During the Joe Dumars era, the Pistons — both because of lack of talent at times and coaching stubborness at others — have never had much use for a deep bench. The current version of the roster, however, has at least competent depth at every position, something that we couldn’t really say during any of the last four seasons. How will Maurice Cheeks employ it? Will he, like his predecessors, go with a short rotation, inevitably making a few players unhappy with their minutes/roles? Or will he give a call-out to his early coaching days in Portland, where he had deep rosters and would sometimes play 10 or 11 players regularly? I gave some thoughts in today’s column for the Detroit Free Press:
If we’re counting here, and assuming that rookies Luigi Datome, Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell are out of the rotation, the Pistons have 11 rotation-caliber players. The last two seasons, Frank preferred a smaller rotation, usually playing about nine guys regularly. Most coaches, particularly coaches of good teams, prefer smaller rotations to give players some predictability, let them get comfortable with specific roles and make managing the game and substitutions easier.
Cheeks experimented with large rotations with the first two Portland Trail Blazers rosters he coached, so it’s possible he’s comfortable managing 10 or 11 players who see the court every night. Depending on the style he wants Detroit to play, the Pistons either will make use of more depth than they have in quite some time or Cheeks will have to start his coaching tenure with some tough decisions about whom to leave out of the rotation.
Incidentally, here are my predictions for the rotation to start the season:
- Starters – Jennings/Billups/Smith/Monroe/Drummond
- Rotation – Stuckey/Caldwell-Pope/Singler/Jerebkueva (I think they’ll split backup frontcourt minutes depending on team needs — offense or defense — on a given night)
- Out of the rotation – Bynum/Datome/Mitchell/Siva/Villarebko
Some notes on why I think that way: I think ultimately Stuckey falls out of the rotation in favor of Bynum, but I think the Pistons will give him an early opportunity to play both guard spots in order to try to build a market for him; I think Billups only plays about 15 minutes per game, so the bulk of the shooting guard minutes will go to Stuckey/Caldwell-Pope/possibly Singler at times; I think Datome’s shooting (if it carries over to the NBA) will eventually get him into the rotation, perhaps at Singler’s expense, but Singler will win the backup SF job out of camp; I think there’s little chance that Mitchell or Siva play much this season.