall ask, but that’s what it will take.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (2-17)

Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren

Cleveland Cavaliers (10-9)

Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Max Strus, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen

Question of the Game

Will the Detroit Pistons make a trade in December?

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