The Pistons made a pair of significant lineup changes before their 118-112 loss to the Knicks on Thursday night, benching Jaden Ivey and rookie Ausar Thompson and moving Killian Hayes and Isaiah Livers into their starting lineup. With their 16th straight loss, they became the first team to go winless for an entire month since the 2015 Sixers.
Coach Monty Williams making the decision to bench both Ivey and Thompson is significant. Ivey was a key starter for Detroit last season after being selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2022 draft, averaging 16.3 points in 73 starts last year.
However, his role has been much more suppressed this year under Williams. His efficiency is up (50.8% from the floor this year entering Thursday compared to 41.6% last season), but he’s only started in five of his 15 appearances and was down to 23.4 minutes per night (from 31.1) entering Thursday.
Ivey didn’t begin the year as a starter, with Hayes taking on that role before relenting it to Ivey over the past five games. Hayes, the No. 7 overall pick in 2020, was averaging 8.5 points and 4.4 assists per game entering Thursday but recorded 23 points on 76.9% shooting against New York.
According to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link), Williams said the decision to start Hayes over Ivey came down to him liking Hayes’ ability to allow Cade Cunningham to play off the ball more and he likes how the fourth-year guard can get the team organized.
As for Thompson, he was a full-time starter before his benching Thursday. This year’s No. 5 overall pick has been one of the most impressive rookies this season, averaging 11.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.6 blocks. Livers started in his place, recording six points and four rebounds.
Neither Thompson or Ivey played major roles off the bench on Thursday, with both logging just 13 minutes of game time, though Thompson had five fouls. That marks Ivey’s second-lowest minute total this season and Thompson’s lowest in his young career. Marcus Sasser finished with the most minutes off the bench, recording 17 points.
While losing their 16th straight game is obviously disappointing, the Pistons kept it close with the Knicks and seemed to find something with how they utilized Cunningham, tweets Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press. Cunningham finished with 31 points and eight assists. Mike Curtis of The Detroit News observes that the Pistons’ three-guard lineup of Cunningham, Ivey and Hayes helped kick-start a 13-0 run and when Ivey was subbed out, the Knicks hit back.
We’ll be watching Detroit to see what happens with the team’s young pieces moving forward. So far, their young core hasn’t meshed well and moves could be on the way if their losing ways continue. In the short term, Bojan Bogdanovic is expected back soon, which should help with the Pistons’ spacing issues (they ranked 29th in made threes entering Thursday).