Don't shoot the messenger, I'm just relaying a question posed Wednesday by ESPN Insider's Bradford Doolittle, who compiled a list of players who may be playing well but simply aren't fitting in their current role -- a list that starts with Kevin Garnett and includes Andre Drummond:
This is about fit. Drummond has been terrifically efficient, and at times dominant. However, Detroit has been nearly 10 points per 100 possessions worse with Drummond on the floor despite his 21.5 PER. Josh Smith has struggled at the 3 position, but he has played well at 4. Rather than force a big lineup that doesn't work, Maurice Cheeks may be best served by splitting his big-man minutes three ways between Drummond, Smith and Greg Monroe. This would be an expansion of the substitution pattern Cheeks has already been using.
Getting an extra shooter on the floor would help Detroit get off to better starts, and bringing Drummond off the bench gives him more run in a featured offensive role. There is no reason why all three big men can't continue to average 33-to-35 minutes even if they aren't all in the starting lineup.
I still think it's too early for the Pistons to give up on this weird experiment -- you don't invest this much money simply to pull the plug a quarter into the season.
And let's face it: it's not like the Pistons have a viable small forward to plug into the starting lineup if Drummond moves to the bench and Josh Smith slides over. Kyle Singler has been awful, and trusting Gigi Datome (the move I'd make) would be a leap of faith.
More likely, I imagine Cheeks would bump Rodney Stuckey to the starting lineup and play Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the three, which very well might work but still results in a starter playing out of position. And if you're going that route, why not just give Smith a bit more time to get acclimated?
Something else to consider: everyone seems quick to point Smith's struggles defensively, but Drummond hasn't quite lived up to expectations, either. Blocks aren't everything, but they're the easiest metric to compare: his rejections per 36 minutes has fallen from 2.8 as a rookie to just 1.3 this season.
I don't know if he's become tentative because he's worried about foul trouble now that he's playing extended minutes or if he's still just learning the ropes. But for all of his rebounding and steals, he has a long way to go defensively -- and that's going to be the case whether he's starting or coming off the bench.
(Hat-tip: Mr. Barton's FanShot)