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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.


  • Oct 31, 20139:00 pm
    by deusXango


    All three should start, but Drummond should go to the bench early, not because of anything other than it leaves us with at least one highly athletic big man on the floor at all times; if Cheeks is true to his word and Bynum is the scoring spark off the bench he wants, Bynum and Drummond is a proven commodity. When a big goes out, we have a true SF (be it Singler or Datome) on the floor thus settling the spacing problem. In any event, all talk and thoughts about breaking up our frontline before they show their true worth is insane!!! 

  • Oct 31, 20139:46 pm
    by Oracle


    You did a great analysis, and you came to the 100% correct conclusion, but that was the plan Cheeks had in place anyway!

    They always intended to play the 3 to start games, get a feel for how it works, bring Drummond out first, and do a 2 big deal until the 4th, then make a decision as to who best needs to be on the floor.

    IMO, they were never stuck on using the 3 bigs no matter what.     

  • Oct 31, 20139:53 pm
    by AlC


    What a horrible problem our team has- Should we start 2 talented big men or all 3?
    At least we’re going to force more teams to worry about us as opposed to us worrying about them.

  • Nov 1, 20132:54 am
    by MFer


    I wouldn’t even put all 3 on the floor at the same time ever.  Drummond, is not aggressive enough half the time anyway.  If he’s got two more senior bigs on his team crowding him out he is gonna stand behind the back board even more than he already does.  

    Watch Dre’ he’s a rebounding monster but, many times, he leaves himself out of position.  If he focused more on positioning on both ends of the court his rebounding potential is off the charts.  There’s gotta be some Pistons / and Pistons Management noticing this (about a third of the time he positions himself behind the backboard – not the best play to be if you want a rebound).  He needs to be more aggressive with position, especially considering his size and strength.  You never caught Shaq standing behind the backboard.

    Regardless, 3 bigs that good on the court at the same time is overkill – and Josh Smith is obviously way better at the 4 than the 3 too… Drummand, would dominate on the second team and he could still get 30-36 minutes.

    There are 120 minutes a game at the 4 and 5 position.  Divide that by 3 and you get 40 minutes per big, a fourth big would still get minutes.  And Josh Smith NEVER sets foot at the 3… YEAH.

    • Nov 1, 20133:53 am
      by Some Dude


      Drummond rebounds just fine, as evident as last season and in preseason this year. He’ll likely end up in the top 5 in rebounds through this season. He has many big nights ahead of him.

      And there is nothing wrong with playing Smith at the 3. He’s done it throughout his WHOLE career in Atlanta. That’s just how he is utilized, no matter what coach or what team, he’ll always play both positions. So far he’s been doing just fine, as long as he hits is 3-pointers, there’s no issue with him at the 3 spot. 

      • Nov 1, 20139:20 am
        by MFer


        I know he rebounds just fine.  I’m saying the crowding, positioning and his sometimes lack of aggression are and will hold him back somewhat.  All three can be improved upon, and if that happens you’ll may have one of the elite rebounders of all time.

        I want him to hit the boards “just finer”.  And without so much competition from his own teammates – yes there are more than enough minutes to go round with 48×2 at 4/5.

    • Nov 1, 20135:12 am
      by oats


      If you are talking about on offense, that’s probably by design. Last year he didn’t just stand behind the backboard, he often stood out of bounds. Doing so allows guys that can’t shoot to move their defender into a bad spot to be defensively. They can’t actually get guys to follow them too far away from the hoop, so moving the guy all the way to the baseline is as much as they can do to pull their defender away from the action on a given play, thereby making it harder for that defender to give help defense. If their defender then just ignored the player out of bounds, then that player would just run in and be open right under the basket. It also allowed guys to hang out right near the basket without having to worry about lane violations, and a lot of analysts seemed to think the tactic was beneficial to offensive rebounding because it’s tough to box someone out when they are coming from the wrong side of the hoop. Monroe did it a bit last year too, so I am pretty confident that Frank actively encouraged his big men to stand there on offense.
      They actually changed the rules this summer because so many guys league wide were just hanging around out of bounds. I wasn’t watching Drummond’s positioning without the ball all that carefully this game. Where exactly was he standing? I could see someone deciding to position a guy at the baseline corner of the lane to try to get a similar effect. I could also see a coach deciding to ignore that rule the way that they largely ignore defensive lane violations, although I suspect the fact that it’s a new rule means that refs have likely been instructed to watch out for it. If it’s not something from this past game but actually from last year, well, the NBA just outlawed that behavior so he probably won’t be doing it anymore.

