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Archive → October, 2013

Two bigs are better than three are better than one

Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond all played well in the Pistons’ season-opening win over the Wizards. The three did well as a unit, but Detroit performed even better when one of the trio sat on the bench.

We’ll definitely monitor how Maurice Cheeks handles these three and how they perform throughout the season, but you can see more about the early returns at ProBasketballTalk.

Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith shine (at times, at least) in season-opening win over Wizards

Washington Wizards 102 Final
Recap | Box Score
113 Detroit Pistons
Josh Smith, SF 40 MIN | 8-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 19 PTS | +13I love: Smith shooting 5-for-5 on 2-pointers, all of them at the rim. I like: Smith playing point forward and setting up his teammates, Smith’s defense tonight, Smith shooting 3-of-7 on 3-pointers. I can live with: Smith turning the ball over four times when he’s so eager to create for others. I can’t stand: a couple of Smith 3-point attempts, which were really forced.
Andre Drummond, C 26 MIN | 6-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +4Playing 17:43 in the first half, Drummond had 10 points, eight rebounds and one foul. He was an absolute beast on the glass and uses his quick hops to dunk whenever he got the ball near the rim. He didn’t excel individually defensively, but he moved well around the floor and bothered the Wizards in several areas of the court. It seemed, at times, they didn’t want to challenge him. Playing 8:35 in the second half, Drummond had two points, zero rebounds and four fouls. I don’t know whether he got tired, but the Pistons can’t afford to have him foul so much. They need him on the court more.
Greg Monroe, C 41 MIN | 6-15 FG | 12-15 FT | 16 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 24 PTS | +8Following a Josh Smith turnover to open the game, Monroe had turnovers on the Pistons’ second and third possessions. After that: 24 points, 16 rebounds, three assists and two turnovers. He’s been a near All-Star the last two years, and he’s already making his case this season. The Wizards had little answer for him and had to keep fouling him.
Chauncey Billups, PG 31 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +6Billups was the perfect steadying force for the Pistons’ offense, making 4-of-5 3-pointers to go with five assists and only one turnover. Giving Smith such a prominent role comes with the risk of ugly stretches, and Billups is a great foil to the higher-potential but more-erratic Smith-led offense.
Will Bynum, PG 38 MIN | 7-13 FG | 4-6 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 19 PTS | +9Bynum scored well early and scored well late, but he forced a couple unnecessary long 2s just as the Wizards began their comeback in the second half. It seemed Bynum just wanted to take a short break from working hard for a good shot. Then, John Wall started to give him trouble on both ends. I understand Bynum’s struggles against Wall, a better player. But the Pistons can’t just waste possessions on bad shots because they’re content with a double-digit lead. Overall, though, Bynum played well, if not a little sloppy.
Tony Mitchell, PF 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0Made a brief and meaningless cameo late as Maurice Cheeks stuck to an eight-man rotation.
Jonas Jerebko, PF 8 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | 0Uneven play and didn’t get much burn. Did Cheeks stretch a seven-man rotation to eight to give Jerebko spot minutes? Did Jerebko’s play lead to a reduced role? Did Cheeks plan all along to play Jerebko just a few minutes?
Kyle Singler, SF 27 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +8Cheeks’ pet took five 3-pointers, all from the corner. So, good news: Maybe Cheeks doesn’t hate that shot anymore. Bad news: Singler made only one of them tonight. In the long run, making those shots will be his role. Tonight, though, he rebounded well for his position and had a nice and-1 on a drive to the basket.
Peyton Siva, PG 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0Made a brief and meaningless cameo late as Cheeks stuck to an eight-man rotation.
Luigi Datome, SF 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0

Made a brief and meaningless cameo late as Cheeks stuck to an eight-man rotation. I was actually a little surprised Datome got in considering he missed so much time due to injury. If Cheeks just wanted to give his rookies a chance to get the debut monkeys off their backs, OK, nothing to see here. If he wanted to reward Mitchell and Siva for playing hard during the preseason, then why play Datome, too? Maybe he wanted to break the ice for Datome working his way into the rotation. Most likely, I’m reading too much into all this.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 27 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +7Caldwell-Pope shot 0-for-7 outside the paint. On the bright side, he got into the lane, where he shot 4-for-5, and he defended with effort.
Maurice CheeksThink Cheeks wanted this win? With Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey out due to injury, Cheeks didn’t chance his first Pistons games on players he didn’t deem worthy of playing. He just shortened the rotation. I loved the ball movement early, but I didn’t think he quashed bits of laziness quickly enough once the Pistons got up by double digits.

