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Preseason minutes don’t mean much, but John Kuester has done a nice job with the Detroit Pistons rotation so far

Chip Crain from the great Memphis Grizzlies blog 3 Shades of Blue sent me an e-mail Wednesday asking about Rodney Stuckey’s 37 minutes of action in the Pistons last preseason game against the Wizards.

The number seemed high to Crain, who pointed out that no Grizzlies other than Marc Gasol had hit the 30-minute mark this preseason, and he only did so because of foul trouble to Hasheem Thabeet.

The e-mail had me panicking a little bit. Obviously, with only one Pistons game televised so far this preseason, I haven’t been able to watch. And with camp invitees Ike Diogu and Vernon Hamilton getting cut after barely touching the court, I started thinking about a repeat of last year, when there was never a clear rotation (some due to injuries, some due to inexplicably playing Chris Wilcox). I was hoping the preseason wasn’t going to be an indication of more of the same — too many minutes for some players, not nearly enough for others.

But after gleaning back at the box scores, my fears are alleviated. Kuester has actually done a really good job with preseason minutes. Here are some positives so far:

Will Bynum is leading the team in minutes per game

Will Bynum (and his snappy shoes) is the only Piston getting 30 minutes per night. I don’t know that this is going to carry over into the regular season, but it certainly can’t be a bad sign. Bynum had a great preseason a year ago, and did so while getting limited minutes and facing the reality that he probably wouldn’t play much once the regular season started.

This year, he might be in similar circumstances, but it at least appears with both his heavy preseason workload and Kuester at least toying with the idea of Rodney Stuckey coming off the bench that Bynum is going to figure into the Pistons’ plans much more heavily to start this season.

Ultimately, starting Bynum is not going to be the difference between the Pistons being a good or bad team. But Bynum has clearly worked exceptionally hard at his game the last three years, so it would be nice to see that rewarded, not to mention he’s arguably the most exciting player the Pistons have, so getting him on the court as much as possible could do wonders for the team’s watchability.

Every player is getting rest

The Pistons have five players coming off of injuries — Bynum, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon — and a sixth in Ben Wallace who plays a physically demanding position, has an injury history and is getting older. So far, Kuester has done a really good job of getting all of them minutes and also resting them.

Bynum, Hamilton, Wallace, Prince and Villanueva have all had a game off during the preseason. Gordon hasn’t had a game off, but he also seems to be in really good shape, and he’s only playing 27.4 minutes per game (although his 39 minutes in the second preseason game might have been excessive).

Wallace, who wore down after a heavy workload last year, is playing only 17 minutes per game in the six he’s played in. Prince, who has played really well, hasn’t played more than 28 minutes in a preseason game, and he didn’t do so for the first time until after he’d had a game off to rest.

The young guys are actually playing

Austin Daye (26.7) and Greg Monroe (26.2) are fourth and fifth on the team in minutes played this preseason, respectively.

It’s unreasonable to expect that either will play more minutes than Hamilton (21.0), Prince (25.0) or even Wallace (17.8) during the season, but it does represent progress for a team that has developed a reputation for not trusting its young guys much over the last 10 years or so.

They have undoubtedly played so much out of necessity with Jonas Jerebko hurt, further diluting the frontcourt depth. But the fact is both have had good moments (particularly Daye) this preseason, and both have done enough to reasonably expect to be solidly in the rotation once the regular season starts.

Does it mean anything for the regular season rotation?

How minutes will be distributed has obviously been an ongoing point of heated debate among Pistons fans. And the absences of Jerebko and Tracy McGrady have helped Kuester in the preseason avoide some tough decisions.

Currently, the projected top nine in the Detroit rotation (Stuckey, Bynum, Gordon, Hamilton, Prince, Daye, Wallace, Villanueva, Monroe) are averaging about 223 of a possible 240 minutes. Wallace and Hamilton, and possibly Villanueva, are sure to see their numbers go up some, Monroe and Daye will probably see slight decreases. McGrady, after missing most of the preseason, probably won’t be ready for a big workload immediately to start the season as the likely 10th man in the rotation.

And Jason Maxiell figures to be in line for at least spot minutes, or perhaps bigger minutes on some nights because of Monroe’s bouts with foul trouble.

There are plenty of questions the Pistons still have to answer position-wise, but credit where it’s due, Kuester has done a pretty solid job with the rotation to this point. It will be interesting to see if he can strike the same harmonious balance once the regular season starts.