    • Nov 1, 20137:03 am
      by tarsier


      Do you think that an NBA game is 60 minutes?

      • Nov 1, 20139:15 am
        by MFer


        Right err 48 mins. still more than enough time to go round

        • Nov 1, 20131:28 pm
          by Max


          Bringing Drummond off the bench could make him decide he should tale his talents elsewhere.   Not everyone has the character of Ginobili.  

          • Nov 1, 20131:45 pm
            by tarsier

            Perhaps, but he doesn’t really have that option until after 5-7 seasons. Even if he comes off the bench for now, there’s more than enough time for him to become a starter by then.

          • Nov 1, 20132:02 pm
            by Max

            You’re assuming he won’t leave because the Pistons can offer him the most money.   My assumption is based on the idea that most teams trade players if they express the desire to leave and I can’t think of any instance right now where the Pistons went against that notion.  Even just delaying when a player asks out results in a big media circus of distraction that can destroy whole seasons when the player is as coveted as a Drummond. 

          • Nov 1, 20132:08 pm
            by Max

            Also, I haven’t seen any evidence of this with Drummond but some players do hold grudges and have long memories.  Consider Michael Jordan’s hall of fame speech when he basically went through a long list of all the slights he had received since high school and seemed like he was still fuming with anger over all of them.  Isiah wasn’t allowed on the Dream team due to Jordan’s grudge against him and the whole thing probably started when Jordan perceived that he was frozen out as a rookie during the all star game.  

          • Nov 1, 20133:40 pm
            by oats

            No, Detroit can match any deal Drummond signs in Free Agency and he will have to stay in Detroit. It’s not that Detroit can offer more money, although they also have that advantage, it’s also that the guy literally can not leave if Detroit wants to keep him. I guess he could play on his one year qualifying offer of $4 million following his rookie contract, but I can come up with zero instances of a guy being offered a maximum salary and instead playing on that qualifying offer. That’s just not likely to happen. He will likely sign a maximum deal for 4 or 5 years. It’s not until that second to last year of that second contract that a guy has the leverage that his threats to leave actually have some weight. So it is highly unlikely that he will have the clout to force a move until at least 4 years after this season ends. That’s when unhappy players have successfully forced moves historically, either at the second to last or that last year of a post rookie deal.

          • Nov 1, 20135:18 pm
            by Max

            Drummond is young and talented enough not to want max years on his deal or to include early opt out clauses.    Not every player opts for max years.  

          • Nov 1, 20139:45 pm
            by oats

            Every player at his value and age does the same thing because it’s their first real pay day. They always sign a max deal. Seriously, give me one guy who has ever not taken a max deal if it was offered on their first post rookie contract. I really don’t think that has ever happened in the history of the league. If he really wants out he will sign a 4 year tender with someone else, and Detroit will match it. Doing it that way will send the message that the team has to placate him or lose him after that contract. That will then set the tone for demanding a trade the year before his second contract ends. That still gives Detroit 4 years after this one to placate him, and then in that next year he will have leverage. Seriously, this just isn’t an actual issue.

          • Nov 1, 201311:29 pm
            by Max

            What you are saying is logical and true but I can’t think of a player of his stature who was asked to come off the bench so the situation would be totally unique.  

    • Nov 1, 20132:00 pm
      by Hans


      George Karl has players stand out of bounds on the baseline. Drummond receives so many passes from positioning himself where he has. He steps up intelligently and makes himself a target. His positioning also allows him to get in for offensive rebounds. If he was the focal point, and his post up game was his biggest strength, like Shaq, then no, it wouldn’t make as much sense.

  • Nov 1, 20137:42 am
    by vic


    The Biggest AdvantagE Is Going To Be No Dropoff In Paint Production When One Of Them Is Resting, Fouled Out Kr injured

    • Nov 1, 20138:56 am
      by tarsier


      I agree, but what’s with your capitalization choices?

  • Nov 1, 201310:36 am
    by Murph


    Two points:  First, one game is not a large enough sample size to be statistically significant.

    And second, when only two of our bigs were in the game, Singler was our SF.  We already know that for whatever reason, Singler produces positive +/- numbers.  So the positive +/- numbers that you sight for your article could have more to do with Singler, and less to do with the number of bigs in the game at any one time. 

    Which is not to say Singler should start.   No one is saying that.  It’s just that this team might function best starting Smith, Monroe and Drummond, and then quickly moving one to the bench for most of the rest of the game….as several other people have already suggested.

