It’s far too early to call the Pistons’ big frontline a success, but the team leaves the preseason feeling optimistic about having Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith on the floor together.

While much was made of substitution patterns to get one of the three out early in quarters, Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks usually went deep into the first and third quarters before taking one out, usually Drummond, barring foul trouble.

Thursday, Smith and Monroe took turns in the paint and on the block offensively against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Both had trouble finishing, uncharacteristically missing close attempts but the mere fact of where they played was more encouraging than the actual numbers.

“I liked our three big guys’ game,” Cheeks said. “Tonight was an indication of those three playing together. This was one of those games where they got better, feeding off each other. I liked the rhythm those guys played with.”

Drummond controlled the glass, with 20 rebounds and more importantly, played 38 minutes.

He only played 30 minutes or more six times last year, with four coming in the last 10 days of the season.

Stretching him out to 38 minutes in the preseason to gauge his stamina and effectiveness had to be an objective, as Drummond took the preseason very seriously (12.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks).

“We’re trying to get guys to play together, he just happened to play 38,” Cheeks said. “I’m trying to find a rhythm of those guys playing together.”

Cheeks wants Drummond to be more of a defensive presence.

If the Pistons’ pattern of getting steals (12 steals Thursday) to get out on the break is to be continued, Drummond could be left on the back line alone on occasion.

“Andre has to be a little better, a little better, of clogging the paint, blocking some shots,” Cheeks said.

“So just in case someone gambles for a steal and doesn’t get it, he can be that anchor on the defensive end.”

Smith scored 20 and added six rebounds, while Monroe scored 17 with five rebounds.