The Detroit Pistons were counting on depth to help them overcome their lack of elite talent this season and so far that plan has flopped.
Detroit has had a ton of injuries, which hasn't helped, but lately, the bench has also been in a disturbing freefall that has been a huge part of this 17-game losing streak. What started as a strength has turned into a massive liability, as the Pistons' bench has a -5.4 net rating which is 29th in the NBA. The bench has the 19th-ranked offense (and falling) and the 23rd-ranked defense in the league.
It was most evident in the last loss to the Cavaliers when the bench was abysmal outside of Bojan Bogdanovic, something that has been a recent trend. If you take away Bogdanovic, the Detroit bench scored eight total points against Cleveland and was a combined -68.
Hopefully, getting Bogey back will push some depth to the bench, but right now, the entire Pistons' bench is plummeting at the same time and Monty Williams has not had any answers.
Detroit Pistons bench in a disturbing freefall
What in the world happened to Alec Burks? He looked like one of the best bench scorers in the league before injuring his forearm but since then he's been unplayable.
In his last nine games, Burks has averaged 8.9 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists on just 29 percent shooting overall and 26 percent from 3-point range, his specialty. His defense has been horrible which ultimately led to him being pulled from the rotation altogether.
It's possible the injury is still bothering him, as Burks has never shot this poorly in his career, but right now he's a liability and losing their best bench scorer (Bogdanovic will be a starter eventually) has been a huge blow to the Pistons.
After a red-hot start to the season, Marcus Sasser is another guy who has been in a freefall. We knew the rookie would eventually come back to earth, but this has been quite a crash.
Sasser has averaged 6.2 points, 3.0 assists and 1.3 rebounds in his last 11 games, while shooting just 36 percent from the floor and 29 percent from long range. Sasser's best skill is his scoring, so if he is not hitting shots, there isn't much reason to have him out there. He hasn't been hitting them lately, and if coach Williams does shorten his bench, Sasser might be the next to be yanked from the rotation.
Sasser has gotten a lot of compliments from Monty Williams and has shown promise overall, but he's in a shooting slump and should not be playing more minutes than Jaden Ivey.
Marvin Bagley III
You could almost just copy and paste the same thing about MBIII, who was playing really well at the beginning of the season but has averaged just 7.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists over his last seven games.
I put some of this on Monty Williams or whoever made the decision pull MBIII from the rotation in favor of James Wiseman, as Wiseman might literally be the worst player in the NBA and Bagley III can at least get you a bucket.
But he played just seven minutes against the Cavs and recorded zero points. I'd think the countdown to some type of outburst from MBIII has already started.
Fans waited a long time for Livers to return and for some reason thought he was going to make a big difference as a 3-and-D player off the bench. So far, that has not been the case, as Livers has averaged just 7.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists in the last six games while shooting 35 percent from the floor and just 33 percent from long range.
This mythical 3-and-D player has never really emerged for the Pistons, as he has either been hurt, mediocre or just plain bad. Livers was hesitant to shoot the ball against the Cavaliers and ended with more turnovers (2) than points (0). He's been getting cooked on defense too, so there really isn't much of an argument for him to be playing more minutes than Ausar Thompson and Jaden Ivey combined, as he did in the recent loss to the Knicks.
Livers has to be given some breathing room, as he is still working his way back from injury, but he really needs to just start letting it fly, as if he is not hitting 3's, there isn't much reason for him to be out there. Between him and Stewart last game, I found myself screaming "SHOOT THE DAMN BALL!" about 10 different times.
The Pistons' starting five actually gave the team a fighting chance in the last two games, but the bench has killed that, which may force coach Williams to shorten his rotation.