In a piece on ESPN+, NBA and prospect evaluators Kevin Pelton and Mike Schmitz each compiled a list of top-10 rookies based on future potential, and wouldn’t you know it, Detroit Pistons rookies Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart both made the cut. For the 16th and 19th picks, respectively, that is good. Very good.
Pelton, who has Bey fourth on his list, had this to say about him:
Bey was in the top half of my fifth tier of prospects and I didn’t rank (Immanuel) Quickley at all among my top 32 players. I expected Bey to be an effective 3-and-D role player in the NBA, but he’s shown a bit more ability to create his own shot than I anticipated this early, elevating his ceiling a bit.
Going from fifth-tier prospect to fourth on his rookie rankings is no mean feat.
Schmitz, on the other hand, has Bey a bit lower at seventh overall. But you have to like a couple eye-popping names Schmitz mentions alongside Bey when searching for player comparisons. Fans would certainly love to see Bey come anywhere close to this type of player:
With young wings, I always think it’s important to become really good at the role-player skills before being unleashed as any type of shot creator. That’s the path that we’ve seen players like (Jalen) Brown, Kawhi Leonard and even OG Anunoby to some degree take with great success. I wasn’t quite as sold that Bey would be the shooter he was at Villanova from NBA 3 and had questions about his lack of high-end explosiveness, but he’s surpassed my expectations as a shooter and does have a little more playmaking potential than he’s shown this season.
We have seen this in Bey: a very good role player who shows tantalizing glimpses here and there as a multi-level scorer.
Moving on to Beef Stew, who everyone is talking about more frequently (including a second shout out from Zach Lowe on his latest Lowe Post podcast where he encourages everyone to get on the Beef Stew bandwagon). Pelton, who has him at No. 7 on his list, had this to say about the beefy one:
In between them (Devin Vassell and Desmond Bane), I’d put Isaiah Stewart, who’s been a force in the paint. He’s making 60% of his 2-point attempts, has dominated the glass and exceeded my expectations by blocking shots at an above-average rate. As Stewart develops his skill, including a nascent 3-point game (12-of-28 this season), he could supplant Mason Plumlee as a capable starting center in Detroit.
I think him supplanting Plumlee is a when rather than if question, but that it is also being seen by more than just us diehards is notable.
Even though Schmitz has him lower on his list than Pelton, just ducking into the 10th spot, he has similarly effusive praise:
I’ll round out my top-10 with Stewart, who could easily surpass both (Onyeka) Okongwu and (James) Wiseman the next time we do this exercise. As I mentioned on the Lowe Post earlier in the year, Stewart is famous for outplaying Wiseman head-to-head at All-Star practices, USA Basketball camps and on the EYBL circuit. He also thoroughly dominated Okongwu in their head-to-head Pac-12 matchup. I do think Okongwu would be putting up similar numbers if he were in Detroit, but you have to love Stewart’s relentless motor, thirst for physicality and no-nonsense style. I also think he’ll make NBA 3s consistently down the road. Given the circumstances of this year, I’m leaning on my pre-draft ranking with these three bigs, but I do think Stewart could ultimately surpass both if he continues playing like he has.
I don’t think even Isaiah’s own relatives would have foreseen him being seen as capable of easily surpassing Okongwu and Wiseman on Schmitz’s next list.
Good to see the recognition out there for these two young fellas. The exciting thing of course for those of us who watch them night in, night out is that they really only seem to be scratching the surface.