Auburn Hills — The Pistons' experiment with a three-big-man lineup will extend into the regular season.
Greg Monroe won't be in the lineup for the first two games because of a league-mandated suspension, so there's no chance he'll start alongside Andre Drummond and Josh Smith.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who has said the three-bigs lineup worked to a degree against Charlotte, Orlando and Atlanta last week, has refused to commit to it.
He's said matchups against the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will prompt him to use Smith for stretches at small forward because Smith can physically match up on defense, but apart from that no plan has been formed.
"I haven't (seen enough). We just haven't had enough of a sample size," Van Gundy said. "The big lineup's been competitive in three games, got us off to good starts. So is that the way we start, rebound the ball, pound it inside early, draw some fouls and then play quicker? Or do we go the other way, start smaller and go there if we need it? I don't know."
Van Gundy can also put off an official diagnosis because of injuries at shooting guard, with Jodie Meeks out for the foreseeable future and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope recovering from his spill in Washington over a week ago.
"The hard part of judging that lineup, to me, that lineup can be really, really good if you have two guards who can both penetrate and make plays," Van Gundy said. "We're playing with one guard, a power forward and two centers. That's not the ideal lineup."
"It would be different to play with Caldwell-Pope."
The Pistons lack shot creators on the wings without Meeks and Caldwell-Pope. Caron Butler and Kyle Singler can make shots but shouldn't be counted on to create them for others, either in the pick-and-roll or by beating their own man off the dribble.
"I like what our wing guys bring to the table but they're not put-the-ball-on-the-floor guys," Van Gundy said. "So your offense gets a little stagnant where we're just playing through the post. And we're putting a lot of pressure on Brandon and D.J. to have to make all the plays."
It's not likely Van Gundy would start D.J. Augustin alongside point guard Brandon Jennings.
Last season the big lineup's assets weren't enough to overcome a small backcourt's liabilities.
"Knowing that lineup you'll have some problems with perimeter defense, you know you won't be able to spread the floor offensively, that lineup's gotta do what it should do," Van Gundy said. "Control the paint at both ends and dominate the boards at both ends, which is what they did in the Charlotte game. Not very well in the Orlando game."
The Pistons were near the top in every offensive rebounding metric last year but were near the bottom in defensive rebounding percentage.
"The other thing that concerns me, if we get in foul trouble, we'll be thin (up front)," Van Gundy said.
The Pistons face deadline pressure to cut their guaranteed contracts from 16 to 15.
Tony Mitchell and Gigi Datome appear to be on the roster bubble.
"We have to by the end of the week and that's what we'll do," Van Gundy said. "Jeff (Bower, general manager) and I have talked about it, we've talked about it with ownership. We know what the possibilities are."