Stan Van Gundy brought his most productive player off the bench last season. The Pistons traded two incumbent starters for one new one. Their starting point guard was outplayed by the point guard on the bench. His starting power forward seemingly ran out of gas after playing big minutes for the first time in his career.
So, yeah, the Pistons starting lineup has a lot of question marks.
Anyone looking to Stan Van Gundy to provide some clarity during the dog days of summer would be sorely disappointed, however.
In a piece about Tobias Harris (Detroit’s most productive player who spent most of last season coming off the bench), Van Gundy did not tip his hand on whether Harris will re-enter the starting lineup full time.
“Tobias is a starter,” Van Gundy said on Pistons.com. “There’s no question that he’s a starter. I think a lot of teams bring a starter off the bench. You’re trying to get the mix that you want.”
OK, so that’s one starter, but he might be coming off the bench.
Then there is Andre Drummond who will be a starter as long as he is with the team, and Reggie Jackson who was a starter once he came back from injury despite being among the least effective players in the NBA last season and getting outplayed by his backup Ish Smith. And you can bet that Avery Bradley, whom the Pistons traded Marcus Morris for to replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, will be in the starting lineup.
So that’s three starters plus a fourth that might actually come off the bench.
“In my mind, Jon (Leuer) is a starter. And then I think guys like Stanley (Johnson), Reggie Bullock, Ish (Smith) – those guys have shown that they can start. I think Langston (Galloway) is capable of starting,” Van Gundy said.
So, wait, that’s five more starters, plus the four we already had, but one of them could come off the bench.
The closest Van Gundy came to projecting a position and role for Harris, again, the Pistons’ most effective player last season, was saying that his role will essentially be up to everyone else.
“A lot of that depends on him but it also depends on how the league goes in terms of who you’re playing against. But also how our other guys go and where our needs are in terms of Stanley and Jon and Henry (Ellenson) and Reggie Bullock and those other guys. Tobias is a guy we’re lucky with because he can play either spot. Among those other guys, as they compete for minutes, that’s going to determine more than anything where Tobias ends up playing,” Van Gundy said.
So if Stanley Johnson excels in his role at small forward then maybe Harris is a starting small forward. If Jon Leuer is the Leuer of the first half of the season maybe Harris comes off the bench. If Henry Ellenson earns minutes maybe Harris is stuck playing primarily small forward. If Luke Kennard and Reggie Bullock are needed for their perimeter shooting, maybe he’s strictly a power forward.
Versatility is great, and nobody on the team is more versatile than Harris (offensively, at least). But it’d be nice if Van Gundy was trying to build a team around Harris’ strengths instead of trying to fit Harris’ diverse skillset into the gaps on a flawed roster.
Maybe everyone’s super effective and it will be a great problem to have. What this starting lineup will be on opening night, and how long it will last, is anyone’s guess.