Pistons: 3 intriguing lineup pairings

Wed Aug 10 2022 at 6:00 AM

Detroit Pistons GM Troy Weaver has built one of the NBA’s youngest rosters. The Pistons currently have 11 players on their roster aged 24 or younger.

In the first stage of Detroit’s rebuild, Weaver put the roster through a complete teardown. After three offseasons, no player from the previous regime remains on the roster. Weaver prioritized acquiring young talent as he reconstructed the roster. Only five of Detroit’s players have over five years of experience in the league.

While the team’s inexperience has not led to many wins over the past two seasons, Detroit’s youth has provided a hopeful glimpse of the future. With the continued development of the Pistons’ young players, Detroit is looking to turn a corner within the next couple of seasons.

As the Pistons enter the next stage of their restoration, the team will need to determine which of their young players will be part of the core moving forward. Obviously, individual performance will play a significant role in deciding which players are part of the long-term plans for Detroit. However, how the young players play off each other and how well they fit together will be an important factor as well.

In this upcoming season, head coach Dwane Casey is going to experiment with different lineups. He will mix and match the young players to determine which players thrive together and which ones are awkward fits.

Here are three intriguing lineup pairings to keep an eye on for the Pistons heading into the 2022-23 season.

Can Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey be the backcourt of the future for the Pistons?

This is the obvious lineup pairing to keep an eye on entering next season.

In the 2021 NBA Draft, the Pistons found the face of the franchise when they selected Cade Cunningham with the first overall pick. The Oklahoma State product was the best player on the roster as a rookie this past season.

After Cunningham’s rookie season, it was apparent that the Pistons needed to find a new backcourt partner to pair with him.

Former seventh overall pick Killian Hayes was an awkward fit next to Cunningham. Hayes provided solid playmaking and defense, but his inability to shoot efficiently and his tendency to shy away from contact around the rim made him ineffective as an off-ball player. Midway through the season, Detroit turned to Cory Joseph to fill in as Cunningham’s backcourt partner. The veteran point guard played well, but his partnership with Cunningham has limited upside.

Detroit hopes Jaden Ivey is the answer

In the 2022 NBA Draft, Weaver and the front office acquired Purdue’s Jaden Ivey with the fifth overall pick. With the selection of Ivey, the Pistons hope they found Cunningham a long-term backcourt partner.

There is a lot to like about Ivey. He was the most electrifying player in the 2022 draft class. He is a dangerous weapon in transition, and he has the tools to be a good defensive player.

There are concerns about Ivey’s fit next to Cunningham. He is not used to being utilized in an off-ball role. Often in college, Ivey could be seen standing around without the ball in his hands. There are also concerns about his three-point shooting. In his last season at Purdue, Ivey shot 35.8 percent from beyond the arc, but he struggled with consistency.

Developing into a more consistent shooter and leaning into off-ball movement are keys to Ivey becoming a great fit next to Cunningham in Detroit’s starting lineup.

If Ivey hits on his development, the Pistons could have one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA. Ivey’s pace pushing and athletic playstyle complement Cunningham’s more surgical scoring and playmaking playstyle. In the coming seasons, they could grow into a your turn, my turn one-two punch on offense.

There are likely to be growing pains in the first year of the Cunningham and Ivey backcourt pairing. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see how the duo adapts to playing with each other and how they split ball-handling duties.

Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren could be a dominant defensive big man duo

The Pistons have high hopes for Jalen Duren after acquiring his draft rights on a draft night trade with the New York Knicks.

The big man was the youngest player in the 2022 draft class. At Memphis, the 18-year-old was a dominant defensive big man and a great pick-and-roll lob threat. The makings of a solid post scorer were also present, but Duren will have to develop those skills quickly in the first year of his NBA career.

At the NBA level, Duren projects to be pretty much exactly what he was in college. Standing at 6-10 and 250 pounds, Duren has the size to be a dominant rim protector. While he is unlikely to be a full-time starter as a rookie, Duren has the potential to be Detroit’s franchise center moving forward.

The potential emergence of Duren as Detroit’s long-term answer at center leaves Isaiah Stewart’s role with the team in question. Last season, Stewart got the nod as the starting center after playing great defense as a rookie. Stewart is undersized for a modern NBA big man, standing at 6-8. It is likely he enters the 2022-23 season as the Pistons’ starting center, but there is no guarantee he holds onto that role in the long term.

Isaiah Stewart could slide to power forward as Jalen Duren establishes himself at center

After trading away Jerami Grant this offseason, the Pistons have a hole in the starting power forward position next season. The team has plenty of options to replace the veteran, but there is no clear frontrunner as of yet.

Stewart could ultimately be the answer at power forward for Detroit.

The 21-year-old has the switchability to defend multiple positions, displaying the ability to defend along the perimeter as well.

On offense, Stewart has flashed the potential to be a respectable three-point shooter. In the final 21 games of the 2021-22 season, Stewart shot 54.5 percent from beyond the arc. During Summer League, Stewart continued to let the threes fly as he shot five-for-nine in two games.

He has already proven he can defend at the power forward position. If he can continue to establish himself as a floor-spacing big, one day he could easily transition into Detroit’s full-time power forward.

Stewart and Duren are not likely to get a lot of minutes together next season, at least not early on. Stewart will start at center and Duren will likely be the one to spell him when Stewart gets his rest. But when the duo does find minutes together, it will be intriguing to see how well the two play together. With Duren’s potential as a dominant rim protector and Stewart’s defensive versatility, the two could one day be a top-end defensive big man pairing.

Isaiah Livers and the rest of the Pistons’ starting lineup

There is good reason to believe that Isaiah Livers will garner himself a spot in the Pistons’ starting lineup. In a shortened rookie season and through a few Summer League games, Livers has shown himself to be a reliable three-and-D player.

The 24-year-old shot 42.6 percent on three-point catch-and-shoot opportunities as a rookie. He moves well off-ball and he will often make the extra pass to set up better looks on offense.

Defensively, Livers plays with high intensity. He does a good job closing out on perimeter shooters. This past season, opponents shot 33.1 percent on shots outside 24 feet against Livers. He sticks to his man and forces them to give the ball away or force a contested shot.

Livers could fill the void left in Detroit’s starting lineup after the departure of Grant. He can play the four, or the Pistons could slide Saddiq Bey up and have livers play the three. Livers has the size and versatility to play at either spot.

On paper, he is an ideal fit to place in a lineup with Cunningham, Ivey and Bey. Livers does most of his damage without the ball in his hands. He makes for a reliable off-ball shooter who can be an outlet for Ivey or Cunningham.

Can Livers bring his level of play up to starter quality? He only made 19 appearances as a rookie, including five starts. He is inexperienced at the NBA level, and there is no guarantee he can continue to perform at an above-average level if he is given full-time starter minutes.

If Livers can sustain a solid level of play, he likely finds himself as a mainstay in Detroit’s starting lineup next season. If he struggles, the Pistons are likely to look to other options with the starting lineup.

(Featured Image Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports)