Pistons Notes: Knox, Starters, Duren, Livers, Williams

New head coach Monty Williams has placed a strong emphasis on defense for the young Pistons, which is part of the reason why they’ve been using a starting lineup that doesn’t feature much shooting.

However, as Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscriber link) writes, the cramped offensive spacing has played a factor in the team’s issue with turning the ball over — the Pistons are last in the league in turnovers per game, and third-year guard Cade Cunningham leads the NBA in total turnovers (64 in 13 games, or 4.9 per night).

On Thursday, Williams said he was considering making changes to the rotation to surround Cunningham with more shooting.

He’s seeing two and three bodies every single night,” Williams said of Cunningham, who was limited to 12 games last season due to a shin injury. “Making the read is something that can be really hard for point guards in general, but in particular for a guy who’s been off for a while. When you look at the film at halftime, he knows right away where he should’ve made the read, or at night when we talk, he’s already on it. It’s just going to take a lot of reps. I think it’s a combination of the time off, different defenses, the physicality. He’s got bigger guys and stronger guys on him every single night.

I have to do a better job of allowing him to play in more space. Think I gotta change up the combinations with him on the floor so the paint isn’t as crowded. I think that’s going to free him up to see a lot more clearly, if you will.”

Williams did indeed switch up the starting lineup on Friday against Cleveland, with newly-signed Kevin Knox replacing Marvin Bagley in the frontcourt. Knox got the nod at power forward, sliding Isaiah Stewart up to center.

Knox continued his solid play, notching 11 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and a block in 31 minutes. But the change wasn’t enough for the Pistons to snap their losing streak, which was extended to 10 straight games, notes Mike Curtis of The Detroit News.

Here’s more on the Pistons:

  • A significant factor in Detroit’s poor spacing is the fact that the team has been ravaged by injuries to open 2023/24. Second-year center Jalen Duren doesn’t provide much shooting yet, but his rim-running and strong synergy with Cunningham have been sorely missed after he sustained an ankle injury that has hampered him since October 30, according to Curtis of The Detroit News (subscriber link). Duren has missed the past three games with bilateral ankle soreness.
  • On a more positive note, Isaiah Livers, who has missed the entire season to this point with a Grade III ankle sprain, is questionable for Sunday’s matchup with Toronto, tweets James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Livers was a full practice participant on Thursday. The former second-round pick will hit restricted free agency in 2024.
  • After winning two of their first three games, the Pistons are now 2-11, but Williams has been encouraged by the team’s progress behind the scenes, per Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “When we watch film, they see the things that we have taught that they know they can be better at,” he said. “I see the growth. I know it sounds crazy, but when I look at the numbers and I look at the film, I see the growth. My hope is with the work and the preparation, we’re going to see consistent play and the style and identity that we want to put on the floor every night.”
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