Looking at how the best Detroit Pistons Lineups are Going To Work in 2017/18


The Pistons have made some pretty significant changes to their team this past offseason, losing their top two minutes leaders for the previous two years in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris, as well as bench stalwart Aron Baynes, while bringing in Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway, and the re-acquiring Anthony Tolliver. The Pistons figure to have the potential to mess around with their lineups quite a bit as there are many players on the team with positional and role versatility. Also, given the loss of three guys who were such stalwarts in Stan Van Gundy's rotation, it is possible that he is willing to tinker a bit more with the lineups. So let's look at various lineups that the Pistons could roll out this year, and how they may work.

Disclaimer

Once again, the assumption going into the year is that Reggie Jackson will be back and more or less better than ever. We can't know if this is the case or not until the season starts, but it is the line the Pistons are pushing both in what they say and what they have done in terms of roster building. So just assume that everything involving Reggie Jackson comes with the asterisk "Provided he is indeed healthy and back in full form."

Lineup 1: Jackson/Langston Galloway/Reggie Bullock/Anthony Tolliver/Andre Drummond

There is an argument, and a decent case at that, that the Pistons should do their best to separate Jackson and Tobias Harris as much as possible, instead, pairing Tobias with the pass first Ish Smith whenever possible. This lineup seeing regular minutes would be a good way to separate them while still maximizing their abilities. This lineup is probably as close as the Pistons can get to the ideal spread pick, and roll lineup, (Luke Kennard could theoretically be swapped in for Galloway FWIW) with Jackson and Drummond surrounded by three outstanding outside shooters. Jackson would have no one on the floor to take away touches from him, and the spacing provided would be perfect for allowing Jackson to do his beloved patient snaking into the paint looking for openings. This lineup is likely as close as the Pistons can get to a theoretically "un-guardable" lineup, where there isn't a right answer. The Jackson/Drummond pick-and-roll is too much of a threat on its own not to draw consistent extra defenders, and none of the three guys spotting up are guys you want to give open looks.

The downside to this lineup is two-fold. First off, it likely would not be viable for terribly long stretches due to the enormous offensive responsibility that would fall upon Reggie Jackson, as almost all offensive creation duties would fall on him, and as such, it would be exhausting to run for too long. The other downside is that it is not clear how this unit would fare defensively, Jackson wasn't a terrific defender even before his knees fell apart last year, Tolliver is 32, and Reggie Bullock plays hard, but he isn't a guy you want going against any real wing scoring threat. Galloway and Andre are solid on that end, but unless Andre makes a vast improvement this year those two alone can't hold down the defensive end of the floor. This unit would be one that you hope just scores so much that it doesn't matter.

The other good thing about this lineup would be the guys who are not in it.

Lineup 2: Smith/Avery Bradley/Stanley Johnson/Harris/Jon Leuer

This would be the other side of the "split Harris and Jackson up" possibility. (FWIW, I think that Jackson and Harris will work just fine together this year. But there are a lot of people who believe that they won't.) Bradley is the one here who probably is the most questionable to be here instead of the other lineup, and my main reasoning for that would be that this lineup has more need of offensive punch, and Bradley provides a lot more of that than Galloway. In the other lineup, the idea is "three guys who can shoot spot-up threes while Jackson/Drummond run pick and rolls over and over." But there isn't going to be such an apparent staple in this lineup other than "Give the ball to Tobias and hope he scores" and as such Bradley's extra versatility would be useful here. The theoretical rotation would then have Bradley, Johnson, and Harris all starting, but making early exits for the other rotation, and then essentially a hockey substitution back to this to let Jackson and Drummond rest.

The goal of this lineup is to play frenzied defense and run at every opportunity. Bradley and Johnson will be an awesome defensive pairing regardless of those around them, and even though Smith has his flaws, he does create a lot of turnovers. And when turnovers are created, this group would be deadly. Tobias and Leuer are both very well conditioned athletes with good hands and finishing skills to finish fast breaks, and also both thrive on isolations against mismatches created by running. Stanley and Bradley will provide excellent defensive play and are both the sort of manic effort guys that they can run all day, and Ish Smith is one of the best fast break point guards in the NBA.

