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Despite Van Gundy’s preference, 10-man rotation works for the Pistons

Stan Van Gundy has enough talent to MAKE it work.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Detroit Pistons Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

With the Pistons as a team being healthy for the first time all year Stan Van Gundy has had the chance to go over a lot of what ailed the Pistons since December. A healthy team presents a new set of challenges, though, and SVG talked about the inherent difficulty in managing a 10-man rotation in Detroit to Keith Langlois:

“The teams (that) play 10 – and there aren’t all that many of them any more – are teams that really don’t have a bench guy that they want to play more than backup minutes,” Van Gundy said. “So it’s 28 up to 36 minutes for all the starters and then the backup at each position.”

The Pistons have a lot of positional fluidity at small forward and power forward, so I understand’s Stan’s reticence to go for a 10-man rotation. But a 10-man rotation is the best option for the Pistons for a few important reasons:

Stanley Johnson isn’t a SG

In SVG’s offensive system, the shooting guard gets the majority of his shots in three ways:

Threes coming off screens:

Making quick reads off of dribble handoffs:

Cuts to the basket:

While Stanley is capable of making these plays, these aren’t where he’s at his most effective offensively. He’s better at making plays off the dribble, using his upper-body strength to get guys off-balance when attacking. Asking him to run the shooting guard sets is setting him up to do poorly offensively.

Defensively, Stanley’s a really good on-ball defender for similar reasons - he can use his strength to not let guys get the shots they want to get. Unfortunately, at the 2, teams can run him through a maze of screens, using his inability to change directions quickly (and, frankly, his lack of experience chasing guys around screens) to get guys open shots:

Stanley’s continued development is too pertinent to the Pistons long-term future to not place him in situations he can handle. Long story short, Stanley should be playing the 3 on both sides of the ball for Detroit.

Tobias Harris isn’t a real PF

No fancy videos for this one, just a picture:

Tobias Harris rebound rate

You need your PF next to Andre Drummond to take some of the rebounding responsibilities and be an average-to-above-average defender (can’t have THREE poor defenders on the court at the same time).

Tobias is rebounding at a career-low rate this season, and has never been a great defender at either the 3 or the 4.

Stan already figured out the best way to lessen these shortcomings: Have him dominate bench units (most of which don’t have a four who can pressure him defensively and/or guard him offensively). But this doesn’t change what Tobias is against starting-caliber players: A super-size 3.

A Reggie-Ish backcourt makes both guys worse

According to NBAWowy, when Reggie and Ish share the backcourt, teams have a 63.2 true shooting percentage, shoot a scorching 47.4 percent (!) from three, and the Pistons give up 113 points per 100 possessions. Conversely, the Pistons shoot 31.6 percent from three and score 105 points per 100 possessions when they share the court.

Granted, that is in a limited sample size (they’ve only shared the court for 31 minutes this season), but that small sample SUCKS.

Offensively, both guys need the ball in their hands to be most effective. Ish’s lack of perimeter spacing clogs driving lanes for Reggie, and Reggie’s proclivity to slow down the offense cuts into Ish’s transition opportunities. Defensively, neither guy can stop dribble penetration, nor cover for the other guy. Put simply, both guys basically need to play next to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to be at their best.

With these concepts in mind, we can make a few rules for the 10-man Pistons rotation SVG should adopt:

  • Current starters (Reggie/KCP/Marcus/Jon/Andre) start
  • No one should play more than 36 minutes
  • Stanley should never play SG
  • If Tobias is up against starters, he should be at the 3, not the 4
  • Reggie and Ish shouldn’t be on the court together
  • No one should play more than 12 straight minutes without a quarter break

With these rules in mind, here’s what a “base configuration” 10-man rotation would look like in Detroit:

Detroit 10-Man Rotation
Detroit 10-Man Rotation

Obviously, games aren’t regimented into two-minute segments, so these wouldn’t be exact numbers, and foul trouble and the like complicates things. However, this substitution pattern avoids “line changes” and follows all of our rules.

The closing lineup of Reggie/KCP/Tobias/Jon/Andre offers the best mix of offense and defense down the stretch of games but isn’t set in stone; Marcus or even Stanley could play in crunch-time if they’ve played well throughout the game. Lineups with Leuer at center or with Dre and Baynes on the court at the same time could be accommodated based on matchups, as well.

This configuration doesn’t put excess pressure on any of the starter-quality wing players; Jon, Tobias, and Marcus are all under 30 minutes a game. Marcus, the “worst” of the three, plays the least, but that doesn’t always have to be the case if he has it going that night. KCP has the longest stretch of consecutive minutes played in the first quarter, but he’s shown that he can handle that workload (and since he’s played so well, the Pistons need him to).

Removing one of Stanley or Bullock, SVG’s preferred 9-man rotation, definitely opens up more playing time for whoever he selects. However, if it’s Stanley, it opens the door to playing him at 2 (KCP has to come off the floor sometime), which we went over. If it’s Bullock, it leaves the three wings to cover four spots - or forces something like a Reggie/Ish/Bullock lineup to give one of those wings rest.

What say you, DBB? Is a 10-man lineup something SVG should try to make work?