For the first time in recent memory, the Detroit Pistons will be among the more versatile teams in the NBA this season. The team continues to add multidimensional young talent along with developing the picks that general manager Troy Weaver has amassed over the past couple years. Detroit’s 2023 roster allows them to realistically run both big and small-ball lineups while also having the chance to try out three-guard lineups thanks to the above-average length of Killian Hayes and Cade Cunningham. While Dwane Casey likely won’t (and shouldn’t) be shy about running many different lineup combinations throughout the season, his starting lineups usually stay relatively consistent throughout the year. With more versatility at his disposal than ever, coach Casey has the opportunity to experiment a bit more with this season’s starting lineup – as well as seeing the positives and negatives of each.
Lineup 1: Jadey Ivey, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Marvin Bagley III, Isaiah Stewart
The most probable opening night starting lineup, in my opinion, is arguably Detroit’s most exciting offensive quintet, with each player here possessing a distinctly unique skillset. Ivey, Cunningham, and Bey – and probably Stewart – should all be locks for the starting lineup, regardless of who is playing alongside them. Cunningham and Bey especially can be plugged into any lineup and succeed, one of the key reasons they are both so valuable. If Stewart’s jumper can translate from what he displayed in Summer League this year – and he’s shown to be a capable shooter as a rookie – I could see this lineup panning out.
Opening the paint for Marvin Bagley to roam for lobs and serve as a roller will be essential unless the 23-year-old reinvents his offensive game. With Bagley as the oldest here, this new-look starting lineup is truly a testament to the restoration job Troy Weaver has been tasked with since his arrival.
Lineup 2: Jaden Ivey, Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Livers, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart
Isaiah Livers exceeded the expectations of many as a second-round rookie. With exception to the confident Michigan fans who preached that the forward’s shooting and high-IQ defense would transfer to the league, not many expected much of Livers in 2022 following a serious foot injury at the end of his college career. However, he proved to be a valuable rotation piece and can also be added to basically any lineup for a boost in shooting and defense. By subbing Bagley for Livers, the Pistons are sacrificing the rim pressure and athleticism that the former brings for the aforementioned shooting and defense of the latter. Only time will tell if that exchange is worth it, but I believe the improved spacing would allow for both Ivey and Cunningham to dominate inside.
Lineup 3: Jaden Ivey, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Kelly Olynyk, Isaiah Stewart
Kelly Olynyk sticks out as the lone veteran among Detroit’s youth-filled frontcourt, and as a result, often goes unmentioned when it comes to the talent on the roster. However, Olynyk represents a nice contrast to Marvin Bagley’s abilities in the starting lineup, which could be valuable for Detroit -especially if Isaiah Stewart struggles to score outside the paint. While underwhelming in his lone season with the Pistons, Olynyk could at least provide a steadying presence in the starting lineup and (hopefully) an average three-point shot. Any spacing that the Pistons can put around Ivey and Cunningham will be crucial, and Detroit doesn’t have many options outside of Olynyk at the moment. Olynyk’s playmaking is an underrated aspect of his game as well, which would add another layer to Detroit’s offense.
Lineup 4: Jaden Ivey, Alec Burks, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart
The Pistons acquired a much-needed shot creator in Alec Burks from the New York Knicks this offseason, and he has experience both as a starter and bench player. Burks took on more ball-handling responsibilities than usual last season, serving as the Knicks’ starting point guard for stretches after their failed Kemba Walker experiment. The veteran guard would take some of the defensive pressure off of Detroit’s young guards and also provide a reliable perimeter threat if he were inserted into the starting lineup. He’s not a defensive stopper by any means, but at 6-foot-6, the concerns wouldn’t be devastating on that end. While his skillset could benefit the starting lineup, it is more than likely Burks will be tasked with carrying a bench unit that is void of scorers.
Most of the Detroit Pistons’ starters are likely already set in stone to begin the 2023 season, and for a good reason, yet one subtle tweak in the rotation can completely shift the way a team plays. With training camp set to begin in just a few short weeks, we’ll perhaps get clarity on the potential starting unit for Detroit sooner rather than later.