I promised to keep you informed about the Detroit Pistons’ plans concerning the last season of Grand Rapids Drive as their G-League affiliate. The G-League will hold its games in a bubble in Orlando, and the Drive won’t participate in it - the Pistons opted out of the bubble. This might be a good news for team finances, but not for its young players, at least not some of them.
We can be happy with the opportunities given to three rookies taken in first round of the most recent draft. Killian Hayes was as a starter from the beginning of the season until he injured his hip, and played more than 21 minutes a game. This is not a small number in itself, and apparently a big one for Killian, as he looked a little overwhelmed right before the injury occurred.
Isaiah Stewart broke into the rotation after two games, and has no intention whatsoever of leaving, thus undermining the Jahlil Okafor Reclamation Project. Jahlil didn’t look bad himself (unless you had some illusions about his defense). It’s just that Isaiah is too active to be kept on the bench (where have we heard that before, huh?). So Stewart is averaging more than 17 minutes a game – enough time to demolish two veteran centers with hall of fame aspirations, and throw another to the ground. Saddiq Bey, in turn, has too good a three ball to be kept on the bench, and is averaging around 19 minutes per contest.
After that, it’s much worse. Sophomore Sekou Doumbouya plays only 11.8 minutes a game. Two others rooks barely see the floor. Saben Lee has played only 50 minutes in five games. Taken in last year’s draft and stashed in Europe for that season, Deividas Sirvydis has played two minutes in two games. Pistons also added third-year guy Frank Jackson, who is averaging 7.1 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists a game in 123 games in the League, and has only gotten 24 minutes in three games.
You don’t have to explain that young players need to play to develop. And you don’t have to explain how that’s even more important in a season that comes after some of them had nine months off from playing real games due to the pandemic. On the other hand, it’s also evident that you can’t find playing time for all the youngsters on your roster. Dwane Casey is organizing longer practices (“night sessions”) for the young players. But practices won’t replicate game experience. Fortunately, there is one route to save the G-League season for the young players who need playing time that the Pistons staff is considering.
The NBA teams whose G-League affiliates won’t participate in the bubble will be allowed to send its own players to clubs playing in the bubble, while paying for their stay there. As reported by Rod Beard of The Detroit News, Dwane Casey is seriously considering using this loophole for Deividas and Saben:
#Pistons Dwane Casey says he's discussed possibly getting the young players some time in the G League this year: "It's a tricky situation: Sirvydis needs it; Saben needs it."— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) January 19, 2021
This is a good news. It’s not only good news for the players involved, since they could get their long-awaited chance of real game experience, it’s good news for us because we’re also hungry to see those left by its rotation constrains to play some meaningful basketball (although we’re pleased by the play of the youngsters who are given opportunity to hoop for the big club). Now, there’s a chance that the appetite of both the players and us will be sated.