Lawrence Frank says Jason Maxiell starts because he keys defense, but Andre Drummond could better fill role

Why does Jason Maxiell start? The answer has become so difficult to fathom, Lawrence Frank is facing the question even while Andre Drummond is out injured. Frank, via David Mayo of MLive:

"If you’re going to judge Max on his offensive numbers, he’s not going to play a lot," Frank said. "But for us, if you look at our defensive efficiency in the first quarter, it’s sixth-best in the league. So to me, his grit, grime and physical toughness, paired with Greg, is a good fit defensively."

The Pistons have actually improved to fifth in the NBA in first-quarter defensive efficiency, according to NBA.com/stats. If you’re wondering, the Pistons’ defense ranks 11th in the third quarter and 19th overall.

How much credit does Maxiell deserve for the Pistons’ impressive first-quarter defense? Probably a decent amount.

Maxiell plays 9.3 minutes per first quarter, and the Pistons allow fewer first-quarter points per 100 possession with him on the court (97.0) than off (100.4).

As far as defending well with Greg Monroe, the Pistons have a lower defensive rating when Maxiell and Monroe play together (102.4) than overall (103.8).

So, Frank is correct in those regards. But it’s not about just Maxiell.

The Pistons’ first-quarter defensive rating with Andre Drummond (94.3) is better than with Maxiell (97.0), and a Drummond-Monroe combo (100.0) defends better than Maxiell-Monroe (102.4).

As we’ve argued for a long time now, it doesn’t matter much how well Maxiell plays. Even raw and still learning, Drummond is already better.

Neither Charlie Villanueva nor Jonas Jerebko can really challenge Maxiell’s defensive bona fides in the first quarter and with Monroe, but that’s not a huge concern. Until Drummond returns, I don’t care who starts at power forward.

But – using the criteria Frank said he considers important – Drummond deserves to start once his back heals.

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Tags: Andre Drummond Charlie Villanueva Greg Monroe Jason Maxiell Jonas Jerebko Lawrence Frank

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