Recently, three was a conversation within the Detroit Bad Boys Slack channel about who the Detroit Pistons’ second and third options were offensively behind Jerami Grant. We all agreed on one thing: Josh Jackson is their best No. 2 option right now.
But when it came to the third option... nobody really knew.
Maybe Saddiq Bey? Wayne Ellington or Svi Mykhailiuk on a hot streak?
We really don’t know yet.
With the Pistons in New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Wednesday, we got a preview. Grant was rested, and the Pistons went out and played a shockingly fun game without their shoulda-been All-Star, losing a close one to the Pelicans, 128-118.
Detroit ran out of gas, and points, in the fourth quarter to blow this one, but we may have gotten an answer to that whole who is the third option question.
It have been in front of us the entire time, or maybe it’s just when he plays the Pelicans?
Mason Plumlee scored 21 points, serving as the Pistons defacto hub on offense. He finished the game with 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 blocks, building off his first career triple-double against these Pelicans earlier this month.
Everybody played a part, though. Seven Pistons scored in double-figures as the loss of Grant really wasn’t felt that much offensively. He was missed on the defensive end as Zion Williamson (32 points) and Brandon Ingram (27 points) had their way out there.
Josh Jackson struggled early, but really excelled at getting to the rim as he heated up. Kira Lewis has been picked on both times these teams have played, and that happened once again tonight. He finished with 25 points, admirably filling the Grant role off the bench.
Outside of the who-replaces-Grant storyline, the biggest thing to watch for Detroit was the play of the point guards. Saben Lee is the shiny-new thing right now, and for good reason after what he did to the Orlando Magic, but he and Dennis Smith Jr. both looked good in NOLA.
Lee did his thing, shifting gears and getting up court quickly. He had the Pistons running on the break, which is something they do not do with Delon Wright, as he scored 13 points and knocked down another stand-still triple. This Lee thing is certifiably fun.
Smith Jr. had a nice line — 11 points, 6 assists — but I’ve been surprised by his defense. I won’t go as far as saying it’s been really good, but he’s been surprisingly solid on that end. He isn’t a great team defender, but he also doesn’t just float. He’s a pest, going for blocks and steals (even when he probably shouldn’t) and he makes an impact.
Detroit’s ball movement was oddly crisp considering they’re down to the third and fourth point guards. Lee finished with 4 assists to complement Smith Jr. and Plumlee, but Sekou Doumbouya and Josh Jackson added to that total with 4 and 3, respectively. This team felt like it was going to be SO dependent on Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose to create everything to start the year.
As Jeff Goldblum put it in Jurassic Park:
Sekou, however, might have been the lone youngin’ to not end the night as a bright spot. Doumbouya got the start for Grant, and was pretty invisible. He hung around the perimeter, moved the ball, and missed four of five shots. He just doesn’t seem fully engaged — maybe it’s because he doesn’t have a good feel for what he needs to do?
I just don’t see anything consistently positive from him this season; that’s disappointing.
Saddiq Bey is the opposite. He’s got a great basketball IQ. He knows EXACTLY where he needs to be. He scored 13, though he wasn’t quite the same after tweaking something early in the second half.
If you could somehow create a Saddiq Doumbouya hybrid, you’d have something special.
One last note: just because they nearly beat New Orleans without him does not mean the Pistons are better without Grant. This is just one of those weird matchups where the Pelicans can’t really contain Detroit. It’s weird. I don’t get it.
Play hard. Play the kids. Lose close. It was a tank-approved night in New Orleans.