PistonPowered Live: Pistons-Wizards

Come back at halftime for the premier of what we hope will be an every-game – or at least a most-game – feature: PistonPowered Live. At halftime, we’ll spend a few minutes on video discussing the game, the Pistons, their opponent and anything else we see fit.

The program is still in flux, and we’ll constantly be re-evaluating what works and what doesn’t. Let us know in the comments what you like and what you don’t, and we’ll do our best to improve. In the meantime, we’re going to work out the kinks live and hopefully provide an entertaining way to spend your halftime.

UPDATE: My promise that we’ll have kinks has come to fruition. Due to technical difficulties, no live video tonight. Hopefully, we’ll be back on track for Game Two. But I’ll be around in the comments here during halftime to discuss the game.

NBA and Pistons award, result 2013-14 predictions

  

  Dan Feldman Patrick Hayes Brady Fredericksen J.M. Poulard Jameson Draper
Most Valuable Player LeBron James LeBron James Kevin Durant Kevin Durant LeBron James
Rookie of the Year Victor Oladipo Kelly Olynyk Cody Zeller Victor Oladipo Victor Oladipo
Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard Andre Drummond Andre Igoudala Dwight Howard LeBron James
Sixth Man of the Year Tyreke Evans Jarrett Jack Andrei Kirilenko Jamal Crawford Jarrett Jack
Most Improved Player John Wall Tristan Thompson Tobias Harris Tristan Thompson Tristan Thompson
NBA Champion Heat Heat Heat Bulls Heat
West Winner Clippers Clippers Thunder Clippers Rockets
East runner-up Bulls Pacers Pacers Heat Bulls
West runner-up Thunder Spurs Clippers Thunder Thunder
East-1 Heat Heat Heat Bulls Heat
East-2 Bulls Pacers Pacers Heat Bulls
East-3 Pacers Bulls Bulls Pacers Pacers
East-4 Nets Hawks Nets Nets Nets
East-5 Knicks Pistons Knicks Knicks Cavaliers
East-6 Pistons Nets Wizards Hawks Wizards
East-7 Wizards Knicks Pistons Pistons Pistons
East-8 Hawks Cavaliers Hawks Wizards Hawks
West-1 Clippers Spurs Thunder Clippers Thunder
West-2 Spurs Clippers Clippers Spurs Rockets
West-3 Thunder Thunder Rockets Thunder Clippers
West-4 Rockets Rockets Spurs Rockets Warriors
West-5 Warriors Grizzlies Warriors Warriors Spurs
West-6 Grizzlies Warriors Grizzlies Grizzlies Timberwolves
West-7 Timberwolves Timberwolves Timberwolves Mavericks Pelicans
West-8 Trail Blazers Pelicans Trail Blazers Timberwolves Grizzlies
Pistons’ top player Andre Drummond Andre Drummond Josh Smith Greg Monroe Josh Smith
Pistons’ top rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Luigi Datome Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Pistons’ top defender Josh Smith Andre Drummond Andre Drummond Josh Smith Josh Smith
Pistons top bench player Rodney Stuckey Will Bynum Rodney Stuckey Rodney Stuckey Luigi Datome
Pistons’ most improved player Andre Drummond Andre Drummond Andre Drummond Andre Drummond Andre Drummond
Pistons’ wins 43 46 41 42 44
Pistons season ends… First round First round First round First round First round

Discussing GM hot seats, possible trades and opening night with Truth About It

I answered three questions about tonight’s Pistons-Wizards opener with Rashad Mobley (@rashad20 on Twitter) of great Washington Wizards site Truth About It. Among the topics of discussion — which team’s GM is under more pressure to make the playoffs this season, Joe Dumars or Ernie Grunfeld?

Oof… tough call there. Both probably need to make the playoffs to save their  jobs, both are working for newish owners eager for some success… I’ll go with Grunfeld being on the hotter seat, ever so slightly. Dumars had a great offseason, landing a marquee free agent and upgrading the point guard position by acquiring Brandon Jennings. That, along with the fact that Dumars can still point to that championship team he put together, as well as his history as a beloved former Pistons player, are advantages that Grunfeld doesn’t have in any evaluation of his performance. But I think it’s entirely conceivable that if both teams underperform, both will have new GMs next season.