7 Comments

  • Oct 22, 201012:44 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    i’m not sure i could disagree with the premise more. even ben gordon, in the latest True Blue Pistons blog, stated that he didn’t think the preseason accomplished anything as far as “figuring out a rotation.” people were injured, we still haven’t seen any t-mac, and i don’t think anyone could remotely project what the rotations are going to look like as the season unfolds. i rather think they probably accomplished nothing as far as working out minutes and a rotation.
     
    not that i blame kuester or anything. and if we’re operating from the premise that the preseason is meaningless (except when it comes to one game from one player that “justifies” a starting job that was never in doubt), it’s not a big deal. this team is so rotten and mismatched, it could take all 82 games to figure out how to “best” use these pieces.
     
    take a look at that “top nine.” wallace, monroe and charlie hustle are your front line. that’s not exactly gasol, bynum and odom. and nobody thinks those three are capable of eating up the lion’s share of minutes at the power positions (due to age, foul trouble and foul trouble, respectively). so from there we’re going to either plug in tayshaun (who broke his back the last time he logged major minutes at the four) and daye (who’s considerably weaker, frailer and less savvy). given this, if you think this “top nine” will get the job done, you’d have to be a world-class optimist.
     
    max is in line for a significant role. wilcox could very possibly get in on the action, too. even if you’re allergic to the guy (i mean, i don’t think he’s a very good player, but he’s no worse a big man than stuckey is a point guard). and we DID NOT bring t-mac in for “spot” minutes. that’s for DANN sure. look at the personnel we had before bringing him in (stuck, bynum, rip, gordon, tay, daye, summers, terrico white, jerebko at the time); no need for “insurance” on the perimeter. we had too much insurance as it was. so he’s more than a tenth man. if daye figures to be platooning at power forward with cv (for some godawful reason), t-mac is your backup SF. deal with it.
     
    as far as working rotations go, we’ve learned and accomplished nothing this preseason.

  • Oct 22, 20101:07 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    I too think Maxiell is in for more than a ‘spot role’. In fact I think he’ll play ahead of Monroe, and earn more minutes, at least starting off. Monroe has done nothing to ‘earn’ minutes. He wasn’t good in the preseason no matter how you look at it. He doesn’t deserve minutes.
     
    I hope T-Mac struggles with injuries all year. I’d love to know how many saps bought a T-Mac Pistons jersey. What’s the count at now? If it’s more than one I’m going to be disappointed. Daye doesn’t have to play exclusively at PF if in fact he does start there. There are backup minutes at the SF spot to be had. Then again those could go quickly if they go to a 3-guard lineup at times, which it seems like they have to do to accommodate all the guards.
     
    I guess overall I’m pleased with the minute distribution in the preseason, I’m just not so keen on the fact they gave over 95% of their minutes to rotation guys and didn’t give Summers, Hamilton, or Diogu much of a chance to show anything.

  • Oct 22, 20101:34 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @laser:
    “i’m not sure i could disagree with the premise more.”
    Shocking.
    “even ben gordon, in the latest True Blue Pistons blog, stated that he didn’t think the preseason accomplished anything as far as “figuring out a rotation.” people were injured, we still haven’t seen any t-mac, and i don’t think anyone could remotely project what the rotations are going to look like as the season unfolds.”
    I didn’t say this was any kind of projection of the regular season rotation. I said Kuester did a good job of managing minutes, playing young players and resting veterans/injury risk players this preseason.
    “i rather think they probably accomplished nothing as far as working out minutes and a rotation.”
    Highly debatable. I think Daye forced himself into the discussion for being in the rotation, which was a significant development considering he wasn’t a regular rotation player last year and he had an even longer line of vets in front of him this year.
    “this team is so rotten and mismatched, it could take all 82 games to figure out how to “best” use these pieces.”
    Or you could simply determine early on that the nine or maybe ten guys who work the hardest, show the most improvement and stay the healthiest will play and go with that all season regardless of how “rotten” the team is.
    “wallace, monroe and charlie hustle are your front line. that’s not exactly gasol, bynum and odom.”
    Who said it was even close to that? It’s the best they have though.
    “and nobody thinks those three are capable of eating up the lion’s share of minutes at the power positions (due to age, foul trouble and foul trouble, respectively).”
    Capable is a different argument. But will they get the bulk of the minutes? I’d bet on it. Wallace is fully capable of playing 28 per game. Villanueva is as well. Conservatively, let’s give Monroe 20. He should be able to stay on the court that much. That’s 74 of the 96 minutes at the power positions. Jason Maxiell will get a large chunk of the remaining, and Daye or Wilcox will get some, but the bulk will go to Wallace/Monroe/Villanueva. I’d bet on it.
    “so from there we’re going to either plug in tayshaun (who broke his back the last time he logged major minutes at the four) and daye (who’s considerably weaker, frailer and less savvy). given this, if you think this “top nine” will get the job done, you’d have to be a world-class optimist.”
    Getting the job done and being the best option the team has are different things. Yes, I think it’s the best option to give Monroe, Wallace and Villanueva the most minutes at the 4-5 spots.

