Pistons produce offensively despite missing big guns vs. Hawks
Detroit — The Pistons were shorthanded for Monday’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks, missing two of their top scorers, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose.
That should have meant that they would struggle to score.
The Pistons put up a season-high 120 points, surpassing even the 119 points they had in the double-overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Part of the difference was having a switch in the starting lineup, moving Josh Jackson to the starting group, along with rookie Saddiq Bey and sliding Delon Wright to the second group.
Jackson and Jerami Grant each had 27 points and Wright 18. So why not more of that?
Coach Dwane Casey answered it Tuesday night, moving Jackson to the starting lineup for the second straight game. With Jackson in the lineup as the starting shooting guard, the Pistons get an ultra-big lineup. Having Killian Hayes at 6-foot-5 and Jackson and Grant at 6-8, provides an imposing group from a height and athleticism perspective, along with Griffin and Mason Plumlee as the big men.
It’s not a change that didn’t come without some thought.
Casey values Wright’s ball-handling ability, which has taken some of the pressure off Hayes, who’s still adjusting to the speed of the NBA game and some of the nuances of playing point guard against more experienced and skilled opponents.
He tipped his hand a little bit before Tuesday’s game.
“It may be a time where once Killian is more comfortable — and he’s getting there — playing by himself and handling the ball, the need for Delon in the first unit is not as important,” Casey said. “There’s a chemistry that’s coming along with trying to develop both units and who fits with who. It deters things a little bit when Blake and Derrick are out.”
That’s not a slight on Wright or his importance with either the starters or the second group. Wright has been solid, averaging 14 points 4.3 rebounds and 4 assists, and shooting 50% on 3-pointers. Those are solid numbers anywhere. It’s not to say that he couldn’t still play significant minutes and manage Hayes’ minutes differently.
Casey likes to have multiple ball-handlers in his lineups and whether Wright is with Hayes and the starters or with Rose and the second unit, he’s a valuable piece. There’s still plenty to figure out with how the rotation will shake out and how the minutes will be distributed, so trying to make guesses based off the early games and the preseason is a fool’s errand.
“We’ll see about the rotation. It’s so close right there. I said during training camp it’s probably going to be two or three weeks into the season before we solidify our rotation — if even then,” Casey said. “You can put (any) guy in and he’s going to do some great things and he has strengths and weaknesses.
“I don’t want anybody to get comfortable saying this is a locked rotation. Delon Wright played great (Monday). Different games, different situations. The rotations will be fluid going forward until it solidifies itself.”
Tuesday was likely a test run for whether the minutes distribution continues to work and how that group looks with Griffin and Jackson together.
Svi Mykhailiuk has had a slow start to the season after a good preseason. After an improved second season last year with 9 points and shooting 40% on 3-pointers, he’s posted just 6.3 points and 11% (2-of-18) from beyond the arc.
Of course, it’s a small sample size and those numbers are very likely to improve. Casey isn’t worried about one of the main shooters off the bench. He’s preaching patience and an understanding the numbers will balance out.
“He’s pressing a little bit with his shooting and he’s not going to forget how to shoot. He’s got to keep working on it — and he does every day. He’s one of the last guys to leave the gym,” Casey said. “It’s not going anywhere. He’s just pressing a little bit as a lot of shooters go through those slumps like baseball hitters. He’ll get out of it. No concern about him whatsoever.”