The Detroit Pistons have talent, highlighted by Andre Drummond, Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris. But their starters just aren’t cutting it.
The most-used lineup for the Pistons was getting outscored by 12.4 points per 100 possessions. Before their game against the Cavaliers, the starters for the Pistons allowed 1.18 points per defensive possession. By comparison, the worst team defense in the league allowed 1.10 points per possession.
Duncan Smith elaborated on why this has been such a problem for Detroit (via The Athletic):
“The Pistons starters are consistently getting outscored on a quarter by quarter and game by game basis. It’s definitely concerning and no longer just a curiosity.”
There is only one five-man lineup with a positive net rating that has played more than 14 minutes together, per NBA.com.
However, it does not feature any of their stars: Langston Galloway, Luke Kennard, Eric Moreland, Ish Smith and Anthony Tolliver have outscored their opponents by 17.8 points per 100 possessions.
This data is also not to suggest that this is the lineup that the Pistons should feature all of the time. It’s possible that these numbers are inflated due to favorable matchups. Plus, this statistic is operating on a small sample size as four of those five players (everyone except Smith) rank in the bottom 5 in minutes per game for the squad.
But it’s worth taking a deeper dive into whose playing time has helped the team take the lead when deciding which players should be on the court at the same time moving forward.
Tolliver and Galloway, who played together on the Kings, currently lead Detroit in overall net rating. In fact, among all players who have played at least as many minutes per game as Tolliver, the only player who has a better net rating than him is Stephen Curry.
“When I’m on the court, especially if I’m hitting shots, things change. I’m a very confident guy and I’m going to shoot when I’m open — and sometimes when I’m not — and that opens up lanes for Jackson and back-cuts for other guys and lobs for Drummond … I require a lot of attention because of my shooting ability.”
The best two-man lineup who have played at least 100 minutes together for Detroit is when Galloway and Tolliver run the floor together.
Tolliver has also outscored his competitors when he is on at the same time as Moreland, Bradley, Harris, Jackson, Kennard, Drummond and Smith.
Bradley averages 5.7 rebounds per 36 minutes when Tolliver is on the court, but just 2.9 rebounds when Tolliver is not on the court. He averages an outstanding 30.3 points with Galloway on the court, but 18.9 points without him.
Meanwhile, Drummond averages 18.9 rebounds per 36 minutes when Tolliver is on the court and 15.8 rebounds when Tolliver is not on the court. He also averaged 17.2 points with Galloway, but just 14.6 points without him.
Galloway is 6-foot-2, but surprisingly ranks No. 3 overall (behind just DeAndre Jordan and Serge Ibaka) in field goal percentage among all players who have taken at least nine shots in the non-restricted area of the paint, via NBA.com.
Stan Van Gundy will need to soon address the lineup concerns for his team. Perhaps the most obvious answer is the two former Sacramento players who can shoot from long range.