This was the first time I noticed Svi Mykhailiuk:
Like, look at that guy! A 6-foot-8 forward who can hit the roll man with a pocket pass? A European kid dunking everything he can get within 3 feet of the bucket? A wing-sized wing who is also an absolute marksman from the perimeter? I thought, at worst, he’d be next in the Damon Jones/Mike Miller/J.R. Smith lineage of “dudes who made shots LeBron created for them,” and at best he’d be, what, a copy of a fax of a copy of Bojan Bogdanovic?
Through one year, Svi has yet to deliver on that promise at the NBA level. He played fewer than 450 minutes last season, 400 of those minutes for the Los Angeles Lakers, and shot a pedestrian 32.6% from three. After being traded to the Detroit Pistons for Reggie Bullock, Svi rarely saw the court. One finger surgery later, we knew why. The regular season ended, the Pistons were eliminated from the playoffs, and Svi faded from memory a little bit.
Then, the Las Vegas Summer League rolled around, and I remembered why I’d been so excited about him:
That ability to create easy points for other guys as a pick-and-roll playmaker.
But this year, I knew to be cautious. We’d seen this from Svi already in Vegas, but this year, it’s time for him to bring it to Detroit.
One Big Question
What kinds of shots is Svi taking? That alone could determine what his minutes look like.
Look, we know he can shoot it. He averaged over 40% from three in his four years at Kansas, shot 40% from three in eight G-League games last year. His shot is easy and clean; unlike, say, a Bruce Brown Jr., you think his shot is going in every time it leaves his hands. To my eye, shot selection is the trouble for Svi - he can make almost any shot, but that means he takes almost any shot — including ones nobody should be taking.
Here’s an easy example from this preseason:
The out-of-bounds play is set up to get Svi a corner look - great! But Michael Carter-Williams overplays the inbound (of note: the weak screen set by Christian Wood offers Svi no separation) and Svi catches it out of position. Instead of taking a beat, attacking Fultz’s closeout, and flipping the ball to Tim Frazier for a layup, Svi takes a high-difficulty stepback corner three that, predictably, doesn’t go in.
CAN Svi make that shot? I mean, probably — he’s a great shooter. Is that shot the right shot to take with more than 10 seconds on the shot clock? Hell no.
If, when he plays, Svi can excise these kinds of looks from his shot diet, his percentages will rise, and he’ll play more often. If he’s shooting a lot of tough shots to prove he can, his percentages will stay about the same, and he won’t play that much. It’s really that simple.
I am VERY bullish on Svi. On the Off the Glass Pistons preview podcast, I predicted Svi would play 1500 minutes this season, which would put him in essentially the same place in the rotation that Bruce Brown Jr. and Langston Galloway held last year. I believe, essentially, that Svi can make the wide-open shots Langston had such difficulty with last season, and that will keep him in the rotation.
Best Case Scenario
Svi is everything I’ve thought he is and more. Not only does he supplant Langston Galloway in the rotation for good in early December, he shoots 40% from three on decent volume, making the Derrick Rose - Luke Kennard - Svi Mykhailiuk bench lineup one of the best offensive bench lineups in the league. With Kennard and Svi both shooting over 40% from three, defenses are forced to choose between helping on Rose forays to the basket or leaving deadly wing shooters open.
The bench lineup being so good means the Pistons can preserve (and in some cases, build upon) leads the starting lineup hands to them, which leads to fewer minutes and less wear-and-tear on Blake Griffin. The Pistons make the playoffs, Svi has a playoff game in which he scores 12 points in the second quarter and alters the feel of the game, and I beam proudly from my couch.
Worst Case Scenario
Svi blows his chance at consistent rotation minutes in November by taking too many difficult shots, ceding playing time to Langston Galloway. The Pistons occasionally get him some minutes in Grand Rapids to keep him in the playing groove. Maybe Langston struggles later in the season and Svi gets another chance, maybe Langston is traded at the deadline to free up minutes for Svi, but Svi’s play forces the hand of the coaching staff negatively, instead of positively.
Ultimately, right now Svi’s chance at playing time is in no one’s hands but Svi. As a second-year player drafted in the second round, that’s all you can really ask for at this point in your career. I (hope? expect?) think Svi will make the most of his chance, and that will benefit the Pistons in the present and future.