Fans spend a lot of time arguing about who should start games, but little talking about who should finish them, which is far more important, especially for a young team like the Detroit Pistons.
“Clutch” time is now an NBA stat and is basically defined as the last five minutes of a close game. The Pistons were not good in the clutch last season, as they had the 27th-ranked offense and just the 22nd-ranked defense in close games.
Cade Cunningham had some big moments in the clutch last season and showed that he is not afraid to take the big shot or have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line, but outside of him, the team really struggled to close out games, which is part of the learning curve for such a young roster.
This kind of leadership sets him apart from some of his peers, and is one of the reasons the Detroit Pistons should improve in these situations next season.
The Pistons have suffered some early injuries that could affect the rotation, but once they are back at full strength, who will be in their clutch-time lineup?
Detroit Pistons: The clutch-time lineup
When it comes to the last few minutes of close games, lineups will often be decided by what is working and who has the hot hand. This time of the game is not just about scoring and big shots, but also about getting stops, so there will be times when Detroit goes with a defensive stopper over a guy who has been hitting shots or rotates players for offense/defense.
But more times than not, I think this is the lineup we’ll see to close out games:
- Cade Cunningham
- Alec Burks
- Saddiq Bey
- Bojan Bogdanovic
- Isaiah Stewart
This lineup is probably the Pistons’ most balanced offensively, as it has three guys who can spread the floor and let Cade Cunningham go to work. We know Cade is going to be initiating the offense in these situations, looking for his own shot in the mid-range and post, but also trying to set up his teammates.
With Bojan, Burks, and Bey on the floor, it will be harder for defenses to collapse and double team Cunningham, and when they do, he now has the shooters that can make teams pay.
This may not be Detroit’s best defensive lineup, but Burks gives the Pistons more size than Ivey and he, Bey and Bogdanovic are probably a little more versatile on the perimeter. This would put a lot of pressure on Isaiah Stewart to be the anchor of the defense, and leaves the Pistons a little undersized. But Stewart is the team’s most versatile defender and putting a guy like Nerlens Noel in there would limit Detroit offensively.
Burks and Bey were tied for second in the NBA for most games played in the clutch last season, though Bey had far-better numbers overall and really stepped up in these situations.
Hopefully, the addition of two veteran shooters will make clutch time easier for Cade Cunningham and turn a few of last seasons’ close losses into wins.