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The quiet domination of the Pistons' starting five

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While a great deal of focus has been placed on the Pistons' bench woes this season, the mere fact that Detroit has been winning in spite of this shows the presence of an even greater counterbalance. This patchwork starting unit has put in more time together with greater results than you'd expect.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

If you have watched the Detroit Pistons this year, you have probably noticed a pattern in the plus/minus column. If you have not, take a look at the statistics from the overtime victory against the Phoenix Suns (names have been omitted to protect the bench):

***** *********: +17
***** *********: +27
***** *********: +6
***** *********: +11
***** *********: +27
.................................

***** *********: -25
***** *********: -13
***** *********: -22
***** *********: -3

This isn't an aberration, it's a trend. The starters build a big lead, the bench comes in and makes that lead disappear so fast that David Copperfield seethes with jealousy, then the starters come back in and ball like crazy to turn that deficit into an eked-out victory. While this may be maddening and could be exacerbating any problems you have with hair loss, chewed nails, or alcohol intake, it is precisely this pattern that shows why the Pistons’ future is full of sunshine, unicorns, and rainbows.

The play of the Pistons starting five has been a mighty pleasant surprise thus far. Of the top net +\- performances by 5-man lineups this year*, three of the top 10 are Piston performances. Two are our complete starting lineup:

No. 1: @ATL (+28)

No. T-9: MIA (+21)

And one had four of our starters +Anthony Tolliver instead of Ersan Ilyasova:

No. T-5: @POR (+25)

Meanwhile, the best lineup AGAINST us was:

No. T-61: WAS (+13). And that was Sessions/Temple/Porter/Dudley/Hilario (i.e. not our starters’ fault).

Our starting lineup has played an astounding 368 minutes together. The next highest number? San Antonio at 237 minutes. RIDICULOUS! The 19 minutes and 22 seconds per game our starting five has played together this season has only been achieved over the course of a season by one NBA team in the past 15 years - our own 2005-06 Detroit Pistons!

2005-2006 Detroit Pistons: Billups/Hamilton/Prince/Wallace/Wallace (20m 55s/game)

Per Basketball-Reference's Lineup Finder data, our starting five is averaging a +/- of 9.7 points per 100 possessions which is No. 1 among 5-man lineups that have logged over 200 minutes. This number is superior to the surprising 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks, who posted +8.6 last year with a starting five of Teague/Korver/Carroll/Millsap/Horford.

This is amazing that a team starting a guy who was a backup for most of last year (Reggie Jackson), a young guy who is getting better but not quite there yet (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), two guys who are thought to be borderline starters (Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova) and a budding star (Andre Drummond) can be playing this well together.

Frankly, it also means this team is in really good shape. As good as our starting five has been playing, it is one of the youngest in the league and will only get better. It has also put these numbers up against the 8th-most difficult schedule (via teamrankings.com) with a western road trip and a number of back-to-backs.

It also means our bench has been really lousy. Which is also good news. Because despite this bench, we are 10-9. Getting a starting five that works together is difficult. Getting bench help through trades or free agency? Not as much. Especially with Brandon Jennings on the horizon and, eventually, Jodie Meeks, as well.

We have a young starting five that obviously works well together and a bench that was just cobbled together this year and is also decimated by injuries. Our foundation has shown to be successful throughout the first quarter of the season. Through internal growth and focus on improving our bench the Pistons show that they will be a team to be reckoned with in the upcoming years.

Don your sunglasses, Detroit. The future is bright and retinal damage is no joke.

* - All statistics unless otherwise noted provided courtesy of basketball-reference.com.