The Detroit Pistons’ first preseason game is in the books and there is plenty to discuss.
The score was closer than the reality of the game, as the Suns came out red hot and pretty much buried the Pistons in the first quarter. Detroit’s bench would eventually claw its way back, but let’s not get too excited about a comeback against Saben Lee and Bol Bol.
Preseason is mostly for building chemistry, practicing the schemes against live competition and sorting out minutes in the rotation.
The Detroit Pistons have several interesting rotation battles and here is where they stand after the first preseason game. Keep in mind that this could easily shift from game to game.
Killian Hayes vs. Everyone
I wrote earlier in the offseason that this preseason felt like Killian Hayes vs. Everybody, as he is not only trying to beat out Monte Morris, Alec Burks and Marcus Sasser for minutes, but has to overcome extreme negativity from a portion of his own fanbase.
With Morris sitting out last night, Killian was the first off the bench and basically did everything you wanted to see from him. He made plays, was aggressive going to the rim, and made an impact defensively against several positions, ending the game with five steals.
Sasser looked very much the part of the rookie, as he miraculously fouled out in 14 minutes, something I haven’t seen since the Hack-a-Shaq days.
Killian looked confident, poised and showed that he can defend up on the wing, which could help him get some extra minutes off the bench. The backup point guard spot is Morris’ to lose, but if Killian keeps playing like he did last night, it will be hard to keep him out of the rotation.
Marvin Bagley III vs. James Wiseman
Advantage: Bagley III
This one wasn’t even close, as MBIII was the player of the game for the Pistons and Wiseman was borderline useless. I hate to pile on Wiseman, who is clearly going to get a chance to earn minutes, but what exactly does he do well? He’s clumsy on offense and makes slow decisions with the ball, and he was out of position on nearly every possession on defense.
Bagley III had some defensive lapses of his own, including a closeout that was so wild that he nearly ended up crossing half-court while Watanabe flew by him.
But MBIII showed what he does well, which is put the ball in the hole at a prolific rate. He was far more effective as the roll man than Wiseman, catching two lobs just seconds after entering the game and continuing to draw defenders the entire time he was in there.
I thought if all things were equal, the Pistons would give Wiseman the minutes in the name of “potential” but all things are not equal, Bagley III is simply better.
Ausar Thompson vs. Bojan Bogdanovic/Joe Harris
Bogdanovic was out last night, and it’s possible that both he and Thompson will be in the starting lineup if he is healthy to start the season.
One thing was abundantly clear last night, which is that the Pistons are better with Thompson on the floor. Coach Williams left him in there for 39 minutes, possibly as a reward for his defensive effort or just because he gives Detroit the best chance to win.
Joe Harris is a one-dimensional player, so if Thompson does come off the bench, he is way out ahead for those minutes, but it’s going to be hard to keep Ausar out of the starting five, so we may see Bogdanovic come off the bench, especially if he isn’t healthy to start the season.
Competition is a good thing and it appears the Detroit Pistons have much more of it this season. Hayes and Bagley III may have been underdogs for the rotation coming into the offseason, but have shown that they are not going away without a fight.