Despite being the third player selected by the Detroit Pistons in last year’s draft, Saddiq Bey was the first one to make a significant impact for the franchise. His long gun and reliable defense enabled him to quickly earn significant minutes and before too long a spot in the starting lineup.
He played his role well, though even early on it was obvious there were flaws in his game, which led many to believe he was a high floor, low ceiling type of player. A great guy to have around as a role player, but nothing ever more than that.
His lack of high-end athleticism seemed to undermining his ability to be effective scorer near at the rim. His rather tentative dribble caused him mostly to handle the ball with his back to the basket and thus undermined the possibility of him create something off bounce. So his game was mostly confined to being spot-up three points marksman. To which he added some solid rebounding and and the ability to more than hold his own on the other end of the floor.
However, as the season progressed, the former Villanova Wildcat showed glimpses of potential in being more than a mere shooter on offense. First, he started some bully-ball where he took advantage of his size and strength against smaller defenders (with his size, he was often guarded by smaller players). Then, he started to unveil Wayne Ellington’s lessons in his off-movement triples. Finally, he started to make some drives.
This year in Summer League, it was obvious Bey was in Vegas to continue working on his game and to show some of the new tricks in his bag; on offense and on defense.
On defense, we could see him using his length to disrupt opponents’ attacks by stealing the ball, blocking shots, closing out very well or providing some good on- and off-the-ball defense.
Last year, Saddiq’s steals and blocks rate weren’t too noticeable: the 1.3 and 0.6 figures, respectively, put him in the second half of the whole NBA in both categories. On the clips above, he shows that he could provide much more in these departments in the near future. Also, his defensive footwork looks much better. He seems to be less stiff and move more fluidly to deny his man plays on and off the ball.
On offense, we could observe him taking shots off the dribble.
Last year, the young Pistons forward took most of his shots (82.9%) with zero or up to two dribbles. Now, as his dribble looks more dependable, though still a bit inconsistent, he shows that he can be trusted with some off-the-bounce shooting.
Saddiq’s new-normal good handle of the ball
Saddiq’s new-normal exceptionally bad handle of the ball
Second, he showed that he’s working to diversify his plays inside.
As we can see, to his bully ball game (which he can, by the way, perform in the high post too), he added transition dunks, cuts and even bully-cuts.
For Dwane Casey’s motion offense, this undeniably is a welcome feature.
So is Saddiq’s ability to create, which he showed off a bit during Summer League. His drives now look much more smooth as well.
But that could be just the tip of the iceberg. Now, No. 41 can also grab and go in transition.
He also often brings the ball down the floor. But most of all, he is showing off some excellent passing.
The variability of these passes is encouraging to see for a player who a couple of months ago finished his first NBA season with a paltry 7.6 AST% rate.
In one of his recent interviews, coach Casey said of Saddiq that he wants him, Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes to be fully interchangeable as playmakers. Based on his first year in the League, I’d say: “Yea, we wish. But it’s a joke, right.” However, after watching Saddiq’s Summer League play, I see that DC is again deadly serious about developing his young Pistons players.
Even if Bey is a relatively modest creator, the Pistons could find themselves with a lineup of five playmakers on the floor. Think of Bey out there with Cade and Killian as well as Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk in the frontcourt.