Auburn Hills — Even for a preseason game, Pistons coach Dwane Casey is keeping things close to the vest. He’s not divulging much information about his starting lineup, rotation or how he might distribute the minutes.
The Pistons open the preseason Wednesday at Oklahoma City in Casey’s debut, but he’s either still figuring things out or not revealing his plans.
Casey said that no one should read into the starting lineup for Saturday’s scrimmage, which had Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. He said the squads were balanced to distribute the talent and there could be a different group that opens the exhibition game.
What concerns Casey more is the rotation and how players look in running the new offense and adjusting to the new defensive principles. There were some good signs in training camp and in Saturday’s scrimmage, but playing against a different team will provide the best indication yet.
One thing is clear: Casey is planning to look at a lot of players in different positions and try to gauge the best way to utilize the roster. That could entail some creative lineups, with Stanley Johnson or Jon Leuer at center or Glenn Robinson III at power forward, or a grouping with three point guards.
“We try to use as many people as possible and limit our starters’ minutes and put a cap on them,” Casey said. “We want to see growth and you go in to compete, but we want to see where we are offensively and defensively with our principles and identity.
“We want to try to get everybody some run who will be dressed.”
Casey also will have an eye on how crisply the ball moves and the shot selection and spacing on the floor. While the Pistons had some success last season on the offensive end, Casey noted that scoring at the rim was a focus area that needs to improve.
Stan Van Gundy made some strides with the Pistons, helping them tighten up some of the defensive issues, but there’s still work to do.
“Our finishing is another area I want to see in the game. Last year, we were 29th in points per possession at the rim. That right there is a lot of points you’re giving away if you’re not finishing at the rim or getting to the free-throw line,” he said. “That’s another area where we must get better offensively.
“The team was solid defensively; Stan did a good job last year with the defensive approach. We want to get better and get in the top 10 or top five of offensive categories.”
By the book
Casey said he’s still working to get the offense and specific plays installed. There’s a general philosophy that they’ll follow, but many of the out-of-bounds plays and sets that they’ll run still are a work in progress.
“We’re still trying to get our drive-kick-screen philosophy in; we’re easing things in slowly. We want to grasp that mentality first, more so than plays,” Casey said. “I want guys to play instead of having so many plays … In Year 1 and 2 in Toronto, we didn’t have a lot of plays and added those as the years went on. We have quite a bit in to get us through exhibition and we’re easing them in as (the preseason) goes on.”
The Pistons will get a test of their depth under Casey, who plans to utilize a rotation of nine or 10. That might preclude him from playing Drummond and Griffin together, in favor of having a full second platoon of five.
There’s more to see in terms of how groupings work together, but the initial indication is that Casey will go to the reserves early and often, possibly playing smaller lineups. The two big men have the versatility to play against smaller opposition.
“We’d like to. It’s something we may experiment with in exhibition. Players will dictate that; I’d never put that in stone,” Casey said. “I’d like to have a definite second unit and that way you can keep the wear-and-tear off Blake and Andre. I’m not going to put that in stone right now.”
Pistons at Thunder
Tip-off: 8 Wednesday, Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Okla.
TV/radio: No TV/97.1
Outlook: The Pistons open the Dwane Casey era with their only road trip of the preseason. Reggie Jackson (ankle rehabilitation), who played in the scrimmage on Saturday, could start but likely will be limited.