As soon I woke up yesterday morning, I was excited. My personal hero and Pistons’ biggest name Blake Griffin was set to make his return to the starting lineup against the Minnesota Timberwolves and make everything (and everyone) better. The Pistons performed about as well as one team could with their most important players missing and scraped together a so-so 4-6 record without Griffin. There was plenty of optimism that this roster was actually deep for the first time in over a decade and with a healthy squad, the Detroit Pistons could actually make some noise in a weak Eastern Conference.
So the Pistons should have handled business against a Timberwolves team on the backend of a back-to-back especially with the returns of Griffin and Derrick Rose, right? Insert Dwane Casey.
Casey elected to go all-in with his starting lineup as he trotted out Rose / Kennard / Snell / Griffin / Drummond and hoped for the best. It made Rose stans happy as they have been pleading and exhausting their thumbs on Twitter for Rose’s addition in the starting lineup ever since he arrived in Detroit. It also made general fans excited because it was arguably Detroit’s best group of talent in one unit.
The result? Not exactly what fans were hoping for. Granted, the Timberwolves could have turned around, blew a kiss to Jalen Rose in the crowd and still drained any shot they took in the first quarter as they dropped 41 and left the first 12 minutes with a not-so-ideal 15-point lead, but there were still some lessons learned from the game as a whole. Let’s discuss this.
THE STARTING LINEUP AIN’T IT
Last night was the perfect example of why Casey shouldn’t need to put all his eggs in one basket to start the game. The flow of the first unit was off and the feel for those surrounding Griffin was awkward as they sort of stood around at times as the big man bullied his way to the basket. If you have watched one game of Griffin in a Pistons uniform, you know he likes to take his man one-on-one and overpower him to the basket for a hopeful and-1. That is all fine (for the most part), but it will hinder the games of Kennard and Rose. The shift-god (can I call Derrick that?) excels when he has the ball in his hands and is allowed to run freely like a prancing stallion while Kennard also needs his own time with the orange ball to reach his full potential.
Simply put, it is hard when four guys in the starting lineup are all averaging 18+ (not a typo) and there’s only one basketball. The solution is simple, go back to what works and keep Kennard and Rose with the second unit while starting Tim Frazier/Bruce Brown at the 1 and Galloway at the 2. Frazier would fit well because the starting unit would need zero offense from him as he would be called to distribute the ball around while attempting to hold his own on defense. He’s averaging 3.4 assists in only 14.7 minutes on the year and could be the ideal placeholder until Reggie Jackson returns from injury. Brown is also an intriguing option at PG as he showed impressive signs of growth against the Nets (22 points / 7 assists) and Wizards (14 points / 7 assists) last week.
Galloway has arguably been playing the best basketball of his Pistons career and is averaging 11.6 points on 46% from three. Galloway would join Snell in giving Griffin another outlet to look for as he draws defenses in the paint during his drives to the rim. The removal of Rose and Kennard also gives more touches to Drummond and would get his game going from the opening tip. The big fella looked out of sync last night and did not look like the guy that averaged 20 and 18 through the first 10 games.
The starting unit from last night will still need to find ways to mesh together as they will more than likely be on the floor to close games, but starting with Guns and Roses on the bench will truly spread the offense to both units and present one of the most dangerous bench backcourts in the league.
ONE FINAL PLEA
This will be short and sweet. Thon Maker is not good at basketball and should be left on a leash at Casey’s home in the doghouse. His presence on the floor excites opposing bigs as they can literally blow Maker out of the way when backing him down to the basket. The solution is simple, give Christian Wood the nod over Maker. Wood has his struggles on the defensive end as well but is simply a stronger body and better offensive player than Maker. There is no excuse for Maker to continually be getting the minutes over Wood when the latter is performing at a much better rate.
The swap of Wood for Maker does not fix all of the problems, but it upgrades the second unit and adds another respected scoring punch to the likes of Rose, Kennard, and Morris.
The Detroit Pistons were a mess last night. Griffin is only one game in and Rose is coming off a hamstring injury. The rust was there for both star players and Griffin will likely need a few more games with the new roster to help others excel. With Jackson on the shelf, Casey would fare better tweaking the starting lineup and his rotations until the true starting point guard returns.
Let’s hope he reads this.
Featured Image: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press