Also, I’ll be at the (hopefully) full Palace tonight in the cheap seats, eager to check out some of the gameday upgrades the team has been touting over the last year or so, so I’ll be tweeting any cool finds in the arena during the game if you care to follow.

Pistons’ Opening Night

Essentials

  • Teams: Washington Wizards at Detroit Pistons
  • Date: October 30, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Detroit Pistons will open up the 2013-14 season tonight at the Palace of Auburn Hills against the Washington Wizards.

No more dressed rehearsals folks, this is the real deal. Washington recently made some changes to their roster and it will be interesting to see how the visiting team’s frontcourt matches up with Detroit’s.

The Pistons’ big-ball lineup will officially see its first “real” minutes and the matchups could not be more intriguing. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe will battle down low against Marcin Gortat and Nene.

The Wizards’ interior big people are bruising players that set hard screens and attack the paint with ferocity. They are probably going to test Drummond early in this one (that’s what I would do).

Whether it’s in the pick-and-roll or in fairly mundane defensive rotations, Washington will probably force him into making decisions over and over again. Getting him out of position is crucial given that he protects the paint with his size alone.

Although John Wall spent parts of the offseason working on his jumper, his strength is still turning the corner and getting into the lane for scores. Have a look at his shooting chart from 2012-13:

The only areas of concern in the previous season were the basket area,  right elbow and the left side of the paint.

Maurice Cheeks will probably instruct his players to go underneath screens in an effort to corral Wall, but his blinding speed still occasionally allows him to get by defenders. Again, Drummond should be the player that Washington targets. Honestly, his work on this front tonight will give us an idea of what kind of defensive unit the Pistons will be 2013-14.

Drummond may or may not struggle, but if his teammates can mask some of his deficiencies while he grows into his role as a defender, it will go a long way towards making this team a respectable defensive unit.

Read about the Wizards

Truth About It

Playoff Push: Detroit Pistons

What is the No. 1 thing the Detroit Pistons can do to step up and make the playoffs?

Shift blame

For the members of last season’s team who want to show losing was Lawrence Frank’s fault, not their own: Play hard every night. For Brandon Jennings, who wants to show the Bucks’ bad offensive options limited him: Play unselfishly. For Josh Smith, who wants to show the burden playing for his hometown Hawks put on him: Use your energy to highlight your best skills rather than your worst.

I’m not convinced any current Piston is looking at the above situations objectively, and the other sides of each dispute could at least make a case on their own behalf.

But if the returning Pistons play harder than they did last season, the competing case won’t matter. Frank will retroactively look bad.

If Jennings passes well and often, the competing case won’t matter. The Bucks will retroactively look bad.

If Smith plays just as hard as usual but even smart, the competing case won’t matter. The Hawks will retroactively look bad.

These Pistons have a chance to control the narrative, and if they take advantage of it, the team will be better for it.

-Dan Feldman

Just win (within reason)

Pistons fans (the ones who have stuck it out through these lean years of boring, mostly unwatchable basketball) are desperately searching for a reason to stay invested in this franchise. There are glimmers of hope”

  • Josh Smith, a top-five free agent, willfully came to Detroit (contrary to the many voices who claim that star players wouldn’t sign in a market like Detroit).

  • Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are quite likely the best young frontcourt in the league.

  • Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace, two beloved stars of the past, are back in the fold, which should give a small reason for some of those fans who lost interest back around a bit more.

  • The rest of the roster is full of players who, even with their flaws, should have interesting enough motivations to compete hard for rotation spots.

No one is expecting a miracle season from this bunch, but if the Pistons play hard, finish above .500 and make the playoffs, it would be hard to argue the season was not a success. If they fail to reach those very reasonable goals, well … the next few years could look familiar to the last few years.

-Patrick Hayes

Play with a chip on their shoulders.

It sounds cliché, but it’s true. This is a franchise that’s really been an NBA nothing during the last five seasons. There’s buzz now. This is one of the "League Pass darlings" people want to see. Two of the most important players — Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings — were hailed as bad apples, poor signings and bad fits.

They can use that disrespect. Prove you can play right. Prove you are a good fit. Prove that this team is bound for success and not failure. That mentality is big for a franchise that’s been stuck in the gutter for years.

