Nov 22 2013 12:19PM

Pistons' Bigs Could Learn A Lesson From Phil


Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Phil Jackson would know what to do with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.

He has experience being blessed with bigs and Phil knows the secret to success is getting his star bigs to share minutes, as opposed to forcing all of them on the floor at the same time.

When the former Los Angeles Lakers head coach was presented with having a healthy Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom together for the first time in the 2008-09 season, the public drooled about the prospect of all three bigs playing simultaneously--Odom at small forward, Gasol at power forward and Bynum at center.

But Jackson went against conventional wisdom, only playing his bigs at the 4 and 5 slots. He kept Trevor Ariza in his main starting small-forward post (and did the same a year later when Metta World Peace was his small forward).

In that initial 2008-09 season, though, Odom would go on to play 57 percent of the team's minutes at power forward, while playing 0 percent at small forward; Gasol played 22 percent of the team's time at power forward and 53 percent at center; Bynum played 36 percent at center.

Consequently, while sporting perhaps the best trio of bigs since Bird-McHale-Parish, Jackson's Lakers would go on win back-to-back NBA championships in 2009 and 2010.

Which brings us to the saga underway with the Detroit Pistons.

This offseason, Pistons GM Joe Dumars acquired free agent Smith to go along with his young power forward Monroe and center Drummond. He then hired Oklahoma City assistant Mo Cheeks to lead this potentially powerful squad.

And one of Cheeks' first orders of business was making the decision to transform Josh Smith into his starting small forward so that he could play alongside Monroe and Drummond.

It's been a bad idea.

Detroit has the NBA's second-worst defense--ahead of only Utah--despite the fact the Pistons' bigs and the Hawks' former power forward have been stellar defenders in years past.

What compounds matter offensively, where the Pistons rank 13th, is that Smith has to position himself at the three-point line to create spacing for Drummond and Monroe. Consequently, the notoriously poor outside shooter, is launching errant missiles from all over the court at a woeful 29.5 three-point percentage, on pace to hoist 455 trey attempts, which would equal his total from the previous three seasons COMBINED.

It really is a recipe for disaster that the playoff-hopeful Pistons are messing with, playing Smith 41 percent of the team's minutes at small forward and only 33 percent at power forward.

Look at the various combinations Detroit has used this year and it's not hard to see Detroit plays better when only two--not three--of its power forward/centers play at the same time. Further proof that Cheeks would be better served if he played actual small forwards--like Kyle Singler, for instance--alongside two of his three talented bigs most of the time.

Just check out the plus-minus net ratings for the aforementioned three-man combos.

Smith, Monroe, Drummond: -11.3 in 231 minutes

OR ...

Singler, Smith, Monroe: +8.2 in 94 minutes

Singler, Smith, Drummond: +3.6 in 49 minutes

Singler, Monroe, Drummond: +1.6 in 31 minutes

Let's just say, Phil would never have played Odom, Gasol and Bynum this way.

Yes, it would be tempting to play all three together. But the more efficient play would be to keep your bigs at the 4 and 5 spots, sharing the 96 minutes per game, and dominating all others in the paint along the way.