Speed Test

Frank’s desire to play faster gets a boost from Pistons backups

The Pistons look to adapt a faster style of play this season.
J. Dennis/Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
In Lawrence Frank’s quest to play faster, the Pistons might get a shot in the arm from their bench.

In a game in which they scored just 85 points in Saturday’s win over Charlotte, the Pistons scored 22 of those points in transition. The second unit – at least if the outline of a rotation Frank’s substitution patterns have suggested holds – holds the potential to enable the Pistons to get out and run more than they have in recent seasons.

The starting lineup appears set: Greg Monroe, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell, Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight, the same group that went 21-21 down the stretch last season to pull the Pistons out of their 4-20 start.

With veteran Corey Maggette shelved with a left calf strain, the rotation now appears to include Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko along with Andre Drummond in the frontcourt; in the backcourt, Will Bynum’s strong preseason has him as the first guard off the bench. The biggest uncertainty, it appears, is if there will be a fourth guard in the rotation. If so, Kim English would be in line for at least spot duty.

At every position, the Pistons would be suited to a running game. Drummond has the speed of a guard, and his ability to block shots fuels transition opportunities. Singler and Jerebko not only aggressively fill lanes, their disruptive defense forces turnovers that also create running chances. Bynum, Stuckey and Knight are all effective in the open court and look to push the ball ahead.

“Speed is a skill that works in this league,” Bynum said. “Why not use it to our advantage? That’s the whole purpose of us out there playing together,” he said about Frank’s latest look at pairing Bynum with Knight. “When I’m out there, that’s what I’m trying to do – get guys open shots, pressure the ball, change the pace of the game and share the basketball. That’s my job.”

Bynum said when he’s out with Singler and Jerebko, “I’m looking for them every single time,” because of their propensity to get out fast. With Drummond behind him, Bynum perhaps can be a little more aggressive pressuring the basketball, too, knowing a shot-blocker can clean up for him.

“His presence alone is everything,” Bynum said. “It opens up the game for everybody – for myself, for Kyle. Defensively, he’s the anchor. I’m starting it off by pressuring the ball. Knowing Andre has my back makes the game a lot easier. If you make a mistake, he’s right there to cover for you. That’s big.”

Singler, like Jerebko, gets his hands in passing lanes and jams pick-and-roll plays.

“Kyle’s been playing well,” Bynum said. “He’s been improving every single day. Kyle hustles. Kyle does all the little things. He has a high basketball IQ, so he makes the right plays. Having guys like that definitely makes our team better.”

English’s perimeter defense, 3-point shooting and – like Singler and Jerebko – his consistent willingness to sprint back and fill a lane will mesh well with the second unit if Frank expands the rotation to 10.

The Pistons added depth and athleticism, both inside and out, over the summer. It might take some time to figure out how the parts best fit, but Frank has the ingredients now to start implementing the faster tempo he desires.