The Detroit Pistons will have several interesting battles for minutes next season, including at the forward position.
Saddiq Bey has one of the starting forward spots locked up, and the other could go to Isaiah Livers or Marvin Bagley III, depending on how Dwane Casey wants to use his bigs.
But the backup minutes are up for grab with Isaiah Livers, Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox (and to a lesser extend Kelly Olynyk) trying to show that they deserve a big role in the rotation.
One of my favorite Twitter memes is “Start, bench, cut,” which is an offshoot of the famous “Kiss, Marry, Kill” game (that’s the PG-13 version) but with less murder and significantly less kissing.
You get three players and have to choose which one to start, which one to bench and which one to cut, a game that seems appropriate when it comes to Livers, Diallo and Knox, as that is exactly what might happen.
Detroit Pistons: Start, bench, cut with Isaiah Livers, Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox
Start: Isaiah Livers
I’d say Livers has the clearest path to minutes, and I could definitely see a scenario where he ends up in the starting lineup at some point next season, especially if coach Casey decides he needs more shooting around Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.
Livers only played in 19 games last season (five as a starter) but shot over 42 percent from 3-point range, a skill the Pistons desperately need.
He looked great in Summer League and is the type of versatile 3-and-D player the Pistons need more of on the wing. Putting Livers with Bey makes some sense as well, as it would allow Saddiq to defend power forwards, which is probably his best spot on the defensive end.
Whether he starts or not, Livers is clearly the frontrunner for minutes of these three and will likely get plenty of run for the Detroit Pistons next season.
Bench: Kevin Knox
This is probably surprising, as Hamidou Diallo has been better so far in his career than Knox, who could end up being a complete waste of a roster spot.
But Knox has better size and has shown that he can shoot, though he hasn’t done it consistently. He’s also on a favorable contract with a team option for next season, so if he doesn’t work out next year, the Pistons can just cut him without losing anything. If he does work out, the Pistons have him at a great price.
Knox is younger and may be one of those guys who just needs a change of scenery and a chance to get going. The best version of him would be more valuable than the best version of Diallo, which we may have already seen.
To be honest, I think there is a high chance that neither Knox nor Diallo are on the Pistons’ roster after next season, but I’d rather take a risk on the unknown, and Knox was a top-10 pick for a reason.
Cut: Hamidou Diallo
Diallo is far more athletic than Knox and a better defender, he’s also a guy who can finish above the rim in transition and the Pistons don’t have many of those.
But Diallo isn’t great in the half court on either end, and has yet to show at any point in his career that he can shoot. If Diallo could shoot the 3-point shot at even a league average rate, he’d get the nod here, but if he could do that he probably wouldn’t have fallen to the middle of the second round in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Diallo shot just 24 percent from 3-point range last season and the Detroit Pistons need more wings that can shoot. Diallo will also be an unrestricted free agent after next season, so if Detroit doesn’t end up trading him, it’s possible he’ll walk for nothing.
Livers is the only one of the three with a clear path to minutes due to his 3-point shooting, so Diallo and Knox will likely be one of the more interesting training camp battles to watch for next season, where it’s possible the start, bench, cut game will play out in real life.