“PISTONS FANS! GET UP ON YOUR FEET! IT’S TIME TO MEET AND GREET, THE BALLERS, THAT REPRESENT YOUR DEEETROIIITT PISTONS!” is the sound that public address announcer John Mason will have ringing throughout an empty Little Caesars Arena on December 11 as the Pistons host the New York Knicks to begin their four-game preseason of the 2020-21 year. As exciting as it is that Pistons basketball is back and we’ll finally get a look at this young team, there are a few questions that the front office and coaching staff need to address before tipping off the regular season on December 23 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Who starts: Killian Hayes or Derrick Rose?
After the first few days of training camp, it has been rumored that rookie point guard Killian Hayes will be the Pistons’ starting point guard for this season.
Many thought that Detroit would spend this season with Hayes coming off the bench in relief for Derrick Rose. However, that does not look to be the case. Looking back at Derrick Rose’s career, he has never been in a position to mentor a younger point guard. But, Rose is looking forward to the opportunity to mentor Hayes and help him become as great of a player as he can.
“I already talked to (Killian Hayes) and told him that he was the future of the team and there’s no competing. My job here is to push him and groom him into a great player,” Rose told The Detroit Free Press’ Rod Beard. “I have to get on him in practice as much as possible because in the game, he’s a kid and coming from overseas and guys are going to try to play aggressive with him. So, it’s my job to play aggressive on him throughout this whole camp, so that when we get into a regular game, he doesn’t feel that much pressure.”
Rose is not the only guy that has been impressed with Hayes’ play in camp, however. Veteran guard Wayne Ellington said that Hayes was “making veteran plays … he made two beautiful lob passes to Mason (Plumlee). That showed me his poise and advanced skill set for such a young player.” Hayes’ defense caught some attention as well.
Even though Rose has said that it is not a competition for the starting point guard spot, there has been no early determination as to who will get it. I’m sure we will get more of a feel for who it will be after a couple of preseason games.
Who Gets The Nod At The Two Guard?
The Pistons have four guys who are fighting for the starting shooting guard spot: Sviatoslav Mykhailuk, Josh Jackson, Wayne Ellington, and Delon Wright. In footage from Monday’s scrimmage from training camp, it looks like Josh Jackson and Delon Wright were running the two-guard spot in a lineup that consisted of Hayes, Jackson/Wright, Jerami Grant, Blake Griffin, and Plumlee.
The 23-year-old Jackson offers a lot of size and defense at the shooting guard spot, standing 6’8 with a 6’10 wingspan, and plenty of explosiveness and athleticism. The only thing that is worrisome about Jackson being a starting shooting guard is his actual ability to shoot. Over his first three seasons in the NBA, Jackson has yet to find his shooting touch as he has shot only 41.7 percent from the floor and 29.8 percent from three.
If Detroit is wanting a shooter at the two-guard spot, they definitely will want to start either Mykhailiuk, Wright, or Ellington as Mykhailiuk is a career 39.8 percent shooter from three, Wright 34.2 percent, and Ellington 37.8 percent. However, Wright and Ellington are smaller than Mykhailiuk as they stand 6’5 and 6’4, respectively, and Mykhailiuk at 6’7.
At the end of the day, Detroit will have to decide whether they want to go with speed, athleticism, and defense, or go with pure shooting at the two. It will be interesting to see what Dwane Casey runs out on opening night.
How Much Do The Rookies Play?
Detroit left the 2020 NBA Draft with four rookies added to their roster, three of them taken in the first round. As stated earlier, seventh overall pick Killian Hayes is more than likely going to be named the starting point guard. That leaves 16th pick, Isaiah Stewart, 19th pick Saddiq Bey and 38th pick Saben Lee. According to reports from camp, Coach Casey has been impressed early with both Stewart and Bey comparing Stewart to Kenneth Faried and Bey to Jeff Green.
Detroit has a very deep depth chart at the center and forward positions currently with a potential depth chart looking like:
(This is my prediction, nothing is set in stone).
From this, I don’t see many minutes available for the other two first-rounders outside of Hayes. As far as things go for Lee, he is already signed to a two-way contract meaning that the majority of his season will be spent in the G-League.
With that being said, I wonder if Detroit will elect to send both Stewart and Bey to the G-League on and off like they did with Doumbouya last year, who only played 38 NBA games in his rookie season, the majority coming after the trade deadline, and 16 G-League games. A lot of that will more than likely be dependent on how they play in training camp and the preseason.
How Deep Of A Rotation Will Dwane Casey Run?
With all the young pieces and veterans on the Pistons roster this year, I would say that there are 11 or 12 guys who are deserving minutes this season on a nightly basis. However, unlike college basketball, NBA rotations usually consist of nine to 10 guys a night, leaving one or two guys without playing time. Coach Casey has come out and said that the rotation will be larger at the beginning of the season due to conditioning.
With that being said, how long will a deep rotation last? Will young guys outperform vets? Will more guys get traded during the season? There are so many variables that will play out to determine the rotation. However, I think we will see the five-man starter and five-man bench rotations used heavily in the preseason.