Detroit Pistons' official beat writer Keith Langlois has been working on a roster breakdown by position recently, in a five-part series he calls "Pistons by position."
They are largely unremarkable pieces (not a criticism) that rundown the Pistons' players by position and how things have changed during the offseason. But one thing we might be able to glean from the output is just how the organization plans to utilize a roster that still lacks balance.
Considering the fact that Langlois has greater access than anyone and works for the organization (again, not a criticism), I think it might be productive to examine just how he sees the rotation shaping up.
So far, Langlois has covered four of the five major positions -- point guard, shooting guard, center and power forward. It is unsurprising that he saved the small forward position for last as I think most observers would agree it is the team's most puzzling position.
Let's breakdown the breakdowns after the jump
Unsurprisingly, the point guard situation amounts to a heavy reliance on second-year player Brandon Knight and veteran Will Bynum. Stuckey, Langlois said, might not be available to spell Knight or take as much pressure off of him, according to Langlois:
Behind Knight, Will Bynum returns and finds a greater opportunity for minutes than a season ago. With Ben Gordon traded to Charlotte, the ability to shift Rodney Stuckey off of the ball to soak up minutes at point guard when Knight needs to sit could be limited unless rookies Kim English and Khris Middleton are immediately ready.
At shooting guard things get a little more interesting. Incumbent starter, and the team's second-best player, Rodney Stuckey returns and a lot will be on his shoulders, I'm sure. I was under the assumption that, the roster being what it is, new arrival Corey Maggette (who came to Detroit in the Ben Gordon trade) was going to be forced to play out of position at shooting guard as opposed to his natural small forward spot. But Langlois reveals other plans:
Keeping Stuckey healthy will be more important than ever with Ben Gordon's trade to Chicago leaving depth at shooting guard in the hands of second-round rookies Khris Middleton and Kim English.
English might be more ready to contribute early, given his age (24 when camp opens) and experience as a four-year college player following a year of prep school. But Middleton, 21 and drafted five spots ahead of English at No. 39, began to show marked improvement from his Summer League showing in the weeks leading up to training camp.
I'm surprised to see Middleton penciled in here as opposed to Maggette, especially with the team so thin in the experience department and the fact that Middleton is coming off of a serious injury. But it's obvious their ready to trust Kim English early (first guard off the bench, according to Mike Payne).
The center breakdown makes plain that the Pistons have different developmental plans for rookie Andre Drummond than they had for Brandon Knight. Knight was very much thrown into the fire last season and was charged with starting, leading his team and playing through his (many) mistakes. Yet the center breakdown focuses on Greg Monroe and talk of Drummond is reserved for calibrating proper expectations.
"I don't think it's fair to put an expectation on [Drummond] in terms of his contribution," David said. "What is fair to put on Andre is what we expect of him from an effort standpoint, what we expect of him from a competing standpoint. When you look at somebody who is Andre's size, who has Andre's athleticism and his agility, if they simply play hard every day out here, give a great effort, good things are going to happen."
"We'll be patient with the skills," Frank said, "but on the glass, running the floor, screening, willingness to be coached, there's no patience with that. From a skills standpoint and learning the league, there's got to be patience with that. This is a huge learning curve. This is an unforgiving and tough league. Andre is young. He's still learning a great deal. This really is a long-term proposition."
The article also explicitly puts Drummond on equal footing with fellow rookie Slava Kravtsov.
Lumping the two building blocks of the franchise together at the center position means power forward is focused on Jason Maxiell with the primary reserve being Jonas Jerebko. And there is no word about Jerebko possibly getting additional minutes at the small forward spot.
That leaves Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye competing for the remaining scraps of time at the position. The fact that Villanueva has fallen so far out of favor that it is stated plainly that he's essentially out of the rotation is a mild surprise. Even more surprising, in a bad way, is that the team still views Daye as some kind of stretch four.
"Austin is a 7-foot, talented, skilled guy," [Lawrence] Frank said. "You're looking for a set position for him and he's played them all other than one or five. The focus we want to give him is to play the four. We've seen him a great deal at the perimeter spots, but we think his greatest ability can be at the four."
So in the end if Langlois is to be believed here is how the roster will shake out at least in the beginning of the year (with major rotation players in bold).
Point guard -- Brandon Knight, Will Bynum
Shooting guard -- Rodney Stuckey, Kim English, Khris Middleton
Small forward -- Tayshaun Prince, Corey Maggette, Kyle Singler
Power forward -- Jason Maxiell, Jonas Jerebko, Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye
Center -- Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Slava Kravtsov