Let’s face it, the small forward position is one of the most volatile areas on the Pistons roster going into this season. Detroit addressed this area as best they could with their limited cap space, but the end result is Tony Snell (who found himself out of the rotation in Milwaukee late last year) as the starter, a rookie, Sekou Doumbuoya, that simply won’t be NBA-ready on day one, and 38-year-old Joe Johnson, who hasn’t played in the league since 2017-18.
The time is now for Svi Mykhaliluk.
When Detroit traded away Reggie Bullock last season, they didn’t do so strictly for a second round pick; Svi was the primary trade chip they wanted in return. Svi tore up the 2018 Summer League, and was coming off his senior season at Kansas where he shot 44 percent from deep. He’s got size, and supposedly shooting, although the latter part has yet to be proven at the NBA level. He’s entering just his second year in the NBA, and is still very green seeing how he only logged a total of 20 minutes in the three games he played for Detroit.
If the Pistons are going to get the most out of the second unit, the thing Svi is going to need to improve on the most is his three point shooting. And even though there isn’t a ton of data to go off of from his time with Detroit, he had considerably more run with the Lakers. There, he averaged a total of 10.8 minutes per game in 42 games, and shot just 31.8% from three on 2.1 attempts per game.
Now, the Pistons deployed some looks with Svi as the primary ball-handler this past Summer League, and although he looked semi-capable of handling those responsibilities, you shouldn’t expect to see that very often this year. Detroit will have one of the most ball-dominant reserves in the league on their roster in Derrick Rose, who’s still effective when taking the ball to the rack. They’ll likely also have Luke “Swiss Army Knife” Kennard coming off the bench, who looked his best this past postseason when he had the ball in his hands and hunted aggressively for his own shot.
The Pistons will need to get the most out of Kennard and Rose if this team is going to take a serious stride forward, and Svi will have to do his part in allowing those two the room to operate. He’ll have to create offense without having to put the ball on the floor - and the best way to do that is to hit spot up threes.
He was serviceable in spot-up situations last season, ranking in the 54th percentile, but if he could be relied upon regularly in that scenario with a heavier dose of open looks (Detroit ranked eighth in open three pointers attempted per game last season) from anywhere beyond the arc (specifically the corners), that’ll open up the floor for Rose to do what he does best, drive and (possibly) kick, and for Kennard to reach into his bag of tricks on a more consistent basis.
Throughout Svi’s 42 games last season, he shot a total of 26 threes from the corners, hitting just 24% from the left corner on 17 attempts, and 56% from the right corner on 9 attempts. The corners are important here since A) It’s the shortest distance for an NBA three, and B) It’s a common area where help defense over-rotates once a player makes penetration into the paint. If Svi has to be accounted for on those corner threes, instead of, say, Thon Maker, that’ll produce the type of floor spacing needed for Detroit to keep their heads above water offensively while the starters rest.
Detroit won’t be asking the world out of Svi, but his limited role on this team will be critical for the second unit to be successful. Hit your shots Svi; you’re going to get them.