-Brady Fredericksen

Playoff Push: Joe Dumars

What is the No. 1 thing Joe Dumars can do to step up and help the Pistons make the playoffs?

Trade Greg Monroe

Trading Monroe for a proven wing player would probably make the Pistons better in the short term and increase their odds of reaching the postseason. Suddenly, the difficult task of making a jumbo frontline work would vanish. Every Piston could fill a role without straining himself.

But that would likely lower the Pistons’ ceiling, and I don’t want to do that. I believe in Monroe’s upside, and unless it’s clear a Monroe-Josh Smith-Andre Drummond frontline won’t work, I wouldn’t want to sell low on Monroe.

This Playoff Push series is about, well, making a playoff push this season. That seems to be the Pistons’ No. 1 goal, and that makes sense for an owner looking to make money right now. But I’m aiming bigger and thinking longer term, and through that lens, Monroe is more valuable.

-Dan Feldman

Don’t treat this roster as a finished product

If this truly is a make-or-break season for Dumars, I hope he’s willing to go down fighting. At his best (and sometimes, at his worst), Dumars has explored compelling trades. As the team has declined into irrelevance and burned through coaches, the constant has been Dumars doing very little tinkering with failed rosters he’s put together in previous seasons. This roster certainly has more talent, but if the pieces don’t quite fit as expected, I hope Dumars is willing to make a bold move in-season if one comes along.

-Patrick Hayes

Be aggressive

There’s a lot on the line this season, but Dumars’ job may be the biggest. He’s built a team capable of making the playoffs, and now he’s got to make sure it does. There are two key pieces that could make that effort a sure thing — the expiring contracts of Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva. If those two produce all this year, their $17 million of expiring deals could fetch someone capable of helping the Pistons in their push for the postseason.

-Brady Fredericksen

PistonPowered Mailbag: Welcome to the season

The PistonPowered Mailbag will run every Wednesday. Submit questions to patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter @patrick_hayes. Also, follow me on Twitter … there is no reason Feldman should have like 1,500 more followers than me. He barely even tweets!

In my column on Monday, I timidly put out a request for questions to start a weekly mailbag feature. I was anticipating that it would take a few weeks for the idea of a mailbag to catch on, so I was planning to just answer any questions that came in on Mondays as part of my column. I was pleasantly surprised by getting a handful of really good questions in emails, tweets and comments already — I mean, I’m no Keith Langlois (yet!) when it comes to volume of questions to choose from, but I think we have at least enough to have some good pregame discussion as the season opens tonight. Let’s dive in …

Who will be the Pistons most tough/interesting match up this season? @CreatorMarvin on Twitter

How the Pistons and their really unique super-sized, athletic lineup that can’t really shoot matches up with virtually every team in the league will be interesting in some capacity this season. There’s a lot of interest in seeing whether Detroit’s strategy — mashing talent together regardless of fit/position — works. They’ll create matchup issues for most teams and, in turn, have matchup problems of their own against some teams. I’ll pick three opponents that I’m really looking forward to seeing Detroit play.

Miami, because duh. No one can defend LeBron James, but Josh Smith is the type of long-armed, athletic, strong defensive player who can at least make things tough for him. They have growing options in the backcourt to defend Dwyane Wade — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was drafted partially for his defensive inclinations, Kyle Singler isn’t the most quick-footed defender but he can competently defend multiple positions (he often gets beat off the dribble, but he’s great at recovering by reaching over players to block or contest shots without fouling once he’s been beat) and Rodney Stuckey, in theory, is strong and fast enough to be a great defensive guard (I’ve written this sentence before each of the last five seasons or so). Combine those perimeter options with a rim protector like Andre Drummond, and the Pistons should have the tools to copy some of the effective ways Indiana defended the Heat with physical perimeter defense, followed by funneling everyone inside to Roy Hibbert to contest shots. And speaking of …

Indiana. Before a stray beer from a moron helped derail things, the Pistons and Pacers were developing a compelling rivalry in the mid 2000s. A combination of fan pummelings, injuries and other issues brought that throwback to the 80s-90s era of two physical teams abusing each other to a premature end, but just under a decade later, the Pacers are once again a very talented, physical, up-and-coming team. The Pistons aren’t as good as the Pacers yet, but I would love to see another inner-division rivalry between these two teams develop over the next couple of seasons. The Pistons need to do their part by committing to defense and finding another shooter or two to add to their lineup, but at the very least, I’m hoping for competitive games this season with Indiana.

