Who should be in the Pistons’ starting lineup?

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 28: Andre Drummond
AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 28: Andre Drummond /

The Detroit Pistons’ starting lineup was expected to return intact next season, but after a series of stunning moves the roster is in flux.

At the end of the regular season it seemed the Detroit Pistons’ starting lineup for the 2017-18 was a known quantity. Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer (or Tobias Harris) and Andre Drummond were all big favorites to return the following season, and surely two of the five wouldn’t depart.

As it happened, two of this five-man unit did depart. Marcus Morris was traded to the Boston Celtics in an opportunistic move for Avery Bradley, and the Pistons could afford to let Caldwell-Pope walk for nothing in free agency.

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It was a twist nobody saw coming, but the starting lineup has suddenly been overhauled and improved at the shooting guard position as Bradley replaced Caldwell-Pope, and the forward rotation is the spot with the most questions.

While Tobias Harris was the Pistons’ best player much of last season, he was buried on the bench for the final four months of the year. Morris’ departure will force him into the starting lineup, whether it be in the small forward or power forward spot. Marcus Morris’ exit will also bump Stanley Johnson up in the hierarchy.

This means there are two possible starting lineups, both with very different looks. The first possible lineup features Jackson and Bradley in the back court, with Johnson at the three and Tobias Harris at the four and Andre Drummond in the middle.

This lineup may appeal to Stan Van Gundy’s desire to keep Harris at the four (72 percent of his minutes last year came at the four), and he’s indicated an interest in playing Johnson significant minutes at the three and even the four in some small lineups. This could end up being Van Gundy’s go-to lineup, assuming Johnson takes the steps necessary to justify his coach’s faith in him.

Johnson played almost half his minutes last season at the shooting guard spot, which is not his ideal position. At 6’7″ and 245 lbs, he possesses the size and strength to handle his position defensively against threes and even fours, while that bulk didn’t aid him on that end against smaller wings and guards.

In case you’re wondering, over a small sample size of just 205 possessions, the quartet of Jackson, Johnson, Harris and Drummond was outscored by 6.3 points per 100 possessions.

The other lineup, if Van Gundy opts to go with a more veteran presence, would feature Jackson and Bradley in the backcourt, Drummond at center, and Tobias Harris at the three and Jon Leuer at the four.

This would require Harris to play out of his accustomed position with the Pistons and slot into the three rather than the four, and it would plug Jon Leuer back into the starting lineup. Leuer struggled as a starter last year and flourished off the bench, so this starter role might be more than he is capable of handling.

As for the quartet of Pistons from last year that comprise this lineup, they outscored their opponents by 11.2 points per 100 possessions. This was an even smaller sample of 196 possessions.

Next: Projecting the Pistons 2017-18 three-point shooting

What’s your preference? Which five-man unit would you like to see the Pistons start to open the 2017-18 season?