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Merry Christmas Pistons’ fans! Monroe will start versus Pacers

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For the first time since last April, Pistons’ fans will get an extended look at a starting line-up of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
When I was a kid, Santa Claus (spoiler alert: my parents) gave my two brothers and I an electric train set for Christmas. But we were so enamored by our other toys that we never even noticed it!

So they decided to put it away and give it to us for Christmas the next year.

The news that, in the wake of waiving Josh Smith, Greg Monroe will start at power forward alongside Andre Drummond, reminds me of that delayed Christmas gift of long ago. While Detroit has had these two very productive big men for the better part of two seasons, they have started together alongside a traditional small forward for only 16 regular season games. Finally fans will get to see an extended roll out of the “Drumroe” line-up.

While the Pistons’ faithful will still have to wait until the day after Christmas when the Pacers play at the Palace, there have been several reasons for the long-delayed opportunity to fully enjoy their new “toy.”

After Joe Dumars nabbed Drummond with the ninth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, expectations among many were that the rookie was too raw to merit a regular spot in the rotation. When he won the backup center role in preseason, and made a significant impact off the bench from the beginning (6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in 17.3 minutes per game for November of 2012), hopes for a “Drumroe” debut heated up.

Then-Head Coach Lawrence Frank was reluctant to shift Monroe to power forward and start Drummond at center right away, but apparently that move was in the works when Drummond suffered a back injury that sidelined him for 22 games beginning in early February of 2013. But once he was able to play again, Frank started Drummond at center and Monroe at power forward for the final 10 games of the season. The immediate results were promising. Monroe averaged 17.8 ppg and 9.9 rpg in 33.9 mpg. And Drummond averaged 11.1 ppg and 8.2 rpg in 25.8 minutes.

Frank was let go after a disappointing 29-54 record, and Dumars infamously signed Josh Smith to a 4-year/$54 million dollar deal to play small forward. While Drummond and Monroe did well enough, Smith set career marks for inefficient scoring, and the win-loss ledger showed zero improvement in 2013-14.

Nevertheless, there were six outings when Monroe and Drummond started with Singler instead of Smith manning the small forward slot. While this also was a small sample size, the reviews were not at all disappointing. Monroe averaged 16.5 ppg and 9.3 rpg in 34.8 mpg. And Drummond exploded for 17.8 ppg and 17.3 rpg in 32.7 mpg.

What was Detroit’s win-loss record in those 16 games? They went 6-10, a .375 rate that over a season would result in 31 wins. While this data also is too little basis for making any final pronouncements, it certainly does not indicate that starting Monroe and Drummond together is undeserving of an extensive trial run.

With Smith’s heavy usage no longer a feature of the Pistons’ offense, the expectation is that Coach Stan Van Gundy “will rely heavily on [Monroe] in the post the rest of the season.”

"He's been our best low-post scorer," Van Gundy said. "That's the main thing that he's brought. But he's also rebounded the ball very well. He's one of the top rebounders in the league. So that's a pretty good combination."

According to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, Monroe will continue to take up most of the minutes at backup center when Drummond goes to the bench. And while Joel Anthony may see more time on the floor at center, and Jonas Jerebko should play more at power forward, Van Gundy also intends to utilize a “small ball” line-up for "at least half the game."

In any case, Merry Christmas Pistons’ fans! It looks like you’ll finally get a chance to play with “Drumroe” for at least a few months.