Last week I took a look at the Detroit Pistons defense as a whole and broke down areas I felt like they were being solid and some areas where they could definitely show improvement. This week, I decided to take more of an individual approach and look at the two guys I would say have a solid case for being the two best defenders on the team — or at least have the biggest impact right now on that end of the floor.
While Josh Jackson provides some tremendous athleticism and is going to give you some highlight blocks and occasional good point-of-attack possessions, Jerami Grant could definitely make a case with his willingness to match up with the opposing team’s best wing player, and Cade Cunningham provides a ton of value with his communication and leadership, they didn’t quite make the cut. For me, the two that stand out the most are Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes, and they excel in completely different ways. Stewart is able to provide the versatility and switchability that any team would love to have from one of its bigs. The disruption that Hayes is able to provide on the perimeter cannot be overstated. I take a look at both in this installment of Film Don’t Lie.
“Beef Stew” picked up right where he left off last season on the defensive end. As I was prepping the clips for the video breakdown, I continued to find myself so impressed by the areas of this guy’s defensive game. An “undersized” 5 man that I get to show blocking shots, disrupting opposing bigs, holding his own in the paint, and then showing the ability to switch out on smaller defenders. The best thing about Stewart is you never have to question the motor or the fact that he is going to make multiple efforts when the situation calls for it, which I cap off the video breakdown with a clip that highlights this PERFECTLY.
Of course, there are still areas for concern and improvement as good as he is. Even though he held up fine in these two games, he probably will never hold his own in the paint with the best of the best bigs in the league based solely on his lack of size. For me, the biggest area of concern is the situations he is put in lend themselves to foul trouble, which is a situation we have seen a few times already.
I love the appreciation that we are starting to see from Pistons fans when it comes to Killian Hayes on the defensive end. I know that when a player is selected seventh overall fans want the scoring and highlight-reel plays that go viral on social media. Hayes may not be that guy, but through the first 30+ games of his career, we have seen steady improvement on both ends of the court and what I believe is the foundation for a very high-level defender.
Hayes's ability to disrupt offensive possessions with the activeness and precision of his hands has been apparent all season long. With all the talk of Hayes's unwillingness to use his newly developed frame on the offensive end, he is more than happy to find contact on the defensive side of the floor. Whether attacking a ball-handler out front, pushing through screens, or even getting switched on a big, you know that Hayes is going to put up a fight. One thing I was worried about with his active hands and physical style defensively was foul trouble (the kind that has snake bitten Stewart a time or three), but thus far it has not been an issue in his sophomore season. Now, as with any young defender, it is not perfect yet and that’s why I said I believe he has the FOUNDATION to be a high-level defender. As I show in the breakdown, he still has plenty to work on off the ball and some things on-ball, BUT you cannot doubt his effort in trying to be a good defender.