Pistons mailbag: More minutes for Derrick Rose? Can Killian Hayes be NBA's top rookie?
It’s game week. Well, it’s preseason game week, but it’s still weird to write, because the Pistons haven’t played in a real game since March.
Nevertheless, after a whirlwind offseason and general manager Troy Weaver’s roster makeover that’s reminiscent of a show on HGTV, the Pistons open the preseason schedule on Friday against the New York Knicks.
Training camp has started but with only a couple of days of 5-on-5 work, it’ll be something of a challenge to get all the offensive and defensive sets in place with about a week of practice.
The starting lineup looks to be fairly set, with rookie Killian Hayes at point guard, Jerami Grant and Blake Griffin at forward and Mason Plumlee as the center. The big question will be shooting guard, a spot that coach Dwane Casey said he has a couple of options, including Josh Jackson, Delon Wright and Svi Mykhailiuk.
“The (shooting guard) position with Josh has some different directions we can go there with Svi, and Delon Wright can move over to the 2,” Casey said this week. “We want to keep Derrick (Rose) in his same place, but there's a lot of options.”
Casey added: “There's a lot of different options and flexibility we have with our roster. That takes a little time too because you want guys to run things at different positions defensively and offensively.”
It would seem that if the Pistons want to have length and a defensive presence, they’d go with Jackson; if they’re looking for shooting, it would be Mykhailiuk. Wright might be the ideal fit to run some smaller lineups with Rose.
One thing that Weaver has done quite adeptly with this roster in the quick turnaround is adding flexibility at the wing positions and getting longer, more athletic options throughout the roster.
This edition of the Mail Satchel addresses questions about roster positions and playing time, along with fits for the rookies and new additions.
► Question. Are these games going to be more approached like regular-season ones than in the past? Due to the shortened preparation time/offseason? Starters logging 25 + mins, etc. — @Lord_Spagucci
► Answer. One of the additional benefits of the expanded depth on the roster with a good mix of rookies and vets is that they don’t have to play Griffin or Rose for extended minutes. The heavy workload obviously increases the chance of injuries, and if they can find a sweet spot for the playing time, while also allotting some minutes for the rookies, it’s a nice balance.
At least early in the season, it’ll be like baseball pitchers, where they ramp up to their innings as the season goes. I wouldn’t expect to see the starters playing a ton of minutes, and Casey probably wants to see how some of the lineup combinations work out. Wayne Ellington was a starter when he was here two years ago. Now, he can be a starter if needed or a good scorer off the bench.
If there are COVID issues during the season, the depth will be underscored even more, so there isn’t a dropoff from the main rotation players and that next group.
► Q. What kind of role will Isaiah Stewart have in Pistons rotation this year? Do you see Killian among the favorites for ROY? — @Agon07Agon
► A. Stewart looks to be the third center and down the line a power forward. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. From all accounts, he’s a big-time hustler and he goes after every rebound. That energy is needed and there were times the Pistons just didn’t have it last season. Again, if there is some roster attrition due to COVID or injuries, his role could expand.
As for Hayes, if he can step in and start and adapt to the NBA game pretty quickly, he could be in that conversation. If the Pistons have a modicum of success and can finish around .500, it likely means that Hayes has had a good rookie season and could be in that conversation for rookie of the year.
Many of the other rookies could have some issues getting adapted to the NBA; because Hayes has played professionally, it could be an easier transition for him. That bodes well.
► Q. Gotta ask about Gelo. I know he’s on exhibit 10. Just curious how he’s looking around other NBA talent and personnel — @DaBall_InMyHand
► A. Several readers and followers have asked the same question about LiAngelo Ball. Yes, he’s on an Exhibit 10 contract, which means that he’s more likely destined for the G League team, the Grand Rapids Drive, than for the Pistons’ roster. Ball’s contract is non-guaranteed, but he’s in training camp and could get a bonus if he stays on the Drive.
The media isn’t allowed in practices, especially during the pandemic, so I can’t give you any insight on how he’s looked in training camp. With the Pistons’ situation of having their roster filled with guaranteed contracts, it’s highly unlikely that Ball would be able to outplay one of them for a roster spot.
Last season, he was on track to play in the G League with the Oklahoma City Blue before the pandemic hit, so he’s still on the same trajectory with the Pistons.
► Q. Last year we were all very concerned about the Blake and D-Rose fit together. We didn't end up getting to see much of it with the injuries and (Rose) restrictions. Do you think they could see serious minutes together this year if healthy? And do you think it can work? — @CrusaderTeal
► A. They could end up finishing games together, but what’s more likely is that Griffin stays with the starters and Rose is the main scorer on the second group. It splits the experienced vets up nicely and doesn’t leave a gap without one of them on the floor. Things could change, but that’s what seems most likely.
► Q. Will Rose still be on minute restrictions? And if Grant is the starting SF who is the backup SF? — @_Kdub21
► A. Casey said that he plans to keep Rose as a sixth man, which will make it easier to manage his minutes. I wouldn’t say he’ll be on a strict restriction, but they’ll try to monitor to make sure he isn’t going like last year. If he can play fewer minutes, he can finish more games in the fourth quarter, which would be a benefit.