Detroit Pistons: Welcome To The Era Of The Really Big 3

In the era of increased use of small-ball lineups, coach Maurice Cheeks and the Detroit Pistons enter the 2013-14 season flying directly in the face of that.

Ladies and gentlemen: The Really Big 3. At center, at 6’10” and 270 pounds in his second year out of Connecticut, Andre Drummond. At power forward, at 6’11” and 250 pounds in his fourth year out of Georgetown, Greg Monroe. At small forward (giggle), at 6’9” and 225 pounds in his 10th year out of College Park, Ga., Josh Smith.

Small ball? We don’ need no steenking small ball.

The Pistons had Drummond and Monroe last season, but former coach Lawrence Frank seemed reluctant to use them simultaneously. Reluctant? I meant to say allergic. Of all the two-man combinations the Pistons put together on the floor, Monroe-Drummond is nowhere to be found within the top 20. The pair logged just 452 minutes on the court together in 2012-13.

They got 20 minutes of run together in Wednesday night’s opening 113-102 win over the Washington Wizards and were a fairly effective combination, in much the same way Walter White was a fairly popular Halloween costume this year.

In their 20 minutes together—Drummond was limited to just 26 minutes due to foul trouble—the team was 18-for-30 with 17 rebounds.

In all, the new-look frontcourt combined for 55 points, 29 rebounds, nine assists and a couple of blocks.

There were some issues on the defensive end—Trevor Ariza went off for the Wizards, scoring 28 points and hitting 6-of-11 from behind the arc as the rotations were a bit slow at times.

But the Pistons absolutely obliterated the Wizards in the paint, outscoring Washington 56-28 while shooting 50 percent from the floor, including a decent 37.5 percent (9-for-24) from deep.

Greg Monroe Shot Chart

Greg Monroe’s shot chart from Wednesday night tells the story of what happens when he settles from mid-range.

That’s not to say there aren’t things to iron out. Monroe was terrific when he was aggressive—he got to the foul line 15 times and led Detroit with 16 rebounds, but he also settled for five shots in the mid-range areas … and didn’t make one of them.

Smith was very efficient … giving people a moment to recover from that statement … OK … and we’re back. Smith was 8-for-12 from the floor, scored 19 points, handed out five assists to go with five rebounds and was a team-best plus-13 in his 40 minutes. Can’t be crazy about the team-high seven 3-point attempts, but he did splash three of them.

Drummond, when he was in, did this:

All three of Drummond’s offensive rebounds resulted in throwdown putbacks.

When Cheeks opted to go small was off the bench, using Kyle Singler and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 27 minutes each. Jonas Jerebko got eight minutes in the frontcourt. And that was about it—Tony Mitchell, Luigi Datome and Peyton Siva played a few seconds each at the end of the game—as Cheeks stuck with an eight-man rotation in the opener.

No one is claiming that Monroe, Drummond and Smith evoke memories of past Really Big 3s like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale or Robert Parish for those 1980s Boston Celtics teams.

But at least based on the sample size we have so far—one regular-season game—the combination may give some teams fits, particularly on the defensive end.

Perhaps the most welcome development was that even without point guard Brandon Jennings (still out with a fractured jaw) and combo guard Rodney Stuckey (broken thumb), and with a new coach and several new players, there was a cohesiveness to the Pistons that has been lacking in recent seasons.

Rather than a disjointed mess, there was talking on the defensive end, actual defensive rotations that made sense and a willingness to share the basketball on the offensive end.

Add to that the effectiveness of the Really Big 3 and the Mo Cheeks era is off to a solid start.

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Tags: Andre Drummond Detroit Pistons Greg Monroe Josh Smith NBA