I touched on that as well in a post and the weekly PistonPowered Freep column last week. Maxiell is clearly having a pretty good season. I would never make an argument that Maxiell shouldn’t have a significant role on the Pistons and I don’t even object to him being in the starting lineup. This, though, from Ellis’ story, is a point I might argue a bit:
Twitter and fan sites have been full of activity from those thinking Drummond, the team’s first-round pick, should be in the lineup instead of Maxiell. They might have a point, and even Frank speaks of developing and evaluating players.
But what about guys earning playing time based on merit? Any objective observer can see Maxiell is the superior player right now.
I would probably describe Maxiell as the smarter player. I would probably describe him as physically stronger. And he’s probably a tad better offensively at this point because he does have the ability to knock down a 15-footer, which Drummond doesn’t have.
I’d be hesitant to call him ‘superior,’ though. Drummond’s per-minute production is better than Maxiell’s. I’m not saying that would necessarily hold up if Drummond suddenly began playing 25+ minutes per game, but I’m not saying it wouldn’t hold up either.
I don’t think Ellis is making an unreasonable conclusion. There’s a chance that if Drummond were shoved into the starting lineup and expected to play bigger minutes against starting-caliber players, he’d get exposed — perhaps he’d be in foul trouble or some of his occasionally flawed fundamentals would be taken advantage of more often or bigger, stronger frontline players would put more of a physical beating on him that would wear him down and make him less effective. Those types of things happen to raw young players fairly frequently when they go from small roles to big roles. But Drummond’s excellent production in limited minutes, along with his physical profile — he’s bigger and stronger than your typical 19-year-old entering the league — make me think there’s also a decent chance he’d be more productive than Maxiell if his workload increased and they were playing comparable minutes.
That’s not a knock on Maxiell, either. He’s been very solid this season and certainly doesn’t deserve to be completely demoted or anything like that. But the Pistons also haven’t been very good whether he’s been on the court or off it, so I don’t see what the harm would be in upping Drummond’s minutes a bit at the expense of a few of Maxiell’s minutes to see if Drummond’s per-minute production is a mirage or not.