Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
What has been the most important way the bench has helped the Pistons lately?
Patrick Hayes: For the first time in … well … maybe four or five years, the current bench has given the Pistons a unit of players whose skills actually work well with each other. A tenet of this era of Pistons basketball post-Billups trade has been that the Pistons have had unique talent at some positions, but when you combine it all together, those unique talents have clashed with rather than complemented each other. Austin Daye, Charlie Villanueva, Will Bynum and Andre Drummond all have weaknesses, but all of them also do certain things really well and those skills mask the weaknesses of the others, resulting in a lineup that has had good chemistry and production.
Jameson Draper: Playing different roles. Now, people may look at this bench and wonder why the Pistons don’t start all of those guys, but that’s just because they aren’t starters. They can all play different roles that’ll help the team. For example, Rodney Stuckey was not playing well last season and early this season as a starter, but once he started coming off the bench his play has improved immensely. Also, it’s the fact that the players that weren’t providing anything to the team are now playing really well. Daye, Villanueva and Bynum have all started playing incredible basketball.
Dan Feldman: It has played so well, it’s going to get Andre Drummond into the starting lineup sooner than later. Lawrence Frank often begins the fourth quarter with the bench unit, and when its playing well, he tends to stick with it. In his last six games, beginning with the start of the fourth quarter until he’s subbed out, Drummond has played 22:00, 12:00, 8:42, 7:06, 7:29 and 9:36. That’s too long. It’s too long for Drummond to play straight, and it’s too long for the starters to sit. A simple remedy would be moving Drummond into the starting lineup and balancing the units.
Who will be the Pistons’ Sixth Man of the Year this season, using the NBA rule that the award winner must come off the bench more than he starts?
Patrick Hayes: It’s Drummond. It’s unfortunate that it appears he’ll stay in this bench role his entire rookie season — he’s legitimately one of the two or three most productive players on the team. Although the team has been committed to playing him regular minutes, it doesn’t look like he’ll crack the starting lineup this season unless Jason Maxiell is traded. If Drummond is a reserve all season, he’s the easy choice as the team’s sixth man of the year.
Jameson Draper: It’s close, but at this rate I’d say Will Bynum. I would say Andre Drummond easily, but I think he’s going to eventually start a lot this season. The next best candidate is Bynum. Although Bynum doesn’t get as many minutes, if you look at his stats per 36 minutes, he’s averaging seven assists (most on the team) and 16.6 points. He also has the highest assist percentage (35.1) on the team. His stats are among the best, and he’s coming off the bench. If Drummond becomes a starter, Bynum’s the clear choice.
Dan Feldman: As explained above, I don’t think Andre Drummond will remain a reserve much longer. And as much as I’d like to pick Will Bynum, he runs too hot-and-cold, and at his age, he could lose a step with any slight injury. I think Rodney Stuckey will eventually move back into the starting lineup, though he already has a 23-8 advantage in games off the bench. If he’s eligible, he’s my pick, but I don’t think he will be. So, I guess I’ll say Charlie Villanueva, because I’m encouraged by the ways he’s contributed besides scoring. This is a really tough one to answer, because the beauty of the bench has been that everyone has played so well together.
Will the bench’s quality play continue throughout the year?
Patrick Hayes: As inconsistent as Bynum, Daye and Villanueva have been throughout their Pistons careers, I lean towards yes. Drummond has been remarkably consistent, and he’s the key to the bench. He makes up for the defensive shortcomings of the other three. Bynum works best with a finisher like Drummond who can bail him out when he penetrates too deep. Daye and Villanueva need a large volume of open shots, and Drummond’s offensive rebounding ability along with Bynum’s ability to make a defense account for his ability to get inside, successfully create those shots. Bynum will still have his signature erratic games, Daye and Villanueva will have occasional games when their shots aren’t falling and Drummond will still be prone to youthful mistakes as he learns the finer points of NBA defense and post play, but as long as they continue to get minutes together, they’ll continue to be productive as a unit.
Jameson Draper: It’s hard to say at this point, but the bench has stayed consistent for the past two weeks, so signs are pointing to yes. If Drummond stays on the bench, which I don’t think he will, it’ll help a ton. But with Charlie Villanueva playing well, Austin Daye getting his stroke back, Will Bynum playing out of his mind and Stuckey becoming one of the higher-scoring bench players on the team, the Pistons’ bench can sustain success throughout the course of this year.
Dan Feldman: Not to the degree it has. As Patrick wrote, Drummond keys everything. If – and, hopefully when – Drummond moves into the starting lineup, the rest of the bench must do some serious adjusting. That will take time, and I doubt the remaining bench players will ever become as productive without him. But Jason Maxiell could still set screen for Will Bynum, and Kyle Singler could space the floor if he loses his starting job to Rodney Stuckey. Defensively, it’s really tough to see any real success without Drummond.