There are a couple of downsides to this group as well. First off, it would likely struggle on the glass, and as such perhaps struggle to create fast break opportunities without turnovers. Leuer and Harris both battle and hold their own, but with Harris, at the four and Leuer at the five they would both be a bit undersized, and there are some matchups which would be pretty problematic. The other problem is how they would score in the half court beyond "give the ball to Tobias." Ish Smith is a total non-shooter, Stanley and Leuer are bad shooters, and Tobias is only okay, leaving Bradley as the only plus shooter in the lineup. Things would get cramped quickly in the half court, and it would perhaps be a fatal lack of spacing. Tobias' wizardry as an isolation scorer combined with Bradley running off of a lot of screens can cover some of that, but no matter what, this lineup would have to count on some bad shooters hitting some shots.

This would be a lineup that would be devastating on the break, and be very good at creating those fast break opportunities, but if they ever came against a matchup that didn't let them get on the break consistently, whether by taking care of the ball or crashing the glass, they could get killed.

Lineup 3: Galloway/Bradley/Bullock/Johnson/Boban Marjanovic

This lineup is relatively sure never to see the light of day under SVG's watch, but I would still love to see it. Essentially, the "BOBAN SMASH" lineup, the idea here is put Boban on the floor with some athletes who can play manic defense around him and provide spacing on offense. You could swap defense for offense with Tolly at the four over Johnson here, but I like the idea of Johnson for the crazy switch-ability that could be happening. Switching would be critical to the defense, with the notion being that Boban more or less plays a zone in the paint where he belongs, and you then count on the other four guys who are all long and active athletes to keep the perimeter covered. Then on offense, the formula is simple: dump it into the post and watch the big man go to work. In theory, there is enough shooting on the floor to give Boban plenty of space to work and let him play to his strengths defensively.

The downside to this lineup is pretty clear, in that it would be betting hugely on Boban's limited sample size being the real deal. As without a proper primary ball handler on the floor, this offense would struggle to create much outside of Boban post-ups. As such, teams would likely be aggressive in sending help at Boban, which would require whip-smart passing from the big Serbian. Boban has shown good ability as a passer, but he would have to make good on those flashes.

This lineup really would depend on Boban, if he can be the same force out of the post in real minutes against real competition as he has in his limited playing time, then this lineup is the best way to maximize that ability. If he isn't able to replicate that success though, this is a lineup that will score very rarely. That said, I would really like this as a goofy look to throw out for a few minutes now and then because it would be hard to plan for since it would be a fairly unique strategy on both offense and defense, (offensively, of course, running your offense through a post up powerhouse is only unique in today's NBA).

Lineup 4: Smith/Galloway/Harris/Leuer/Boban Marjanovic

If SVG sticks with his beloved nine man rotation and Johnson/Harris are the starting forwards, (which is tentatively word from insiders at this point), then this is likely the proverbial bench mob of the next season, with all bench players and Harris as the holdover from the starting lineup. And to be honest, I'm not sure about some of the fit here.

The biggest problem I see is the Ish/Boban mix, as Ish is a point guard who is most effective running the floor at every opportunity, while Boban is not that kind of player. In theory, though, this lineup could have a nice yin and yang to it. With Ish and Leuer leading the charge on fast break frenzies, while Boban and Tobias can take over as the primary options in the half court. I do like the Ish/Galloway backcourt of this group, if a bit undersized, they are both active defenders (though Galloway is quite a bit better than Ish) and have some good speed. With Boban and Leuer up front, this lineup should clean the glass very well on both ends of the court as well, and in some lineups, their size up front may be overwhelming, especially considering that Harris has decent size as a small forward.

Defensively Ish and Galloway should be able to mostly hold down the perimeter, though the Harris/Leuer combo of forwards is a bit iffy. Once again, a lot will depend on whether or not Boban is the real deal. If he is, then the Pistons could well find themselves with a killer bench mob. If not, then they may have to re-work their rotations because Boban is not a very clean fit with this group. The idea will be that even though the fit isn't that clean, Boban is just so good that it doesn't matter.

What do you think? What lineups would you like to see used? How would these work?

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