There is no shortage of players Detroit Pistons fans are emotionally, some would say spiritually, invested in. There is No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham, of course, who has yet to make his Pistons debut. There is the conundrum of Killian Hayes and his lack of offense. Heck, there is even a cult of personality around second-round pick Luka Garza.
Perhaps it is fitting that the quiet, all-business Saddiq Bey has flown under the radar. To call his game workmanlike doesn’t really do justice to his clock-in, clock-out ever-steady approach to basketball.
And while Bey is the same player with the same demeanor we’ve come to expect, his game is looking a little different. Bey is scoring in different ways on different parts of the floor. He is looking to drive to the rim, find open teammates and isn’t afraid to use his body and solid footwork to back down anyone in the post. This is a far cry from the effective and one-dimensional three-point threat from his rookie season.
In Detroit’s season debut, Bey scored 13 points but needed 15 shots. He missed all four of his 3-pointers. But if you watched the game, it was difficult not to come away impressed and excited with the growth in Saddiq’s play.
The variety not only makes Bey a more dangerous player, it is a necessity as opponents game plan for him as one of the team’s most lethal 3-point threats.
“I think the difference from last year to this year, he’s not surprising teams. Their closeouts are game-planned. They’re very aware of him and his game,” Dwane Casey said after the game, “Now he’s going to Plan B.”
Plan B as it turns out is pretty effective. He’s shown he’s comfortable with the ball in his hands and can run a little pick and roll action. This is one of four assists he had against the Bulls with the majority quick-reactions after defensive close-outs at the 3-point line.
Bey notched four or more assists just five times last season. And he only managed to do it seven times during his two years at Villanova.
He also took advantage of what the defense was giving him. I love this possession in the post because he exploits his size advantage against Lonzo Ball with an efficient, confident post move that gives him a clean look at the rim. His dribble is a little loose, which teams could take advantage of, but all the other elements are there. He uses his strength, footwork and balance to take full advantage of the situation.
Last season, Saddiq posted up on 4.3% of his possessions, and scored in the 42nd percentile, according to NBA.com. He scored just under half the time and rarely ever got to the free-throw line. Last year, he relied primarily on steps backs, but if he can add more downhill attacks at the rim it could really make him dangerous.
Make no mistake, Bey’s greatest asset is his catch-and-shoot prowess. He can’t forget the boost his perimeter shot gives to the offense. I also have no doubt a player who shot it at a 41% clip in college and 38% in the NBA on high volume will start hitting those deep balls again.
But by adding just that little bit of playmaking ability, that threat to abuse smaller defenders in the post, and the threat of scoring efficiently at three levels instead of one makes him a more dangerous 3-point threat, and a more dangerous player overall.
Defenses will need to think about more than just running Bey off the 3-point line, and his teammates will be more encouraged to move without the ball and utilize him with screen and roll actions and in the break.
“I thought Saddiq last night was one of our best pick-and-roll players,” Casey said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “We don’t want to get it twisted, he’s a scorer. Not only is he a 3-point shooter, but he can come off pick-and-rolls, post up with his size and strength. And that’s his progression as an offensive player. I love Saddiq, he’s one of our most consistent players.”
Quiet. Consistent. Dangerous. I’m excited to see what Year 2 of the Saddiq Bey experience looks like.