  • Nov 1, 20131:14 pm
    by Otis


    This is the kind of analysis people need to be looking at. Personally I don’t think I’d ever put these guys on the floor at the same time unless it was highly matchup specific, but I also understand the inherent value in being able to put the best overall unit on the floor. If one of your best three players is perpetually on the bench, particularly to close games, you’re not maximizing your assets. Especially in a middle market like Detroit with an owner who hasn’t yet shown a willingness to spend money (not implying he’s shown an unwillingness either, but he could have used that amnesty clause and chose not to).

    • Nov 1, 20131:30 pm
      by Max


      What about the value in not offending Drummond?  I want him to stay in Detroit and as far as I’m concerned, the courting process has already begun.  

      • Nov 1, 20132:01 pm
        by tarsier


        If stroking his ego instead of optimizing winning odds are the way to keep him, is that the sort of player we want?

        But I don’t think he minds earning his role, so it’s all a bit moot. 

        • Nov 1, 20132:13 pm
          by Max


          Well, I think we want the most talented player the team has had since Grant Hill and maybe in franchise history in any case.  I think doing everything possible to keep him should absolutely be the Pistons’ top priority in nearly any decision they make until he is either resigned, gone or has proven that he won’t fulfill his potential.   I don’t want the Pistons to wind up like the Cavs, Nuggets or Hornets did in regards to LeBron, Melo and Paul.   

          • Nov 1, 20133:48 pm
            by oats

            None of those guys monved until their post rookie deal. Detroit has a lot of time to placate Drummond if he is that touchy, and it needs to be mentioned that there are no signs to indicate that he is that touchy anyways.

          • Nov 1, 20134:33 pm
            by Casey

            Most talented ever? More talented than Zeke, Max?  Really? I will grant you that Isiah can’t administrate his way out of a wet paper bag with a hole in both ends, but as a player, dude had talent.

          • Nov 1, 20135:03 pm
            by Max

            I said maybe the most talented.  Look, Drummond is arguably the most talented player in his weight class since Shaq who was the most talented player in his weight class of all time.   You can’t teach size and size has something to do with assessing talent in the NBA.   This is why Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant were not the first pick in their drafts and were passed on in favor of talented centers.  Isiah was extremely talented but he was even better than his talent level because of his basketball IQ and supreme will.  In any case, the Pistons have not had a talent like Drummond even once a decade in their history and, until he proves otherwise, he is worthy of them basing their priorities around him.  

          • Nov 1, 20135:05 pm
            by Max

            @Oats  All of those players started and were promoted as the face of their franchises from day one and their teams still lost them.  The Pistons are already a year late in treating Drummond that way.

          • Nov 1, 20135:13 pm
            by Max

            McGrady left the Raptors without signing a second contract.   David Lee didn’t like the Knicks offer and signed for one year before agreeing to a sign and trade.   

          • Nov 1, 201311:48 pm
            by oats

            McGrady’s situation doesn’t apply. Detroit can and will match any contract he signs elsewhere. He literally can not leave if the Pistons want to keep him.
            As for the face of the franchise thing, they also went to teams that weren’t any good and no other contenders for that role. None of them had a Greg Monroe already established as a young and talent face of the franchise. Also, who says that being the face of the franchise matters to Drummond right now? I mean, you are spending a lot of time arguing for him leaving based on speculation that is not even based a little bit on anything Drummond has ever said or done. Even if that wasn’t the case, that doesn’t change the fact that Drummond has zero leverage and all of those guys did because they actually had the ability to leave not long after those trades. Drummond can’t go anywhere. The only means to try to force a trade is to go Vince Carter and just stop trying. Is there any reason to think that is even remotely a possiblity? I just don’t see it.

          • Nov 1, 201311:52 pm
            by Max

            I’m sure you’re right and the Pistons aren’t going to bring him off the bench so it doesn’t really matter.   That said, if Bill Davidson still owned the team and a player even whispered in someone’s ear that they wanted to leave they’d be shipped out in short order.  I always respected that and don’t like the idea of holding players prisoner from a culture standpoint.  

  • Nov 1, 20134:09 pm
    by Anthony


    Anyone on this post that says Detroit should bring Drummond off the bench is insane !!  He is a top 10 player at his position in his 2nd season.  I think he had a good chance to make the all-star team this season.  You do not bring that type of talent off the bench !!

  • Nov 1, 20137:25 pm
    by Jeremy


    Seems like a poor point so far considering this is a sample of one game only.  Lets see how it looks in 20 games.  I suspect they will all play well together because they all pass the ball fairly well.  

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