Monty Williams has had fans of the Detroit Pistons ready to pull their hair out at multiple different times this year.
I have written about Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sassers’ minutes and usage. One qualm that fans have in particular is that of the all bench lineup that Williams seems to go to fairly often.
Rather than stagger some of Detroit’s proficient players so that the second unit isn’t lacking firepower, Monty Williams tends to go full hockey shift and use an entire new lineup for the second unit. While I originally was in the camp of never utilizing this strategy, the Pistons’ bench players have actually begun to play well, and now rank among the best in the league, though there are caveats.
The Detroit Pistons' bench has improved
Detroit’s bench is largely made up of Alec Burks, Marcus Sasser, Mike Muscala, Danilo Gallinari, and Ausar Thompson, Killian Hayes and Kevin Knox. There are instances that Ausar, Killian and Kevin find themselves in the starting lineup, but have come off the bench more times than not. At first glance, and throughout the first few months of the season, this is a group that severely lacks any sort of offensive firepower, and thus the fan’s frustration with an all-bench lineup.
However, that really is no longer the case when it comes to this second unit. According to NBA.com, the Detroit Pistons’ bench ranks sixth in the NBA in points per game with 40.4. That's just three points per night away from being in the top three, as Golden State's bench is only averaging 43.8 points per game. In terms of actual shooting and offensive efficiency, Detroit is still cemented in the top ten. In field goals made per night, Detroit comes in at eighth with 14.3 FGs made, and in three point percentage, the Pistons are ninth with our bench players connecting on 36.7 percent of deep attempts. Where Detroit’s bench struggles is in rebounds and turnovers, both being 26th in the NBA.
Now, this could be a double edged sword. Detroit is just outside the top ten in minutes per game utilizing their bench, meaning they are going to their reserves more so than most of the league. This likely means their bench stats are going to be slightly inflated due strictly to usage. It also means we cannot rely on our starters as much as other franchises often do. Other top ten teams in bench minutes per game include the Spurs, Wizards and Blazers and Grizzlies. Not necessarily a group Detroit is proud to be a part of.
Additionally, Detroit’s bench production is likely to decline after the trade deadline. Alec Burks has truly carried this team, bench or not, for the last month and a half. His return to offensive form has been night and day and he single handedly has elevated the Pistons’ bench numbers. While that is great for his trade value, his great play likely just ensures he won’t be with Detroit for much longer. And if Detroit loses him coming off the bench, they lose their most important bench piece.
I was on the bandwagon for hating the all-bench lineups that Monty Williams seemed to love. And for the beginning of the season, that hate was justified. But as of late, Detroit fans can’t really complain about the bench production. They are firmly in the top tier in terms of bench offensive production (defense is another thing for this team as a whole). There are a number of other teams that would sacrifice a lot to have the bench Detroit has been going with over the last month. Unfortunately for the Pistons, they don’t have the other pieces that those teams have.