Memphis. I’m mainly just interested in seeing how the Pistons match up with arguably the league’s most physical team over the last few seasons. The other element of intrigue here is that the Grizzlies have had great success with a frontcourt-dominant, large lineup that didn’t feature much elite perimeter shooting, so perhaps the Pistons can learn from their model. The first step, though, is finding out if Detroit, one of the league’s softest teams over the past few seasons, can deal with a bullying, tough team like Memphis. If they can, making the playoffs will seem like a much more probable result for this season.

Patrick, can you explain why max contract guys have agents? I’ve never understood this. Is it just about negotiating outside endorsements? Because when your salary is capped and you’re going to hit that cap anyway, why pay someone a percentage to negotiate for you? tarsier in the comments

Well, I would first of all say that those outside endorsements are a pretty huge deal … in some cases, endorsement deals for max-level players can run longer than someone’s playing career and be more lucrative as well, so having someone who can negotiate good deals for you at the height of your fame and popularity is a pretty big deal.

As for why have an agent negotiate for you when you are surely a max player, I assume it just has to do with the complexity of the CBA — I can barely figure out how to pick the right health insurance plan, so I can only imagine all of the legalese that has to be navigated through while signing a max-level NBA deal, and minus an agent involved, I wouldn’t put it past a team to slip some sort of team-friendly provision or loophole into a deal. Plus, flexibility, or lack thereof, could also be a motivation. You’re paying an agent to represent you, but you’re also paying for their connections. Maybe a player wants a max extension but doesn’t want it from his current team — having an agent to advise how to navigate your way to another team while still getting the money/years you want on your contract would likely be helpful.

Two questions for the mailbag 1) will the pistons regret not drafting Kelly Olynyk? 2) how about Rudy Gay/Demarr Derozan for Monroe/V/Stuckey? pT in the comments

Hmm … I have a hunch pT is Canadian, with those Canada-friendly questions he submitted. But I actually think he’s fairly serious about both proposals, so I’ll give a response.

First, I don’t think the Pistons will necessarily regret not drafting Olynyk, but I do actually think he’s a better fit with the team now than I did at the time of the draft. Olynyk can play, and though frontcourt isn’t exactly a need, floor-spacing is, so adding a stretch big to the mix who isn’t Charlie Villanueva wouldn’t be a bad move. But do I think they’ll regret it? No. Olynyk would be a nice luxury for the Pistons, but he’s not a necessity. They might regret taking Kentavious Caldwell-Pope if he doesn’t pan out as expected, and they might regret passing on Trey Burke, but they won’t regret passing on Olynyk, even though I think Olynyk is in line to have a pretty good rookie season.

As far as the proposed trade, I’d say yes to that if you remove Monroe as a piece the Pistons would send the Raptors in exchange. The issues with Rudy Gay are well-documented … despite “looking” like a prototypical NBA star with his height and athleticism, he’s never been close to playing at that level. He’d be a fine player to have in your lineup if he wasn’t being paid like he should be the best player in your lineup. DeRozan (DeRoZan? DeRoZaN?) is essentiallyRodney Stuckey — he can get to the line and occasionally score some points fairly inefficiently for you. He can give you highlight dunks. He can’t do much else. Hell, he might even be worse than Stuckey because Stuckey is cheaper, can play two positions, can handle the ball better and occasionally plays defense. DeRoZAn would do nothing but make an already bad shooting starting lineup even worse.

1. Did you know that manic, tweeter Karl you mentioned is a (semi-) famous German soccer player? He was on the national side that won the last world cup (1990) and euro championship (1992) for Germany, so big deal over here. (check him out at wiki, his nickname was even “air,” now he is a NBA nerd, I love it!)

2. Regarding Monroe, does he seem like the type of player to actually leave the Pistons – assuming the money is the same – or is all the trade buzz purely because he might not fit and Gores wants to avoid the tax. How do the Pistons react if the frontcourt meshes enough that some solid shooting from the backcourt solves all the spacing issues and Monroe performs up to max status. Is it still going to be a problem because they don´t want to pay the max? Do you see any scenario in which we don´t trade Moose? — Fabian

HUGE thanks to Fabian for that dispatch from Germany … we’ve heard from enough fans in Europe at PistonPowered over the years to know that the team does have a modest following there, but I had no idea the Pistons had celebrity European fans. I think I might have to reach out to Karl for an interview. Stay tuned for that.

