Making Sense of the Detroit Pistons' Revolving Frontcourt

How should new head coach Stan Van Gundy stagger his frontcourt minutes to optimize efficiency?

The Detroit Pistons, in building their team last year, took the approach of, "Let's accumulate talent, and then we'll figure out how it all fits." Generally, that's not a bad plan. But what happens if it just doesn't fit?

To be fair, the Pistons crowded frontcourt issues were heightened by a very good problem - the quick development of young center Andre Drummond. The initial thought was to give Josh Smith and Greg Monroe a majority of the frontcourt minutes. However, when your 20-year-old center starts playing like a future All-Star, it's hard not to give him increased minutes.

All of a sudden you have three frontcourt players who all need extensive playing time - Drummond and Monroe because of their talent, and Smith because of his large contract. What do you do?

Well, if you can't get good trade value for either Monroe or Smith, you keep on trying to figure it out. New head coach Stan Van Gundy should have more success with that, and has an incredible track record of developing young big men (see, Dwight Howard).

Thanks to the great, we can look at on/off court data for these three players. So let's look at some tables that shows how they all performed together, and then how each player performed with and without each teammate.

PPP = point per possession
PPS = point per shot
TS% = true shooting percentage, factors in 3's and free throws
%A = percentage of team shots assisted while on the floor
OPPP = opponent's point per possession

All Three On the Court

Josh Smith1,3660.880.9044.8%
Greg Monroe1,3661.051.0954.3%
Andre Drummond1,3661.161.2059.8%
Pistons Team Stats1,3661.061.0251.0%57.0%1.13

Josh Smith

Monroe off, Drummond off1320.610.5728.3%
Monroe on, Drummond off7211.011.0150.6%
Monroe off, Drummond on5100.980.9849.1%
Pistons Team Stats2,7291.071.0351.5%55.1%1.10

Greg Monroe

Smith off, Drummond off3031.001.0150.5%
Smith on, Drummond off7211.091.1155.4%
Smith off, Drummond on3090.900.9044.8%
Pistons Team Stats2,7011.071.0351.6%54.7%1.11

Andre Drummond

Smith off, Monroe off4341.091.1456.9%
Smith on, Monroe off5101.191.2261.0%
Smith off, Monroe on3091.151.2060.2%
Pistons Team Stats2,6201.071.0351.6%54.4%1.11


The good news is that the franchise cornerstone, Drummond, was great regardless of the situation. The only time his PPP took a dip was when he was on the floor with Monroe and Smith, but even that dip was still higher than those other two players in any situation.

Josh Smith was awful in his 132 minutes that he played without the other two big men, posting a dreadful TS% of 28.3%. He was much better, although still only average, when playing the four with either big man as the center. Playing the three with both of them on, he was pretty bad too, scoring 0.88 PPP, with a TS% of 44.8%.

Monroe has very distinct splits in different situations. With both Drummond and Smith off, he was average, scoring 1.00 point per possession. When paired with Smith and Drummond off the floor, Monroe was good, scoring 1.09 points per possession. However, in the opposite situation, with Smith off and Drummond on, he was bad, scoring 0.90 points per possession.

Going into next season, it's safe to say that Drummond should get all the minutes he can handle with any combination of players. He's the best player on that team. Van Gundy should stagger Smith's minutes so he never has to play by himself (without Drummond and/or Monroe) and never has to play on the wing. That point is key.

Also, Monroe and Drummond should have their time together limited. The Pistons offense just isn't very efficient with two non-shooting post players. If Van Gundy could potentially convince Monroe to come off the bench and stagger their minutes, the Pistons could become much more efficient all-around. Van Gundy has history with this - his great Magic teams all were built around spacing. He rarely, if ever, played two back-to-the-basket bigs together, and made the Finals playing Howard with four shooters.

The Pistons don't have a similar roster by any means, and Josh Smith is in no way a "stretch four," but Van Gundy should get creative. He has three solid big men that need specific situations. If he can figure those situations out, the Pistons should be much improved next year.