So SVG and the Pistons have made a change to the starting lineup, inserting Jon Leuer in as a starter. The last 2 games it was for Tobias Harris, but apparently that may not be the permanent move as Morris was supposed to come off the bench against the Grizzlies until Leuer got in a car accident, and SVG has since said that he hasn't made a long term decision here. Either way, Leuer is likely in the starting lineup for at least enough of an extended period to give it a real chance. This is worth talking about because since the start of last year, SVG has been hugely inflexible in not just his starting lineup, but his rotations as a whole. This is probably going to go way further in depth than it has any need for but I'm doing it anyways.
So who is the better long term option for the bench? Morris or Tobias?
I am going to take SVG at his word that he has not decided for sure whether Tobias or Marcus be coming off the bench long term. Obviously if he actually were to go with the idea of swapping them depending on the matchup then that would be a totally different thing, and also one that I doubt he would stick with long term.
Do/did they really need to make a lineup change?
I don't think it is as needed as it might appear at the moment. So far this year the lineup of Reggie/KCP/Morris/Tobias/Andre has an offensive efficiency of 98.6 and a defensive efficiency of 115.7, both of which are absolutely horrible to combine for a horrifying net rating of -17.1. And given that it has 135 minutes this year, the 2nd most of any Pistons lineup, you can't just totally wisp it away with the “small sample size” argument. That said, Reggie clearly looked poor his first few games, and is just now starting to look much good again, and Tobias hit a really bad slump. Swap in Ish Smith for Reggie and you have a lineup with a devastating 107.5 offensive rating, and a awful defensive rating of 107.8. Obviously that is not good, being a net negative, but when you consider the two factors of that Ish Smith is really the backup, and that Reggie clearly was out of sorts the first few games and is just now coming into form, you can find a good excuse, especially when combined with last years numbers, where the Pistons starting lineup (with Tobias) had a 107.4 offensive efficiency and 104.3 defensive rating for a not great but fairly tidy +3.2 net rating in 462 total minutes. (In an interesting note, the Pistons previous starting lineup with Ersan instead of Tobias also had a net rating of +3.2) So essentially, no, they didn't need to make a change yet. There is a lot of evidence that they have a fairly effective starting lineup with good reason to believe that as Reggie gets into form and everyone gets used to playing with him instead of Ish that they would turn it around. HOWEVA, this year they have 123 minutes together, which is not exactly a tiny sample size, and that -15.6 net rating is glaring. So it is totally reasonable to decide to try something new.
Is Leuer the best guy to make a starter for one of Mobias?
As far as making Leuer the starter, yeah that is a pretty clear choice. The other options to insert into the starting lineup are: Baynes for Andre (lol), Stanley for Either Morris or KCP which unless SVG wants to go all in on getting Stanley heavy reps to develop him (hint: he isn't) wouldn't make sense because there is no argument for Stanley being better than either KCP or Morris right now, and lastly there would be Ish for Reggie. The last one is something at least some people want to happen. Here is the thing, if Reggie is really so broken that Ish is going to be better than him long term, then the Pistons need a new point guard and have to try and move someone who suddenly has a pretty bad contract. Essentially, if you really believe that Reggie is going to be a worse long term option than Ish, then you have to know that Ish is not taking this team where they want to go and the Pistons might have to do a semi-rebuild to find a new point guard. As it stands, until there is a lot more evidence that Reggie is broken, you have to keep playing him and hoping he comes around, because if he doesn't, the Pistons are mostly screwed for this year anyways.
As far as breaking up Mobias in the starting lineup, that is one that I have trouble coming to grips with as I am a very unashamed lover of the Mobias combination. And my first instinct is to remember that early in this season, both Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris were really the guys that carried the Pistons without Reggie around to the point that I was wondering (just to myself) what you could do long term with a team built around the forward combination of Marcus and Tobias. However, this season when they are both on the floor together they have a -3.6 net rating, which obviously is not just the recent struggles. Essentially the question of breaking up Mobias is a question similar to breaking up the starting lineup at all, last year Mobias had a net rating of +4.8 and there is good reason to believe that they can work long term, but given the way things have gone this year it is certainly defendable to break them up.
The other reality is that, even though Tobias and Marcus were solid together on the floor last year, they actually were better when they had a role player stretch 4 on the floor instead of Mobias. So the starting lineup with Tobias last year had a +3.2, but that same lineup with Tolliver in Tobias' place was +9.4. Tolliver and Leuer are different players, but for comparisons purposes it works. (also on a side note, I miss Tolly.) On top of that, in theory it is probably better to split them up. Even though they are different players, for both of them, they are at their best when they have the ball in their hands trying to score in isolation. As such they are a bit redundant when on the floor, and they can at times get into the dreaded “my turn, your turn” offensive style.
