The Detroit Pistons are dealing with injuries to two of their best players. Blake Griffin is dealing with a hamstring injury, and Reggie Jackson is dealing with a bad back. This puts Dwane Casey in quite the position to start the year.
To go along with the two injured players, Casey has to monitor how much he plays Derrick Rose. While Rose has played extremely well for the Pistons early in the season, Casey is not going to raise his minutes.
“I’m not going to sit here and ramp up and ruin a guy’s comeback career by getting excited and playing him 30 minutes...”, Casey said prior to Monday’s game. “ We’re going to be disciplined with it and still try to win the game.”
In practice, this rules out the possibility of starting Rose while Jackson is out, which complicates lineup matters even further. What is clear, though, is the starting lineup that came out against the Philadelphia 76ers is not an option.
Casey made the decision to start Tim Frazier in Jackson’s vacant guard spot. The “normal” starters started next to Frazier; Bruce Brown Jr., Tony Snell, Markieff Morris, and Andre Drummond. This lineup did about as bad as it possibly could, as they were outscored 13-2 against the 76ers in the first four minutes of the game. The lack of offensive creation in that starting group was almost destined to cause problems, and after that sluggish performance, it was obvious that Casey would be changing the starting lineup somehow.
And indeed he did.
In the Pistons most recent win of the season against the Indiana Pacers, Casey inserted fan favorite Luke Kennard into the starting lineup for Brown. The starting lineup desperately needed some offensive creation, and with Rose being on a minute restriction, Kennard seemed like the best choice.
This choice did exactly what it was suppose to do; help the Pistons get out the gate faster. The Pistons outscored the Pacers 33-25 in the first quarter with this new lineup. The two players swapped in this situation (Bruce and Luke) also enjoyed good games and made a large impact on the Pistons win.
Kennard finished the game with a team-high +10 in 31 minutes of a two-point win. He finished the game with 14 points and four assists with only one turnover. Brown came off the bench for the first time since the playoffs last year, when Casey made the same switch-up, and had 11 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes of play.
That included this critical defensive stop at the end of the game against TJ Warren:
And to the shock of everyone besides Brown himself, he made all three of his three-point attempts; A career-high!
After the Pistons win, Casey would not commit to this starting lineup next game against the Toronto Raptors.
“This is a different role for him (Kennard),” Casey said. “That won’t last, we may go game to game with that... I’m a true believer in keeping that second unit solid and fluid.”
He talked a lot how starting Luke is whole different ball game for him.— KUpa Kid (@KuKhahilNBA) October 29, 2019
Sounds almost like he doesn’t think Luke is fully capable to contribute vs. opposing starters https://t.co/l4Zb2R2Nlr
Whatever lineup we see moving forward with Griffin and Jackson out, it’s safe to say Casey wont make the same mistake he made against the 76ers. The starting lineup needs to have a little more offensive punch in it to threaten teams out of the gate. Whether that’s Luke, or another option, putting the team in a deficit to start each game is not the way Casey wants to play.