The Detroit Pistons are down two soldiers in the ongoing battle of the 2019-2020 NBA season.
Reggie Jackson is dealing with back issues, and Blake Griffin is out with hamstring issues. It’s unknown when both will return.
In their absence, Dwane Casey trotted out a starting lineup of Tim Frazier/Bruce Brown/ Tony Snell/Markieff Morris/Andre Drummond.
I apologize for not warning you ahead of time what you were about to read.
Needless to say, this lineup struggled to score during their entire stretch of the first quarter.
When Casey made his first substitution of the game with 7:56 left, Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway for Brown and Snell, the Pistons were already down 13-2.
The Pistons had more turnovers than points (six turnovers to just two points), and were abysmal defensively.
Due to the outstanding bench play of Derrick Rose and Kennard, who combined for 15 first-quarter points, the Pistons were able to take a 29-28 lead into the second.
Casey obviously wants to keep Rose and Kennard together off the bench, as they have proven to be an offensive powerhouse off the bench. Which is fair; the bench last year was ranked 20th in the league in scoring at 35.7 points a game.
Having that narrative completely flip in one offseason is great, and it makes sense why Casey doesn’t want to mess with it.
But, that’s not an excuse to trot out a starting lineup that scares the opposing team less than death scares the Grim Reaper.
Brown exhibited in the Summer League and early this season that he’s capable of controlling some ball-handling duties. His best skill-set on offense is quite easily his passing ability, and the slashing attack to draw the defense and kick out to shooters.
While Jackson is out with his back injury, Casey should look to move Brown to the point guard spot. This will best optimize Brown’s skill-set instead of standing off-ball as a nonscoring threat.
Since the duo of Rose-Kennard is something Casey wants to stay put, elevating a shooter the likes of Langston Galloway or Svi Mykhaliuk to the starting shooting guard spot should follow suit.
In this scenario, the Pistons would be checking multiple boxes: Casey gets to keep his bench powerhouse together, Brown is better utilized while Jackson is out, and some offensive scoring is inserted into a lineup that badly needs it.
Digging yourself a big hole like the Pistons did against the 76ers early is not a recipe for success, it doesn’t matter who you have on your bench. While Kennard and Rose look to be a lot for opposing teams to handle, you have to assume they’ll have some slippage at some point.
Casey is putting too much of a load on his bench’s shoulders.
A change to the starting lineup is needed quickly.
Not doing so just makes this schedule with Jackson and Griffin even more daunting.