The Detroit Pistons have shifted their team into full-blown rebuilding mode. They currently have five rookies on the roster as well as a number of second- and third-year players. In fact, there are only five guys on the team that are older than 26, and only Corey Maggette and Tayshaun Prince are over 30 (both are 32).
So with this obvious transition to a youth movement, why exactly are the Pistons waiting to fully embrace their youngsters?
Of the current crop of rookies, only three have yet to play in a game this year. All three of them have had some measure of success.
Kyle Singler appears to be better than most thought, showing a nice touch from the perimeter and a willingness to move without the ball. His defense will need work, but he appears to be eager to improve.
Kim English came into the league with the reputation of being a good shooter and he has not disappointed. Thus far he is averaging 44 percent from three-point range.
Andre Drummond is without a doubt the most exciting Pistons rookie to come around in years. His mix of strength, athleticism and quickness will make him a nightmare for opposing teams for seasons to come. In fact, he may already be the best rebounder on the team.
Vets aren't getting it done
The obvious reason for not giving the young guys more run is the idea that they need to earn their minutes. Most coaches believe that it sets a bad example to let the young guys start over the veterans. Coaches want to play the best guys on the squad period, regardless of their maturity level.
But in order to justify such a stance, the veteran players need to be at least outperforming the young guys, and that just isn't happening in Detroit.
Let's omit right now from the discussion Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe as those two guys are the future of this franchise. Rodney Stuckey also seems to be in the future plans of this team, so we can take him out of this talk.
This leaves the other two starters, Jason Maxiell and Prince.
Maxiell has actually played fairly well over his first three games, averaging 11 points and nearly seven boards in 25 minutes per game. He is one of the strongest guys on the team and is an excellent interior defender.
But he is playing with an expiring contract and likely will not be with the team next year. Besides, he works best as an energy guy off of the bench and would be a nice addition to the second unit.
For some strange reason, coach Lawrence Frank seems committed to not pairing Drummond up with Monroe. They are obviously the two most talented big men on the team, not to mention the two youngest and the two that are likely to be in Detroit for the longest period of time.
Everyone sees that this move needs to happen, yet the coaching staff seems to be dragging its heels on the idea.
Furthermore, it's not as though Drummond isn't earning the spot. He is averaging nearly two blocks a game to go along with nearly six boards. He is doing this in just over 17 minutes per game.
Prince is the other vet that needs his role re-examined. Not including Sunday's blowout loss to the Lakers, Prince was averaging 33 minutes per game.
Sure, he chipped in with an 18-point performance against Phoenix, but what exactly is he these days? The Pistons aren't running the offense through him anymore, leaving him to collect his points mainly on broken plays and with the occasional post move.
With talented players like Jonas Jerebko and Singler figuring more into the team's future plans, the time has finally come to decide on a path for Prince. Is it finally time to move the veteran for a draft pick or two, or will Prince be the senior ambassador for this group?
Currently, fellow graybeard Maggette has assumed more of the mentor role with the young guys, choosing to sit with the injured small forward.
On the court, Prince seems more and more like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. He doesn't seem comfortable in fast break situations, his defense has drastically slipped and most of his secondary numbers have fallen as well.
Right now, Prince is of little value to this team, and once Maggette returns from injury, the front office will have some major decisions to make.
No role for Slava Kravtsov?
The Detroit Pistons brought in Viacheslav Kravtsov to fill a genuine need. The Pistons have a lot of depth at their swing positions, but not a lot of size and athleticism up front.
Kravtsov, an import from Ukraine, was viewed as a guy that would supply help on both fronts.
But it has proven to be a tough transition for the big guy, and he has yet to play in any games.
Now if the Pistons were doing well with their frontcourt defense and rebounding, this would be okay. But through three games, the Pistons have been out-rebounded by 35. It's awfully hard to control the outcome of the game when you can't control the ball.
Furthermore, the Pistons have been pushed around up front, and they looked down-right pitiful against Dwight Howard. Kravtsov may be struggling to find his way in the league, but could it really get any worse up front for Detroit?
Best path forward
The Detroit Pistons and their fans are not delusional. They knew heading into this season that this team would not be contending for anything of consequence this year. This is a squad that is still a few pieces away from even making the playoffs.
But the news is not all bad. Monroe and Knight are good young players with plenty of potential. Singler, Jerebko and English all appear to have solid careers ahead of them and Drummond could eventually turn into a star.
However, these guys need to get more playing time. The Pistons need to fully commit to their youth movement regardless of how many wins and losses it leads to.
They need to deal players that either don't fit with the current vision for the team or those that could bring back additional draft picks.
This rebuilding process isn't going to be painless, but it is the right move for the club. Additionally, it is the only way to keep the fans interested. If the team is going to lose regardless of the lineup, why not give the fans some compelling story lines to follow and some new and exciting players to watch?