Saddiq Bey had a solid rookie season last year, averaging 12 points per game on 56.7% true shooting and he is looking to take a solid step forward in his sophomore season. At 6-foot-8, Saddiq Bey has an important role to play with this young Pistons squad as a 3-and-D wing with some upside to be more.
The first level of evolution for Saddiq will come if he can transition himself from a 3-and-D wing to a connector. Now, the difference between these two archetypes is seemingly small, but it is a huge step in effectiveness and importance for the next step in the evolution of this young core.
Part of this next step is going to involve Saddiq developing as a passer within his role. He does not need to learn to run a high-level pick and roll or anything, but passing well out of spot-ups and making the offense flow at a high level will be huge for Bey.
Bey’s shooting is very projectable, and it is hard to see that taking any sort of dive this year. He shot 38% on almost 7 3-point attempts per game this season, and it looks incredibly sustainable. Increasing some versatility by adding pull-ups and step-backs could be nice, but it is not necessary for him to excel in his role.
Another aspect of Bey’s offensive game I hope to see expand is his ability to attack a closeout. As an elite shooter, Bey is going to draw hard closeouts. Being able to put the ball on the deck and pressure defenses to the rim is huge. Attacking a closeout can really continue the advantage created by the guards sharing the floor with Saddiq. If the passing improvement we’re hoping for expands to his drive game, the picture of a pure connector becomes clearer.
Saddiq was a fairly solid defender for a rookie last year. His size, solid positional intelligence, and feel for how to compensate for his lack of lateral athleticism allowed him to excel. Improvement areas are going to be a lot about growing as a defensive playmaker.
There is a lot of value in a wing or forward who can make elite rotations at the rim and Bey has a chance to be that type of player. He does not have crazy length or elite vertical athleticism, but he is clearly a cerebral player and he has proven capable around the rim before. Simply by using his size and his instincts, transitioning into more of a secondary rim-protector could be huge for Saddiq.
Bey will never be a great point-of-attack defender. He has high hips, is a bit stiff, and cannot get around a screen to save his life, so we shouldn’t expect him to ever be a wing stopper. However, many bad point-of-attack defenders have turned themselves into incredibly valuable defensive players.
The mold Bey should be trying to fill on defense is one of the players like Robert Covington or Jayson Tatum. These are not players that are great at the point of attack or even in pure isolation, but they are incredibly valuable with their positioning and help all over the court.
Bey is going to spend a lot of time at the 3 and the 4 this season and him getting used to rotations both at the nail and as the low man should be his main area of focus on defense. His size can help compensate for his athleticism and perfect positioning could make him one of the most valuable defenders on the team in the long term.
Know Your Role
There is some expectation for Bey to take a giant step in usage this year and become more of an on-ball player. However, this could be detrimental to Bey’s overall development. The comparisons to players like Khris Middleton really miss the handle and athletic limitations facing Saddiq. Bey could take a slight jump in usage, but a dramatic change in role could hurt the developmental curve that Bey has been on since his junior season at Villanova. Letting Bey continue to grow and thrive in his role next to better creators is the most advantageous path for his development.
The first part of that role is Saddiq playing in spot-up situations. Obviously, Bey can shoot and that should always be his first option when playing in these situations. However, for those that want to see Saddiq expand his playmaking, there is some opportunity for that to happen when he attacks spot-ups.
Saddiq is not a natural playmaker, and it will take time for him to see where the passes are, but he can score for himself when attacking a tilted defense and the passing can develop out from there. It is important that Saddiq learns to leverage his jumper to continue his growth as an on-ball player.
The potential role that could give Saddiq some schemed usage would be with some post-up possessions. These could show themselves if he plays as a roll-man and gets a switch or if he is an offensive hub while playing with the bench. Post-ups are considered dead by many, but there has been a recent renaissance of them run with wings.
Saddiq uses his big body and touch to take advantage of smaller players in the post. He can displace defenders by backing them down or by driving out of a face-up. If a defender takes a step back to try and absorb his drive, then Bey can simply shoot over them.
Again, the passing out of these situations is where Bey really has to grow. He consistently misses open shooters and is late to see doubles coming. Still, this is developable for a player like Bey and if he gets some usage in this area then it could do well for his future development.
Overall, Bey is a player with a fairly set role and skillset, the real upside is how well he can fit into that role. The jump shot is elite and he should continue to leverage that to space the floor for teammates and create advantages for himself. He shouldn’t be forced to play much more on-ball and he should instead comfortably slide into his role as a connecting wing. If he continues to shoot like he has, grows as a passer, and can develop defensively, then he has all the makings of a core piece for the Pistons going forward.