So what now? How the Pistons look into the home stretch.
So what's the deal? The Pistons are just barely on the outside of the playoffs, and poised to make a strong finish to the season. But some things suddenly went kind of wrong, so here is the deal. The Pistons traded Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilysova for Tobias Harris, leaving them somewhat thin at the PF spot, and leaving a void in bench scoring/general creating offense. So the Pistons then traded Joel Anthony + a first round pick, for Dmo, a PF to address Ersan being gone, and Marcus Thornton, a instant offense chucker off the bench. Thusly the Pistons appeared to have made 2 upgrades to two spots in the starting lineup, and even added some depth to the bench! How awesome is that! Then the Dmo trade fell through because of Dmo's back issues leaving the Pistons back with a void at PF and bench offense. THEN, Anthony Tolliver got hurt and will be out for the next few weeks, THEN Stanley Johnson got hurt. All in all, the Pistons are going into the home stretch with exactly zero true PFs, and exactly zero offensive creators off the bench. They have 6 guys who were actually supposed to be in the rotation. This is not ideal.
So is there good news?
Well, there is some news that is kind of good, in a certain way. It will force SVG to get a little creative with his rotations (something he has not done much this season) which will result in us getting to see some goofy lineups. Also, we will get to see if Hilliard and probably Bullock as well can actually play at all if given real time in the rotation. Something I have been wishing to see most of the season. This is kind of fake good news though, because the reality is that Hilliard has some promise, but is probably not very good. And I think Bullock might be a decent rotation guy, but he also might just be really bad. Also, the goofy lineups that SVG has tried to avoid have been avoided for a reason, because there is a good chance they fail miserably. Ideally you try the goofy lineups for short stretches to sort of test them out without killing the team for any extended time. Instead SVG will have to try them and freaking pray that some of them work.
Is there any real good news?
YES! Very real good news is that it will force SVG to go all in on the Harris/Morris combo. This is good news because there is a ton of potential in that pairing, and if the Dmo trade had gone through then we would have likely never really gotten to see it. It will also be a good indicator for what pieces the Pistons will have to try and add this offseason. If the Morris/Harris combo works out well, they both play off of being alongside another capabe scorer/creator and they prove able to defend opposing PFs consistently, then the Pistons don't need to add a PF this offseason, they still could, but instead they could try and go after other things, like maybe several really good bench players, maybe a shooting guard who can actually shoot (barring a KCP resurgence with his shooting) etc. I don't know for sure what the best thing to add would be, but if this combo does not work well then the Pistons basically have to go for a PF this offseason. Essentially it will allow them to be more educated about the money they spend.
So what about these goofy lineups you speak of?
The Pistons signed Justin Harper, but he should not be expected to do a whole lot, dude has played in just 12 NBA games and it was back in 2012 with the Magic. SVG has rolled with a 9 man rotation since the Meeks injury, the Pistons have 6 guys in the starting 5 + Aron Baynes. 7 will be Steve Blake (or possibly some other backup PG) 8 will be Hilliard. 9 will either be Bullock or Harper. I would guess SVG will try and play either of the last 2 as little as he can, he has refused to play Bullock under pretty much any and all circumstances this season, and as noted, Harper has not been an NBA player ever before. I would hope that SVG goes with Bullock first, but we don't know for sure. As such he will probably get creative in trying to not have to use Bullock/Harper. The main possibility is that Aron Baynes gets to play alongside Andre a little bit, something I have wanted to see for a while. I sort of like the idea of a jumbo lineup that teams know in the back of their mind the Pistons could run out. Baynes can take some more minutes, and he is being paid 6 mill a year, so that should be the first option. I would also expect to see Harris and Morris get really goofy staggered minutes to keep them with the bench. Johnson was easily the best creator off the bench following the Jennings trade, and without him the bench literally has no one to create offense. And Morris and Harris are the best for that, which means that Hilliard/Bullock will probably get a chance to spot up around the Jackson/Drummond PnR quite a bit. I would also like to see SVG send out Andre as the lone starter and try and run the bench offense through Andre post ups. And to be clear, these all might not work even remotely, but it will be fun if some of them do.
So whats the worst case scenario?
Hilliard's defense is as bad as advertised and the spots of good offense are just spots, Bullock is actually horrible, Harper can't play, and the Harris/Morris combo does not work all that well. The bench dies to an almost comical point and despite a awesome effort from the starters, they fall and miss the playoffs. And go into the offseason with a lot of questions about how to complete the team.
Best case scenario?
Harris/Morris is actually a killer combo with them collectively feasting on overmatched forwards in offense, and they both prove capable of taking opposing PFs. Hilliard shows that the flashes he's shown actually mean something, and Bullock finally figures out how to shoot when on an NBA court. Reggie and Andre rise to the occasion and morph into their final form of super stars and the Pistons still make the playoffs and maybe even win a series/get in a 6/7 game war with the Cavs or Raptors. KCP figures out how to shoot again, and the Pistons go into offseason knowing that they have one of the most leathal starting 5s in the NBA, and can spend their remaining cap space this offseason on quality backups and manage to steal a really good player in the draft.
What do you think?
I think that the Harris/Morris combo will work, and that Reggie and Andre are going to be insane good the rest of the way. Hilliard will have some moments but his defense will be a issue, and Bullock actually figures out how to shoot and proves to be the more reliable guy. But even with that the bench pretty much sucks and the starters have to take on a huge load with all of them playing 35 minutes plus. It wears and the Pistons manage to get into the playoffs and give a few hard games to whoever they play, but the wear is too much.
What do you think? Will anyone step up? Got any goofy lineups you want to see? Let me know! We all get smarter!