A tale of two Detroit Pistons lineups

Jerami Grant #9 of the Detroit Pistons and Saddiq Bey #41 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Jerami Grant #9 of the Detroit Pistons and Saddiq Bey #41 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons seems to be having almost two separate rotating lineups as they end the season. One  features its top veterans, while the other is all young players.

To paraphrase that noted basketball expert Charles Dickens, for the Detroit Pistons, it is the best of times and the worst of times.

If you simply looked at Detroit’s record, it has been one of the worst seasons in Pistons history. You would have to go back to Dick Vitale’s final season as coach in 1980 for a season with so few wins.

But in terms of having young, promising talent, the Pistons have pretty much the best of times they have had since the mid-80s, when their future NBA title teams were starting out.

But a team of young players does not win a lot of games. Having a bunch of ‘promising’ young players means the future might be bright but, to win in the here and now, some veterans are needed.

Young players also need older vets to show them how to act as professional basketball players. Until you hit the NBA, almost all the players were in school and played when class was over.

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is well aware he can not go with an all under-25 team. It would not help the youngsters grow and it would belie his promise that the team would be competitive.

Even with the departure of veteran leaders Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose and Delon Wright, Detroit still has the likes of Jerami Grant, Wayne Ellington, Mason Plumlee and Cory Joseph as experienced players.

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With the season winding down, should Detroit Pistons trot out their best lineups?

With even the pretense of trying to make the NBA playoffs disappearing, Detroit has had an interesting way to finish the season.

Instead of doing the Oklahoma City thing, and literally sending all their top players home and still collect a paycheck while the Thunder team on the court embarrasses themselves, the Pistons seem to rotate lineups.

Witness the starting lineup the Pistons put out for its game against the Atlanta Hawks on April 26:

  • Jerami Grant
  • Saddiq Bey
  • Wayne Ellington
  • Cory Joseph
  • Mason Plumlee

Detroit cruised to a 100-86 victory against what is currently the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. It is also the last win the Pistons have had.

In its next game, against Dallas, even though the starting lineup had obviously done well in the previous contest, only Bey was a starter for the second game in a row.

  • Saddiq Bey
  • Killian Hayes
  • Sekou Doumbouya
  • Isaiah Stewart
  • Josh Jackson

The ‘Kiddie Korps’ lineup was competitive with Dallas but simply did not (or more likely, have not learned yet) make big plays down the stretch to win games.

The Pistons went with the young lineups against Charlotte and Orlando as well, with the same results, losses but they did not embarrass themselves.

After Monday’s defeat to a Magic team trying to tank even worse than the Pistons, coach Dwane Casey said youth was a factor in the loss:

Orlando was the first game of a back-to-back. The question is, does Casey now rotate in the veteran group vs. Charlotte, as the Kiddie Korps looks a bit winded with all the playing time they have received recently.

It would make sense. The Hornets are fighting to make the playoffs and LaMelo Ball recently returned from an injury so they will come to Little Caesars fired up for a win.

There has been no announcement of Jerami Grant or Mason Plumlee being done for the season, so one would expect, at some point, the all-vet lineup should make a return.

And even when the older players start, it’s not like the rookies rot on the bench. In the Hawks win, Stewart, Hayes, Frank Jackson and Hamiduo Diallo all played significant minutes.

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And the older players have something to play for as well.

Grant wants to continue to work on being an offensive leader, Ellington is a free agent at the end of the season, he wants to show teams he can still play. Joseph is looking at a team option for next year, he certainly wants to show the Pistons his worth.

With Detroit pretty solidly at the bottom of the NBA standings, the club can afford to win a game (maybe two?) and still have lots of ping pong balls for the Draft Lottery.

It is also a culture issue.

Yes, nothing tangentially is gained by winning at this point in the season. However, to end what has been overall a positive year with 10 straight losses would leave a bad taste in the mouths’ of the players and coaches.  It would be a disheartening way to end things for all the progress the Pistons’ rookies have made.

And vets like Grant and Plumlee are expected to be key players on next year’s team. They need to play with the emerging players like Hayes, Stewart and Bey.

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So, the bottom line, expect to see the Detroit Pistons rotation of starting lineups to continue. Overall, it would be for the best.