The NBA preseason has arrived. The Detroit Pistons will host the Phoenix Suns at 3 p.m. Sunday, kicking off a four-game exhibition slate before the regular season begins on Oct. 25. The team is coming off a productive week of training camp, with recently hired head coach Monty Williams evaluating a young roster looking to put a challenging 17-win season behind them.
Here’s what we learned about the Pistons during camp as they prepare for their first game:
Starting lineup taking shape:
Regarding the Pistons’ opening night rotation, one thing is clear – Cade Cunningham will be in the starting lineup. With a new head coach, there is uncertainty about the rest of the lineup. However, Williams has provided hints. It is likely that the rotation will include three big men, with either James Wiseman or Marvin Bagley III serving as the backup. Considering Williams’ suggestions about the pick-and-roll combination between Cunningham and Jalen Duren, it can be inferred that Duren and Isaiah Stewart will start in the frontcourt. Jaden Ivey, who had a promising rookie season starting 73 games, is expected to retain his starting role as the Pistons assess his compatibility with Cunningham. The small forward position is more uncertain, with Williams considering Bojan Bogdanovic or rookie Ausar Thompson as potential options. It’s possible that Williams will experiment with different lineups beyond the first few games.
Williams impressed with Killian Hayes:
Killian Hayes, the Pistons’ seventh overall pick in 2020, is playing for a second contract as he will become a restricted free agent next summer. His scoring struggles, along with the team’s recent investments in other point guards, have raised questions about his future with the franchise. However, Williams has been impressed with Hayes, describing him as “terrific” and a leader. With Cunningham, Ivey, Alec Burks, and Monte Morris expected to be in the rotation, there may not be room for another guard. Nevertheless, Hayes is making a strong case for himself with his size and defensive skills. Williams sees his potential and believes he can have a significant impact on the team.
Isaiah Livers’ role once he returns:
Isaiah Livers, who suffered a Grade III left ankle sprain, will be sidelined for six-to-eight weeks. This is another setback for the Michigan alumnus, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Despite not participating in training camp, Williams is eager for Livers’ return. Livers is a career 3-point shooter and a solid defender, making him a valuable addition to the rotation as a 3-and-D wing. Williams praises Livers’ basketball IQ, playmaking abilities, and defensive communication. The team is looking forward to his return and the impact he can make on both ends of the court.
Ausar Thompson’s readiness:
Ausar Thompson, the Pistons’ fifth overall draft pick, has been the talk of the camp. His athleticism and defensive instincts have impressed both his teammates and Williams. Given the team’s emphasis on improving defense this season, Thompson is expected to get opportunities to showcase his skills. However, it’s hard to predict how rookies will transition to the NBA. Despite this, Williams believes Thompson has the physical gifts and natural abilities to overcome any challenges and make an immediate impact on the team.
Defense is a priority:
Williams emphasizes the importance of defense and expects players who struggle on defense to have a hard time getting playing time. With a young roster lacking experienced defenders, he acknowledges the need for patience. Among the bigs, only Stewart has been a positive presence on defense. Williams looks to Duren to step up as an elite rim protector and challenges the guards to limit dribble penetration. The team’s goal is to improve defensively, reduce fouling, and relieve pressure on the offense. Williams recognizes that building a good defensive team requires hard work, toughness, and discipline throughout the entire season.
For (preseason) openers: Suns:
The Pistons will face the Phoenix Suns in their exhibition opener at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The game will be televised on Bally Sports Detroit and NBATV, with radio coverage on WWJ-AM (950). The regular-season opener is set for Oct. 25 against the Miami Heat at 7:30 p.m.
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