    “max is in line for a significant role.”
    He’ll play 15-20 a game. More when he plays well, less when he’s ineffective. Same as always. He is what he is at this point. He’s not going to have a role that’s any different than it has been in the past. He’s the team’s fourth big, he’ll do what fourth bigs do.
    “wilcox could very possibly get in on the action, too. even if you’re allergic to the guy (i mean, i don’t think he’s a very good player, but he’s no worse a big man than stuckey is a point guard).”
    That’s dumb. Stuckey is a slightly below or at league average player production-wise. Wilcox averaged 3.1 turnovers per-36 last season and he barely touches the ball. He’s a terrible defensive player, and you’ve harped on Monroe’s fouling proficiency without mentioning that Wilcox has always been a chronic fouler his entire career. He’s not a good player. And he was the owner of some of the most hilarious +/- lines of the season last year. Afterthought or a use if someone gets hurt player at best.
    “and we DID NOT bring t-mac in for “spot” minutes. that’s for DANN sure.”
    Maybe not. But he’s not going to go from playing eight minutes all preseason to playing 34 minutes a night. That’s also for damn sure. He’ll be brought along slowly and gradually play more if his body responds to the heavier workload. So initially, there will be perimeter minutes he was penciled in for that will be going to others.
    “t-mac is your backup SF. deal with it.”
    Haha. Such a tool. But you’re our tool.
    “as far as working rotations go, we’ve learned and accomplished nothing this preseason.”
    We’ve learned that Kuester at least has the ability to distribute minutes pretty equally and efficiently and get everyone playing time who needs it. One of the biggest question he faces is how he’s going to work with 10 or 11 guys who are all pretty similar production-wise, i.e. very few guys who clearly should be playing over someone else. He’s handled that well so far, or at least well enough to where I’m not as worried about it heading into the regular season as I was before the preseason started.

  • Oct 22, 20101:36 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @nuetes:
    By ‘spot role’ I mean he’s going to do what he’s always done: get 15-20 minutes per game as a backup big. There will be nights when he’s active and effective and he’ll play longer. There will be nights when he disappears and then he’ll play less. That is Maxiell’s role in this league at this point, and the Pistons would be foolish to try and use him any other way. He was not productive in the starting lineup last year when the Pistons put him in it and tried giving him a larger role.

  • Oct 22, 20102:04 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    @Patrick
     
    I was pretty much saying I think Max will get more minutes than Monroe. Yeah Max is most effective in short bursts, but it’s not like they have a ton of options.

  • Oct 22, 20106:08 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    1) stuckey might be an average NBA player, but starting point guards don’t get MUCH worse. he’s a pure scorer who doesn’t get his teammates involved and doesn’t make anyone better. it’s not really a comparable situation, so my bad for that, but if we’re judging wilcox against the big man average and stuckey against the point guard average, i’ll take wilcox.
     
    2) somehow jason maxiell is the surest thing we have up front (in that he’s not 40, not a rookie and not cv31). so i’d say 15-20 is a very conservative estimate. he’ll be firmly in the mix regardless of his effectiveness, because his cellar is nowhere near as low as cv or monroe.
     
    3) the “tool” bit is a nice touch, hayes. you’re doing a fine job of running the comments section. A+
     
    can’t wait to see which of us has better predictions. i’m getting wet just thinking about it.

  • Oct 24, 20104:33 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    look, ignore me based on the fact that you can bet i’ll be negative, but: you can choose to pat kuester on the back for whatever it is you’re saying he accomplished this preseason, but we’ve achieved nothing in terms of figuring out a rotation, learning which combinations work best, deciding how minutes should be divided… you know, all the stuff you’re supposed to do in the preseason.
     
    all we’ve really learned is that daye can play, and his reward is to be shoehorned into the one spot we have minutes for him, where he’s not so much in a position to succeed, but more in a position to sustain injury by banging with guys who outweigh him by 50 pounds.

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