Friendly Advice to Fix Lawrence Frank's Horrible Detroit Pistons Rotation
It has been said that there is nothing that is certain in life except death and taxes.
Perhaps an addendum could be added: that Lawrence Frank will play the wrong guys at the wrong time.
During his short stint as head coach of the Detroit Pistons, Frank has begun to rival Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland in frustrating rotation lineups.
In some cases, his lack of imagination is the problem. He has been known to trot out the same lineup and same rotation players in the same scenarios regardless of their effectiveness. In other cases, his inability to recognize defensive mismatches is the root of the home town fans' ire.
The bottom line is that Frank needs an intervention. He needs to be sat down in a room and given some friendly advice on how to fix this Pistons team, and it starts with the rotation.
Shake up the starting lineup
First, Frank needs to recognize that his team is not a contender. During the previous successful era, Pistons' coaches had a winning team and therefore they knew that they had the winning formula of players on their team.
They knew that Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed and Ben Wallace were winners and therefore deserved to be kept together. Coaches Larry Brown, Flip Saunders and even Michael Curry were allowed to run out the same starting lineup because they had a strong track record together and showed that they were the best starting five-some on the team.
This current team does not have the same track record. There is absolutely no tangible reason to believe that the current starting lineup of Prince, Greg Monroe, Jason Maxiell, Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight needs to be kept together. They haven't proven that they are a winning combination outside of course the final stretch of last season when they put together a .500 record.
I'm sorry, but a .500 record is nothing to write home about, even for this team. You cannot allow yourself to become so rigid with a team that is at best a low lottery team.
Rodney Stuckey's recent injury issues have shown that this team is in desperate need of a shakeup in the starting lineup.
Now of course Kyle Singler is probably not the long term answer at the two guard given his lack of quickness and athleticism, but at least it is a start. With him in the starter's role the Pistons actually showed some life.
This shows that Stuckey was probably pressing a bit given his terrible start and perhaps migraine headaches and needed to take a step back by coming off the bench.
He needs to stay on the bench. He is much more effective right now coming off the bench and providing instant offense.
Perhaps we had Stuckey all wrong. Perhaps he isn't underachieving for his career and he isn't actually a poor man's D. Wade. Perhaps he is actually an instant offense sixth man in the mold of Vinnie Johnson.
Whatever the case, he needs to continue to come off the bench and the Pistons need to figure out who exactly should get his starter's minutes.
Perhaps the answer is Kim English who has already shown the ability to nail jumpers at will, hitting 46 percent of his three-pointers. Obviously his two-pointers need a bit of work (25 percent) but how would you know if you don't play him?
English has excellent size for a two guard (6'6, 200 lbs) and reminds this writer of a young Arron Afflalo.
Perhaps the answer is Corey Maggette who has already proven his worth in three games, nailing 47 percent of his shots and scoring near double-digits in only 16 minutes per contest. He has an expiring deal so at the very least he could be showcased for a midseason deal.
Shifting to the small forward spot, why exactly is Prince still the starter? At this point in his career he is little more than a shell of his former self. He no longer is an elite defender, he doesn't contribute anything more than occasional glimpses of his former prowess on offense and he is perhaps the worst transition offense player on the roster.
Too often Prince is allowed to slow down an attacking fast-break opportunity by slowing things up and circling back to the top of the key.
He doesn't fit this roster, and certainly does not fit the starting lineup. Besides, the Pistons have two other reasonable options in Maggette and Singler who show a lot more heart and effectiveness.
Frank constantly rails about how players need to earn their playing time. Well what exactly has Prince done to earn his? This is not baseball where a former fan favorite gets to keep his job until he retires. In the NBA, no jobs are guaranteed, nor should they be.
Which brings us to the biggest debate in town.
Jason Maxiell vs. Andre Drummond
Everyone in Detroit knows it is coming. Everyone in Detroit wants it to come like yesterday.
The future of this team involves a twin-tower front court of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
They compliment each other beautifully. Monroe is your classic highly skilled offensive big man that can pass like a veteran Vlade Divac and can score and rebound like a young Patrick Ewing.
Drummond is your classic highly skilled defensive big man that can block shots like a young Alonzo Mourning and run the court like Kevin Durant.
Drummond takes pressure off Monroe on the defensive side of the ball and Monroe makes Drummond better on offense.
It took Frank until the second Oklahoma City game (the eighth game of the year) before he even allowed the two on the same court together! Of course they responded with a 9-0 run.
Now this isn't to say that there won't be growing pains along the way. The NBA has shifted to small-ball these days which can result in mismatches from time to time. But who says that small-ball always trumps a twin-tower approach? The Pistons can take advantage of a small lineup by pounding the ball down low and running alley-oops in transition.
It should be noted that Maxiell is having a career year. He is averaging nearly 10 points to go along with six boards and a block and a half.
He also is a strong low-post defender that is armed with a barrel chest and a low center of gravity that gives him leverage near the hoop.
But he is not the long-term answer at the four. He also is better suited to come off the bench and provide instant defense and another weapon for the offense.
For a team that is far from contention, they need to be focusing on developing their young guys and there is no young guy on this roster that is more important than Drummond.
Obviously there will be growing pains. Drummond is only 19 years old. But the fans are eager to see him play and on a team that is desperate for any fans to take notice, do you really want to keep your most exciting player on the bench?
Color outside the lines
It appears that in addition to Frank's predictable starting lineup, the most maddening thing about his coaching style is his robotic substitution pattern.
He counters each game with the same exact substitutions and then rides those subs longer than he should. He doesn't try to exploit matchups or mismatches and he doesn't give the end of his bench any shot at earning minutes through game play.
It is as though Frank thinks he has the winning formula that just hasn't kicked in yet. Isn't this the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome?
Frank needs to realize that this is not a paint-by-numbers job. You don't plug the same guys out there in the same spots night after night and expect that they will eventually get it done.
This means going to your bench earlier if you have an ineffective starter. If Knight isn't getting it done right away, you can bring in Will Bynum or Stuckey early in the first quarter. You have a whole roster of players to choose from, you don't have to run the same guy into the ground if it isn't working.
And if the defense provides a mismatch, pounce on it and expose it. If you play a team that wants to go small, go big and pound them. If you have an opponent that is pounding you down low, switch it up and go with a transition squad.
The one thing the Pistons have is a somewhat versatile and young roster. You have plenty of players that are capable, they just haven't had the opportunities.
And why exactly hasn't Slava Kravtsov even seen a minute of game time? It's not as though this team has a wealth of physical big men, why not see what the kid can do?
The fact of the matter is that Frank needs to stop being so rigid with this team. They aren't good enough to be so pigheaded when it comes to the rotation. This isn't a team of veterans that have proven themselves and deserve a shot at pulling out of an early season funk.
This is a rebuilding team that needs to find their own rhythm. The young guys need to get consistent playing time and players that could become trading chips down the line need to have opportunities to show their value.
This is likely not a winning roster right now, but that doesn't mean that this season has to be a waste. Even if you aren't winning, it doesn't mean that there isn't value in some losses.
It just comes down to putting the right players in the right situations and so far Frank isn't doing that.
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