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Film Don’t Lie: Detroit Pistons youngsters get after it

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Pistons youngsters show signs of progress amid lost season

Detroit Pistons v Denver Nuggets Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons players are trying to win games, I swear, but it’s been abundantly clear for weeks now that with the franchise going with mostly younger developmental players, the main goal is to play for the future. That means letting the younger players get plenty of opportunities, and with those opportunities come more mistakes. Losing is no fun but at least it could lead to some luck that leads to a favorable selection in June’s NBA Draft. Then comes the pressure part of actually drafting a player who is worth one’s salt.

I’m going to be highlighting some of the youngster’s bright spots. If there are consistent lapses or poor play among the youngsters, I’ll be sure to highlight that more in-depth as time goes on. For now, the young guys are giving pretty good effort, and you don’t have to squint too hard to see their growth in most areas. While not a lot of victories will come the rest of the season, the young players will get great benefit from added time on the floor against NBA competition. At least that’s the plan.

I’m not saying, for example, that veterans like John Henson, Brandon Knight or Tony Snell aren’t giving good effort, I’m just saying that there’s little reason to look closely at them since their time with the organization seems limited.

Let’s get to it.

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Some sexiness to start off. Christian Wood is a pain to deal with because of a variety of things. His length, his shooting ability and his agility are the key points. Yet, sometimes he makes shots more difficult for himself than needed. With Luke Kennard still in street clothes, Wood is going to be the second option (and sometimes first) on this team the rest of the way. He’s going to be put in positions to shoot the ball a ton. And he’s going to need to manufacturer opportunities for himself at times too — as that’s what good players are asked to do several times throughout a game.

This drive against Nikola Jokic, as I see it, is a manufactured opportunity. Wood could have just relied on his jumper, and, really, it wouldn’t have been seen as a bad shot since Wood had room and, as we know, isn’t a poor perimeter shooter. With Wood going one-on-one with Jokic, and Paul Millsap far from the paint, Wood went with the option that will award him a bucket seven or eight times out of 10. It will be fun going forward to look more closely at Wood’s shot selection. Will he lean towards making his myriad strengths work for him, or will he be lackadaisical and settle?

In this one, Wood rushes it and seems as if he already had his mind made up with the move he was going to make, and when he was going to go up with the shot. That’s not ideal — only a handful of guys in the league can assert their will like that. Wood had plenty of time on the shot clock and he had a rookie defender on him in Michael Porter Jr. This was a solid opportunity that Wood failed to take advantage of. Wood made Porter’s job much easier by not making him work and play extended defense. Wood needs to make his length and footwork work for him. Work with what the defense gives you and you’ll certainly be able to get a better look than an off-balance fall-away.

Wood’s gears are turning most of the time on the court. That’s an excellent sign. His basketball IQ is pretty high and you can see where it can improve. Wood has that potential upstairs to go with his physical tools. This pass is nice awareness by Wood right away of what Denver is trying to do. Wood’s pass is thrown at the right time and on target. He’s going to get doubled more and more as the season continues when a much smaller player is switched on to him.

Svi Mykhailiuk isn’t the best defensive player out there, but he’s capable of being much more than a weak link on that end. Svi makes his share of defensive mistakes, however, the effort and focus seem to be there. Svi likely levels out as a top eight player on a good team, so if Svi reaches that potential it will probably be because he continues to be a very consistent shooter and limits his turnovers. All Svi has to do on the other end is be an active defender who uses his strength and quickness to his advantage. I know Svi’s lack of wingspan is cause for concern, but I think he’s got most of the other defensive tools and instincts to be alright.

Undrafted 22-year-old rookie big man Donta Hall made his NBA debut in Denver with 15 minutes off the bench. The stats — four rebounds and four points — don’t jump out, but Hall’s energy sure does. Donta is a high-motor player and attacks this rebound like a wild animal attacks its prey.

Not a whole lot to go off of with this one — Hall does a decent job of contesting and holding his ground against Jokic. Overall, what I came away with is the realization that Hall isn’t going to back down from anyone. Looking at him more closely, it’s interesting to think about what he can do on both ends at this level. Hall’s energy and athleticism are elite. As a Pistons fan, your mind can wander about Hall’s potential as a role player. Let it wander.

Hall’s numbers in the G League are impressive. In 36 games he’s at 15.5 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. He’s averaging over a steal and a block per game as well. He’s shooting 70.1-percent on two-point attempts. He’s mostly a rim runner and garbage man at this point, although there’s some semblance of a decent jump hook and quality jump shot developing if you’ve seen enough of his play in Grand Rapids.

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Anything, good or bad, that you are regularly seeing from the Pistons youngsters recently? Let us know!