The reality is though, that breaking up Mobias has more to do with Leuer than Tobias or Morris. If one of the various guys who can play backup SG were playing as well as Leuer has played this year then it would make sense to maybe try and swap them in for KCP. Essentially SVG decided that something had to change, and it is not hard to see why given how the team has struggled, and Leuer was the only guy who was very viable as an option to insert which means one of Tobias or Morris was headed to the bench. Lastly, this change should not really come as a huge surprise to anyone, and to pat myself on the back a bit (I gotta take advantage of the predictions I get right lol) I said in the preseason that Leuer might push for a starting spot. Once it was clear that Leuer could be better than just a normal bench guy, everyone should've expected him to be a good bet to crack the starting lineup because it is pretty clear that SVG, for better or worse, has never really believed in the Mobias combo. Remember that they had traded for Dmo last year, and likely were aware of that when they traded for Tobias. Throw in that Tobias was originally coming off the bench regardless but was forced into the starting lineup when Anthony Tolliver was hurt after just a couple of games. SVG talked about their lack of size more than anything else when he was asked about free agent signings which is a direct comment on the Mobias combo.
Tobias to the bench:
The argument for Tobias going to bench is likely pretty strong right now given how well he played in his first 2 outings from there. And in terms of pure style of play, it makes more sense. Marcus is a more proven shooter (Tobias has a slight edge on him in 3 point % this year), is a better passer and mover without the ball, and more defensively sound than Tobias is. And even though Marcus, like Tobias, is quite capable of getting his own shot, it is not quite as central a skill in his game. Tobias on the other hand, while not exactly way behind Morris in terms of shooting, (once again, outshooting him form deep as of now) defense, or passing, it is a noticeable difference. While Tobias is unquestionably better than Morris in terms of getting his own shot, which all combines to make Tobias a guy who can be very effective with the ball in his hands, and not all that effective when it isn't. Marcus on the other hand, brings more to the table when he doesn't have the ball in his hands. As such, leaving Marcus in the starting lineup and then giving the ball the Reggie/Andre pick and roll more while letting Tobias carry a heavy scoring load from the bench is a sound logical conclusion.
Simply put, Tobias really fits the bill of a stereotypical 6th man type. A guy who can just straight up get buckets for himself, but is somewhat lacking defensively. And the reality is that Marcus can still work as a sort of 2nd/3rd option as a isolation scorer with the starters.
Marcus to the bench:
The main argument for Marcus going to the bench is pretty simple. First off is that he is capable of doing the same things for the bench as Tobias in terms of running the offense through him and his isolation scoring. In fact last year, despite how awful the bench often was for the Pistons, One of the Pistons best heavy usage lineups was: Steve Blake/Stanley Johnson/Marcus Morris/Anthony Tolliver/Aron Baynes. With a offensive efficiency of 104.6 and a defensive efficiency of 92 for a net of +12.5. (Meanwhile the bench mob with KCP has the holdover starter was -11.5 and yet SVG kept using it. That was one of the most frustrating things SVG did last year.) Replace Blake with Ish and there is really good evidence that a Marcus led bench mob would slaughter opponents. And once again, for all the same reasons that Tobias leading the bench is a good idea in theory.
The best argument for using Marcus off the bench instead of Tobias is pretty simple, Tobias is just better. The reality is that even though KCP has made very good improvements this year, and Marcus is still solid, neither of them should be the essentially 2nd option in a good offense. Which they would essentially be with the starting lineup if Tobias is on the bench. The Jackson/Drummond pick and roll is awesome, but when it breaks down you need a 2nd option. Tobias is almost certainly good enough to be that guy, but it isn't clear that they can build a good offense without Tobias playing with them. Even with both Tobias and Marcus in the starting lineup the Pistons biggest offensive issue is getting points after the initial couple of pick and rolls don't work. Leuer brings some passing creativity that neither Morris or especially Tobias don't have but it would be a worry. Admittedly though, last year they had a offensively efficiency of 104.2 with the Ersan starting lineup, which isn't great but is decent. Essentially the Argument for Marcus going to the bench is that he does the same stuff leading the bench as Tobias does, but he isn't as good. Essentially saying that your starting lineup should be your best 5 guys, ergo Tobias should be a starter.
What is your opinion?
I think that bringing Tobias off the bench works well, and the first two games pretty much speak for themselves. The part I'm worried about is whether or not Tobias will get him minutes and then close out games. Because Tobias is still the Pistons 3rd best player, and we shouldn't forget that he was making a legitimate all star campaign early in the season, and if he can get going again like the last two games indicate he will get back into that conversation. One way that I think it could be very effective would be to essentially give the bench over to both of Mobias. Essentially, Marcus is still the first guy to go to the bench and replace him with Stanley Johnson, then for the next however many minutes the Pistons turn the offense totally over to the Jackson/Drummond pick and roll and hope to play defense like crazy, and then Tobias and Marcus then get some time together leading the bench. Of course Stanley Johnson figuring out how to freaking shoot would make this a more attractive idea, but I still like it. No matter what though, it is nice that Leuer absolutely earned his starting spot so no one should be too upset about it either way. And whether Tobias stays on the bench or if they switch to Morris it will probably go well. The reality is that this is likely the start of Marcus' role being diminished a bit.
What do you think? Should they keep Tobias on the bench? Any difference in rotation you want to see?