Detroit Pistons: The man behind the recent bench surge

Alec Burks #5 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Alec Burks #5 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons still aren’t winning many games, but they have had a mini-turnaround of late, playing competitive basketball and keeping games close.

This is all while being decimated with injuries, as Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Stewart are still out, and they’ve also had to sit Bojan Bogdanovic, Saddiq Bey, Jaden Ivey and now possibly Marvin Bagley III.

The reason the Pistons have been able to hang in these games is mostly because of improved play from Killian Hayes, MBIII and the bench, which has done a 180 over the last eight games.

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In the first 14 games of the season, the bench was awful and was costing Detroit games, as they were producing next to nothing and forcing the starters to play big minutes.

But since then, Detroit’s second unit has been one of the best in the NBA and there is really just one player behind it.

Detroit Pistons: Alec Burks is one of the NBA’s best bench players

The Pistons’ bench has outscored the opponents’ in seven straight games, which is one of the reasons they haven’t lost by double digits in that time.

In that time, the Pistons have gone from dead last in bench scoring to 15th overall, a huge jump. That is mostly because of Alec Burks, who is averaging 16.3 points per game since returning from injury.

Burks is still working himself into shape and hasn’t even played big minutes yet, but is still 3rd in bench scoring in the NBA, just behind rookie Bennedict Mathurin and forward Christian Wood.

The most impressive part is that Burks is only playing 21.3 minutes per game on average, far less than Mathurin (28) or Wood (25), so we could see him lead all bench scorers at some point with increased minutes.

Burks is not only shooting 42 percent from the 3-point line, but he’s getting to the free-throw line at a career-best rate, shooting over six free throws per game, which leads all bench players.

It’s still unclear if the Detroit Pistons view Burks as trade-bait or a long-term piece, but they are sure to be getting some calls the way he is playing right now. It’s just a shame that Burks came back just as the injuries started to pile up, as it would be nice to see how he fits with Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey before making any determination about his future with the team.

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