The Detroit Pistons rotation is starting to fill out with bonafide NBA players again. Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Trey Lyles, and more are out of health and safety protocols and returning to the lineup. They might not recognize a guy who never left — Saddiq Bey.
Bey has carried the offensive and minutes load along with Hamidou Diallo since a dozen Pistons fell into health and safety protocols, and even started to show signs once Jerami Grant was lost to injury. I wanted to first go back and look at Bey’s offensive game without most other Pistons' mainstays.
Is what we have seen from Saddiq something that can continue as the regular rotation returns? Not his raw production and numbers, which will surely go down (same with Diallo) as Cade and company return. More importantly, are the shots Saddiq is taking and the decisions he is making something that will translate moving forward?
Over the past four games and Covid hit the organization, Saddiq is averaging 27.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.8 turnovers. He is doing so on 41% from the field, 38% from 3 and 90% from the free-throw line ( it is worth noting that he had at least four 40-60 feet end-of-quarter heaves in those 4 games much to the delight of Gregory Kelser). If we go back a little further for a larger sample size of 10 games since the unfortunate injury to Jerami Grant, the shooting numbers are 43% from the field, 36% from 3 and nearly 93% from the line.
Saddiq is still a bit of feast or famine as a shooter, but we are seeing a vast improvement compared to November where he shot just 32% from the field and 27% from 3, and the most recent numbers are on a higher volume. The balance to that has been Saddiq getting to the free-throw line nearly 8 times a game the past four. Compare that to less than twice per game in November.
Let’s go to the film to see exactly what it is in Saddiq’s game that is helping with this bump in play and if it can be sustainable.
The 3-point shooting is what had many of us singing Bey’s praises in his rookie season as he likely would have broken the NBA record for 3s made by a rookie if not for the shortened season. Again, I want to mention that the 3-point percentage would be better if not for the four halfcourt heaves at the end of quarters and some other attempts I do not think he would have taken under “normal circumstances.” I will highlight those shots I believe he needs to steer clear of, at least for now, and the shots that I believe strongly are important for his progression moving forward. The simple catch and shoot when his defender overhelps is what we want to continue to see him make at a high clip.
Where does Saddiq go when the catch-and-shoot 3 is not available? The sustainable answer is to his drive to the rim playing through contact. The more dribbles, the more change of directions, and the more “finesse” he tries to use at the rim the less effective his drive tends to be. I do think he still has PLENTY of room to improve in terms of his touch and finishing when he gets to the rim. According to Basketball-Reference, he is shooting 55% on shots at the rim this season, which is actually down a little bit from the 59% in his rookie year but he almost already matched his attempts. When he catches, makes a quick and decisive decision, and can get where he needs to with no more than one change of direction I do feel comfortable with the outcome from Saddiq.
The aspect that has really helped that efficiency over this stretch has been getting to the free-throw line. While he is getting to the line at a prolific rate, many of his attempts came from nonshooting fouls (which is still getting to the free-throw line all the same but not in the context we are discussing). However, there are still enough examples of him playing through defenders' bodies or active hands slapping for steals/blocks.
Finally, we want to take a closer look at him in the mid-post. This is the absolute ONLY situation where I would want to see Saddiq in what people might call a true “isolation” and should only take place when he has the desired matchup. There is not a lot of change of direction that goes with playing out of the mid-post, and it allows him to play at his preferred pace, which makes the decisions and reads easier. In this video breakdown, I only highlight the scoring but in the future, I will highlight him making good decisions out of the post as well.
Saddiq making plays for teammates or making the right play when driving was talked about a lot this offseason. I felt like the Spurs game on Saturday night did a great job of showing this decision-making in terms of not forcing up shots he did not have a high percentage chance of making.
I believe he will continue to turn down tough mid-range shots and ill-advised shots at the rim and instead make a pass to the open teammate. I am also buying into his willingness to eliminate the multiple move drives and be able to handle double teams that may come at him when he catches in that mid-post mentioned earlier. I also think his 3-point gravity can make him a very good connector when the defense gets broken down and closes out/rotates to him aggressively.
Obviously, he has not eliminated all of these (as I highlight in the video) flaws, and I think he still has to work on the velocity and accuracy of his passes. As many have pointed out to me on Twitter, he seems to still be making predetermined decisions on whether he is driving to score or driving to pass. However, I would say we are seeing more and more examples of him making those reads on the fly. I do not think he is one that is going to manipulate the defense with his eyes or ball fakes or start making the toughest of reads. That’s OK, that is the job of Cade, Killian, and others. What is important for Saddiq is the positive things we have seen ARE in fact sustainable moving forward.
Listening to Ku Khahil with his guest Halbridious on Locked on Pistons a little over a week ago, Hal brought up the concept of “scalability.” While I may not be using it exactly the same as he did (he had an amazing explanation for it), I do think it applies very well to what we have seen recently from Bey.
With the shots he is taking and the decisions he is making, he should be able to keep his recent efficiency as his usage SCALES up or down on a given night. For me, that was what is so impressive and exciting about what we have seen from him. Compared to someone like Hamidou Diallo who I think it will be VERY interesting how the drop in usage COULD change his game and efficiency. I am hoping we have seen Saddiq find his “role” and the amount of total points, assists, etc. will just be dictated by the usage the team needs from him and how the defense is guarding them.
Defense is helping off? Knock down those catch-and-shoot opportunities. Defense wants to close out hard? Make those straight-line drives. Defense wants to deny you? Let Cade and company go to work with more floor spacing. You get the point! And I believe a player in that mold will prove to be very valuable for this team moving forward.