3. Monty Williams needs to fix his lineups
When the Detroit Pistons signed former Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams in the offseason, it was clear that they thought they were getting one of the best coaches in the league. The six-year, $78.5 million contract they gave Williams made that pretty obvious. Unfortunately, Williams’ time in Detroit hasn’t lived up to his contract and that statement has nothing to do with his record. It’s all about his lineups and the way he manages the teams’ rotations.
One of the biggest issues with Monty Williams’ rotations this season has been how little he plays second-year guard Jaden Ivey. To be fair, Ivey hasn’t been amazing averaging just 13 points, three rebounds, and three assists on modest efficiency. However, he ranks fourth on the team in estimated plus-minus and he has been decent as a passer, sporting an assist rate of 18 percent.
Also, lineups with Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Jalen Duren, three of the Pistons’ best young players, have been pretty good, sporting a net rating of +2.2. This is the only three-man combination the Pistons have used that has a positive net rating this year. Unfortunately, the Pistons don’t use these three players together often, as this combination has only logged around 178 minutes this year. That makes this the 15th most used three-man combination on the entire team.
Another issue is that Monty Williams loves to play non-shooters next to Cade Cunningham. Here are Williams’ three most used three-man combinations along with their net ratings:
- 475 minutes | Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart, and Ausuar Thompson | -9.8 Net Rating
- 363 minutes | Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, and Isaiah Stewart | -8.6 Net Rating
- 308 minutes | Cade Cunningham, Jalen Duren, and Isaiah Stewart | -1.1 Net Rating
For whatever reason, Williams loves to run lineups with Cade Cunningham as the primary initiator surrounded by non-shooters. This shows up in all of their lineup combinations and it doesn’t make much sense. The Pistons aren’t a great team and they would struggle no matter what, but relying on so many non-shooters and not giving minutes to their better players is holding them back in a major way. This needs to change if they want to end their losing streak.
One last issue with their lineups is how little rookie guard Marcus Sasser plays. Sasser averages just 16 minutes per game, but he’s been pretty good when he gets on the floor, averaging 5.2 assists per 36 minutes compared to just 1.9 turnovers and shooting 41.5 percent from three on 6.3 attempts per 36 minutes.
Also, his impact metrics are pretty good as he has the second-best box plus-minus on the team among players getting serious minutes. This doesn’t mean he’s been their second-best player, but it does mean he’s been good enough to warrant more playing time. I’m begging Monty Williams to realize that he has a young guard on his bench who can shoot and pass. Sasser would help with their lack of shooting and he would give them some more playmaking which they desperately need.