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Detroit Pistons Mid-Season Report: What I Like and Don’t Like Rookies Edition

The rookies have delivered so far in Detroit, and it points to a promising future for the Pistons

Boston Celtics v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Yesterday, I outlined a lot of things I liked and did not like about the Detroit Pistons players and organization, but wanted to carve out some space to feature the rookies specifically. Below, check out some thoughts of Detroit Pistons’ Core 4 rookie class of Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, Saben Lee and even Deividas Sirvydis because why not!

Like: All The Rookies

I think most fans, coming out of the draft, were a little confused by the draft strategy of Troy Weaver. In a vacuum, a draft haul of Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee is excellent but each had question marks. Would the learning curve for Killian be too steep to overcome, making the team regret not drafting Tyrese Haliburton? What’s the value in drafting a perceived hustle center in Stewart in the mid-first round? Was Bey worth giving up Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard and four second-round picks? Is Saben Lee anything more than an athlete?

What we’ve since learned is each rookie, at the very least, has one discernible, translatable NBA skill that they’ve been able to showcase.


Yes, Killian has been out for most of the year, but in the limited games he did play, he struggled. As a 19-year-old point guard with no US basketball experience and limited athleticism, the curve was always going to be steep. He didn’t shoot the ball well and struggled with turnovers at times, but there were definitely flashes of his passing ability on show.

In this first example we see some early chemistry between Plumlee and Hayes. In a simple pick and roll, Hayes is able to turn the corner with his man getting caught on the screen. From there it’s a simple drive to draw the help, but still nice touch to find Plumlee with the lob.

Remember when I was talking earlier about Sekou running the floor and sealing his man in transition? Well here, we get a little bit of the French connection, as Killian zips a lovely underhand pass 60 feet down the court on target, and Sekou is able to use his size against Jayson Tatum for an easy score.

Killian makes the right reads more often than not, it’s just a question of the game slowing down enough for him to properly execute, but the vision is there.


I initially mistyped Stew’s name here as “Isaiah Stewrat” and honestly add it to the list of nicknames. Beef Stew is a rat inside, constantly pestering opponents and getting under their skin.

He latches on to Dwight Howard’s shorts, rips away a fistful as a souvenir, and STILL gets the benefit of the loose ball foul called his way. Hang it in the Louvre.

In all seriousness, Isaiah’s huge asset right now is his offensive rebounding. While he isn’t Drummond levels (and probably will never be), his tenacity and energy on the offensive glass does enough to wear down opponents.

The hallmark of a great offensive rebounder is anticipation. Look how Stewart manhandles Kevon Looney and works to the front of the rim. With his left side, he’s able to secure Looney into a position of submission, while with his right arm, he telescopes the loose ball and puts it back to end the quarter.

I don’t have much to say here except keep hustling, young man. You even see how Adebayo turns to locate Stewart early, but it makes no difference. Stewart’s motor gets him to the spot and he bats the rebound against the board before securing it. While he misses the putback, he rebounds his own miss for another board before kicking it out. By the end of the sequence, he’s surrounded by three Heat players.


Saddiq was billed as the most NBA-ready of the four Pistons rookies coming in. That’s pretty much proven to be true. He’s easily got the biggest role, is a bonafide starter and often a second or third option on offense.

I compared Saddiq early on to Reggie Bullock, not because of his style of play but because of his quick trigger and fairly fluid, quick release. Either way, his shooting has been as advertised. Before I show my clips, take a look at his shot zones chart from deep.

Saddiq is on the weakside corner while the action is running. He relocates to the passing lane, has his feet set, fluid motion, bang. Also, can we appreciate the assist from Griffin? So long, old friend.

Bey is also adept at reading the defense off handoffs. Here, he takes the handoff from Sekou and fakes using the screen, before rejecting and ducking behind it. Ingram is sold and bites, leaving a wide open three for Bey, which he dribbles into and knocks down.


Remember when the Pistons drafted Jordan Bone last year? A nuclear athlete without much offensive polish? Well, the team basically repeated the dose this year with Saben Lee. The difference? The team last year was pushing for playoffs and had no incentive to play Bone. With the franchise now mired in Tankathon simulations, and a gluttony of injuries and trades to their point guard rotation, Saben Lee is not only getting rotation minutes, but legitimately earning them.

This is impressive on so many levels. First, the quick crossover to shake Michael Carter-Williams, a legitimately good defender with size. Once he has the lane, Lee takes it, throws his body into Fournier to negate any chance of a block (and maybe draw a foul) and finishes strong.

In a late-clock situation, he doesn’t panic. Lee calls Stewart over to run a pick and roll. Lee rubs his defender off and attacks, finishing a tough, high arcing floater over the outstretched arms of the 6-foot-6 Alec Burks.

Also, one day Saben Lee will catch that body. It is a matter of when, not if.


Ok, I’ll be honest. Big Deiv (as I call him) doesn’t get a ton of love from the coaches, barely featuring even in mammoth blowouts. So I thought I’d showcase his first-ever NBA point here, which he scored on a free throw in the blowout win over Toronto in the second last game before the break. His second free throw barely made the rim.

Long live Big Deiv.