An ongoing discussion for the Detroit Pistons this season will be their rotation at power forward and who should start. The roster is mixed with unique players who hold different skillsets to provide at the position. After completing the much-anticipated trade of forward Jerami Grant, there is now a huge need to fill in the frontcourt.
Detroit’s young core is among the most exciting in the entire NBA. The promise of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey, and Jalen Duren will lead the Pistons throughout their upcoming growth. However, the player who compliments them at power forward holds significant responsibility.
With the newly acquired athleticism and size, the Pistons have a significant need for offensive floor spacing. Points in the paint and transition scoring should be much improved this season. Their ability to shoot from the perimeter and spread the floor is concerning at the moment. Their starting power forward will play a big role in solving that concern.
Here is a breakdown of the Pistons’ best options at power forward this season.
Where does Isaiah Stewart fit with the Detroit Pistons this season?
Beef Stew might have the strongest track to starting considering his history in Detroit. He has spent the majority of his time as a starter and is continuing to add new tools to his game. All of that starting was spent at center, and it looks like the Pistons could have different plans for him moving forward.
We saw lots of time during Summer League with Stewart getting reps at power forward. The Pistons got a good glimpse of Stewart’s jump shot and ability to blend in the frontcourt as a stretch-four. There is very little concern defensively as Stewart has shown the capability to defend the paint and switch on guards on the perimeter.
Offensively should be the deciding factor on whether Beef Stew will fit as the premiere power forward for Detroit. Stewart’s rookie season displayed a lot more scoring ability than last season. Reports circulated that the Pistons’ coaching staff wanted Stewart to focus less on his scoring prowess.
An improved jump shot as a pick-and-roll partner could help cement Stewart’s case as Detroit’s most fitting power forward. It also would compensate for some of his limitations as an undersized 6’8 forward. If he shoots with the continued confidence we saw in Summer League; Beef Stew could find himself etched at the four.
Marvin Bagley III is expected to be a weapon for the Detroit Pistons.
Acquiring Bagley was easily one of the best surprises for the Pistons last season. After struggling with an absence of length and athleticism above the rim, the former 2018 No. 2 overall pick proved to be a perfect fit for what Detroit needed. The front office rewarded that confidence when they signed Bagley to a three-year deal this offseason.
The Pistons might have their most dynamic option at four in the 23-year-old. Bagley finished the season averaging 11.3 points and seven rebounds last season while splitting time at power forward and center. He inflated his value by mixing in well in the starting lineup and coming off the bench.
Detroit didn’t run lots of plays on the interior for Bagley. He was primarily a lob threat and off-ball cutter to the basket. If he ends up being a starter, the Pistons will need an improved spot-up jump shot on his behalf. Bagley spends a lot of time roaming among the perimeter and setting screens. Look for Detroit to try and establish a consistent jumper out of Bagley to solidify his positioning on the roster.
Identifying Kelly Olynyk’s role with the Detroit Pistons.
The offseason opened up with lots of speculation about players the Pistons could trade to create roster space. Veteran Kelly Olynyk was one of the more popular options discussed. Seeing the landscape of the team currently, Detroit is in a place where they might have to hold on to the 31-year-old forward.
Olynyk is the best shooter of the natural power forward options on the roster. He would be the most fitting choice at power forward as a floor spacer by the numbers. After an injury-plagued season, Olynyk only shot 33.6% from behind the long line. However, he still has promise as a career 36% shooter from three.
Defense remains to be an issue for Olynyk as he has never been known as a plus defender. He also is outside the Pistons’ timeline as one of the eldest veterans on the roster. Being on a rebuilding roster as a veteran has to feel like you’re on borrowed time, especially if you aren’t a star. Olynyk is entering the second year of his three-year deal with the Pistons. Considering a team option in the final year, he could be expendable sooner than later.
Olynyk could play his way into the starting lineup, which could also spark increased trade value where he could be dealt. The future of Olynyk in Detroit is a mystery, but he does have upside to start the season.
Isaiah Livers has earned a role in the Detroit Pistons’ rotation
The Pistons’ 2021 draft gets lots of recognition after reaping the rewards of winning the lottery and drafting franchise face Cade Cunningham. One of the unsung heroes of that draft is becoming a household name in Detroit and could make a dark-horse push to be their starting four.
Second-round draft pick Isaiah Livers is looking to be quite the steal for general manager Troy Weaver. After nursing a foot injury from college through some of his rookie season, Livers is stepping into his sophomore campaign motivated with plenty of opportunity in front of him.
Livers looks to be a promising three-and-D wing who can play multiple positions. If the Pistons want to play small ball lineups, a former Michigan forward could be a quality plug as a stretch-four. Livers hustles hard and rotates tremendously on defense. He also has displayed bright on-court intelligence offensively as a catch-and-shoot option who doesn’t need the ball to be productive.
Coming off the bench seems most fitting for Livers at this point in his young career. He has shown the ability to blend in smoothly with the starters when needed. Livers will play a prominent role as one of the team’s most important role players. It won’t be surprising if he does earn lots of those minutes as a stretch-four.