A season ago the Pistons made the decision to move Killian Hayes from the starting lineup to a bench role.
First being called an “experiment” by coach Casey, it was later said to be what was best for Hayes and the team.
“Our job is to develop him to get him ready to win games and compete for championships.” – Coach Dwane Casey
Is it time to start viewing the Isaiah Stewart situation similarly?
As the organization continues to rebuild, some tough decisions will have to be made. During the off-season I said the Pistons starting front court of the future, was not currently on the roster.
While I believe Jalen Duren will be one of the starters, Isaiah Stewart hasn’t proven to be the best fit with the starting unit. Similar to what was ultimately decided with Killian Hayes.
Though Stewart plays tough with a motor that never turns off, standing 6’9″ and lacking explosive athleticism can see him at a disadvantage.
It’s very evident when watching the team in pick and roll situations. When the Pistons acquired Marvin Bagley III, the thought was how he’d instantly provide a much needed lob threat. The offense before and after Bagley was night and day.
The day of Marvin Bagley’s first game as a Piston, Troy Weaver spoke to what the team was gaining:
“The one thing we were devoid of, and that’s on me, is some athleticism in the front court. And he will provide that. He’s an athletic big that rebounds, can really run the floor. And he can put the ball in the basket.”
Bagley’s athleticism seamlessly fit with Cade Cunningham, and added new layers to the pick and roll game.
With Bagley, the defense had a difficult time deciding who to defend in PnR situations. In watching PnR situations with Stewart and Cunningham, the defense never bites as if the roller will ever be the option.
With the pick and roll game getting a boost with Bagley, it was no surprise to see Cunningham’s game go to another level. His scoring and assist increased, and the team showed to be more competitive and balanced.
This was all before the Pistons added Jalen Duren. His emergence, cap space and contract decisions coming up make the questions of Isaiah Stewart off the bench more plausible.
After a 118-113 loss to the Atlanta Hawks (10/26/22), I asked coach Casey the challenges he faces managing the big men with Bagley and Noel out:
“Well one it’s the foul problems, we have to have one of them until Marvin or Noel get back. Marvin has a feel for the 4 and the 5. At some point it will be easier for Stewart to play the 4. He’s not there yet, Marvin can do both, but hopefully that is right around the corner.” – Dwane Casey
If Jalen Duren is a center, and Marvin Bagley can play either front court position, where does that leave Isaiah Stewart once the team gets healthy?
The hope is that Stewart learns how to effectively play the power forward position at a starter level this season. Effective three point shooting as well as mid range pick and pops, could prove to be very valuable in the starting lineup.
Stewart has struggled early in the season as a floor spacing big man, but it is a work in progress. I appreciated coach Casey speaking to the fact that Isaiah Stewart isn’t yet ready to play the 4, but still working hard at it.
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