Chip Crain from the great Memphis Grizzlies blog 3 Shades of Blue sent me an e-mail Wednesday asking about Rodney Stuckey’s 37 minutes of action in the Pistons last preseason game against the Wizards.
The number seemed high to Crain, who pointed out that no Grizzlies other than Marc Gasol had hit the 30-minute mark this preseason, and he only did so because of foul trouble to Hasheem Thabeet.
The e-mail had me panicking a little bit. Obviously, with only one Pistons game televised so far this preseason, I haven’t been able to watch. And with camp invitees Ike Diogu and Vernon Hamilton getting cut after barely touching the court, I started thinking about a repeat of last year, when there was never a clear rotation (some due to injuries, some due to inexplicably playing Chris Wilcox). I was hoping the preseason wasn’t going to be an indication of more of the same — too many minutes for some players, not nearly enough for others.
But after gleaning back at the box scores, my fears are alleviated. Kuester has actually done a really good job with preseason minutes. Here are some positives so far:
Will Bynum is leading the team in minutes per game
Will Bynum (and his snappy shoes) is the only Piston getting 30 minutes per night. I don’t know that this is going to carry over into the regular season, but it certainly can’t be a bad sign. Bynum had a great preseason a year ago, and did so while getting limited minutes and facing the reality that he probably wouldn’t play much once the regular season started.
This year, he might be in similar circumstances, but it at least appears with both his heavy preseason workload and Kuester at least toying with the idea of Rodney Stuckey coming off the bench that Bynum is going to figure into the Pistons’ plans much more heavily to start this season.
Ultimately, starting Bynum is not going to be the difference between the Pistons being a good or bad team. But Bynum has clearly worked exceptionally hard at his game the last three years, so it would be nice to see that rewarded, not to mention he’s arguably the most exciting player the Pistons have, so getting him on the court as much as possible could do wonders for the team’s watchability.
Every player is getting rest
The Pistons have five players coming off of injuries — Bynum, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon — and a sixth in Ben Wallace who plays a physically demanding position, has an injury history and is getting older. So far, Kuester has done a really good job of getting all of them minutes and also resting them.
Bynum, Hamilton, Wallace, Prince and Villanueva have all had a game off during the preseason. Gordon hasn’t had a game off, but he also seems to be in really good shape, and he’s only playing 27.4 minutes per game (although his 39 minutes in the second preseason game might have been excessive).
Wallace, who wore down after a heavy workload last year, is playing only 17 minutes per game in the six he’s played in. Prince, who has played really well, hasn’t played more than 28 minutes in a preseason game, and he didn’t do so for the first time until after he’d had a game off to rest.
The young guys are actually playing
It’s unreasonable to expect that either will play more minutes than Hamilton (21.0), Prince (25.0) or even Wallace (17.8) during the season, but it does represent progress for a team that has developed a reputation for not trusting its young guys much over the last 10 years or so.
They have undoubtedly played so much out of necessity with Jonas Jerebko hurt, further diluting the frontcourt depth. But the fact is both have had good moments (particularly Daye) this preseason, and both have done enough to reasonably expect to be solidly in the rotation once the regular season starts.
Does it mean anything for the regular season rotation?
How minutes will be distributed has obviously been an ongoing point of heated debate among Pistons fans. And the absences of Jerebko and Tracy McGrady have helped Kuester in the preseason avoide some tough decisions.
Currently, the projected top nine in the Detroit rotation (Stuckey, Bynum, Gordon, Hamilton, Prince, Daye, Wallace, Villanueva, Monroe) are averaging about 223 of a possible 240 minutes. Wallace and Hamilton, and possibly Villanueva, are sure to see their numbers go up some, Monroe and Daye will probably see slight decreases. McGrady, after missing most of the preseason, probably won’t be ready for a big workload immediately to start the season as the likely 10th man in the rotation.
And Jason Maxiell figures to be in line for at least spot minutes, or perhaps bigger minutes on some nights because of Monroe’s bouts with foul trouble.
There are plenty of questions the Pistons still have to answer position-wise, but credit where it’s due, Kuester has done a pretty solid job with the rotation to this point. It will be interesting to see if he can strike the same harmonious balance once the regular season starts.