As for your second question, I don’t think there has been any indication that Monroe is particularly unhappy in Detroit or longs to play elsewhere. I think his agent has — correctly — determined that Monroe’s market is the max, and I don’t think you’ll see him sign for less than that with the Pistons or otherwise. I’m not convinced the Pistons want to pay him the max yet, but there also doesn’t seem to be any indication that either side is displeased with the other, so that’s positive.

If everything goes according to plan, if Monroe-Smith-Drummond operate cohesively, and if the roster appears to need only a few minor upgrades rather than a drastic trade of a talented player like Monroe to bring in talent at a perimeter spot, I think it’s perfectly conceivable that Monroe signs a max extension and the Pistons proceed with that front line as their core group for the immediate future. There are only two scenarios where I see the Pistons trading Monroe — a team makes them an overwhelmingly good offer that they can’t turn down or the team underperforms and Joe Dumars makes a panic trade in order to reach the short-term goal of making the playoffs this season. I think both of those scenarios are unlikely, albeit not completely impossible. And the first scenario is certainly far more preferable than the second.

Mo Cheeks recently indicated that he prefers keeping Bynum in his role of coming off the bench, something i agree with. But part of his reasoning was that he liked the way the Bynum has been playing with Drummond. Please, please tell me that Cheeks wasn’t insinuating that Dre is going to be featured on the 2nd unit. This kid needs start and play as many minutes as his fouls allow. – Mark

What better note to close the first mailbag on than a Will Bynum question?

Mark’s question is moot for the moment as, it appears, that Bynum will start with Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Jennings out. As far as what happens when everyone is healthy, I don’t think Cheeks’ comments mean that he intends to have Drummond come off the bench. Cheeks has already said that Drummond will likely be the first big to rest in the frontcourt rotation, which makes sense considering Drummond’s age, his conditioning issues last year and the fact that the Pistons will want him to avoid foul trouble. So the likely answer is that Drummond likely goes to the bench first, then he’ll return to the lineup sometime in the second quarter along with Bynum, who will likely be spelling Jennings.

If Cheeks’ plan were to bring Drummond off the bench, his coaching tenure would be short-lived even by Joe Dumars’ standards. I think it’s safe to assume that Drummond, as long as he stays healthy and can handle the workload, starts and plays 28-34 minutes per game most nights. I do agree with Cheeks though — based on their chemistry, it’s going to be important to find some minutes for Bynum and Drummond to share the court together.

Playoff Push: Maurice Cheeks

What is the No. 1 thing Maurice Cheeks can do to step up and help the Pistons make the playoffs?

Identify the optimal rotation – quickly

This is the whole season. The Pistons have talent. It’s just spread across many players, the most-talented of whom have overlapping skills. Cheeks doesn’t have an easy job, but it’s an extremely important one. I think the Pistons will make the playoffs, but I’m totally convinced they have a playoff-caliber rotation somewhere within the roster. It’s just a matter of how quickly Cheeks identifies it and how many games the Pistons lose before he does.

The teams that make the playoffs aren’t necessarily the ones that play the best. They’re the ones that have the best records. If the Pistons lose too much early before they fine the right lineup, their early-season record could keep them from the postseason.

-Dan Feldman

Don’t get comfortable

It is not easy to coach for Joe Dumars. Three straight coaches – with far less talented teams – have each had two seasons or fewer and been shown the door. Cheeks is a retread coach without much success elsewhere and Dumars is an executive whose seat is allegedly one of the leagues’ hottest. The Pistons spent significantly to upgrade their roster in the offseason and they have a flashy, still-newish owner who is antsy to have a playoff team. It’s not necessarily fair to Cheeks, but if the team starts poorly, he may have even more limited time than his predecessors to right the ship.

-Patrick Hayes

Don’t over-manage

Cheeks might not be a coaching genius, but he doesn’t need to do anything crazy to succeed. He has pieces, albeit ones that might not fit perfectly, but he has serious talent — something the Lawrence Frank and John Kuester eras lacked. In childhood terms, Joe Dumars has dumped a nice pile of Legos in Cheeks’ lap, now it’s Cheeks’ job to turn that pile of mismatched pieces into something good. He doesn’t need to create any of these this year, but a well-put-together boat should have the Pistons floating into the playoffs.

-Brady Fredericksen