The playoff-hopeful Pistons (6-10) look more like a lottery-bound team. And Cheeks is searching for the floor general who will help him solve the logistical issues that come with Detroit's oversized, space-killing frontcourt.
In other words, Cheeks doesn't think that Brandon Jennings is that player. Not yet, at least.
Jennings was more gunner than distributor during his first four NBA seasons. The lack of shooting threats has shrunken Detroit's offensive floor. The Pistons point guard needs to be a traffic director more than anything else, a job title that he's never held before.
"It takes a certain amount of time for a guy to do that...if they haven’t been doing it that way their whole career," Cheeks said, via Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press. "I don’t think it's just an overnight thing, I think Brandon is learning a little of that."
Prior to joining Detroit this summer, Jennings had been a primary scoring option for the Milwaukee Bucks. Creating his own shot took precedence over everything else.
He's not necessarily a selfish player (8.1 assists per game this season), but his role changed as soon as he swapped jerseys. It's only natural that he would need some time to adjust.
"It’s very important to figure out where a (teammate) should be and direct him where to go," Cheeks said, via Windsor. "It's not an overnight thing where you learn how to play with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith."
Whether it's actually possible for Jennings to successfully play with those three bigs remains to be seen. The quartet has posted an offensive rating of just 97.3 and yielded a defensive rating of 106.7 during their shared floor time, via NBA.com. Both figures would hold bottom-third rankings in their respective categories.
If the Pistons wanted to give Jennings a real chance at success, they could have assembled a core around him better suited for today's game. With three post-dominant players on the floor, Jennings has small spaces to navigate with no background in navigation.
It's like Detroit general manager Joe Dumars reeled in his big fish in Smith, then frantically went searching for the most talented point guard he could find—regardless of how that player fits with his current system.
But Dumars would never do something like that, right?
Maybe the executive was convinced that Cheeks, a former All-Star point guard, and 17-year veteran Chauncey Billups could help guide Jennings through this process.
But as NBC Sports' Dan Feldman wrote, fine-tuning Jennings can't change his identity:
Even if Cheeks and Billups can eventually get Jennings on track, the Pistons have a more pressing concern – how to win without the point guard they thought they were getting, the one who plays like a seasoned pro and fits well with Smith, Monroe and Drummond.
Who knows what kind of player Dumars thought he was getting in Jennings? Anyone who had seen his game film could have reached the same conclusion Cheeks just did—he's not a point guard.