Three games into the regular season are surely not enough to come to any firm conclusions about any aspect of the Detroit Pistons or its players. But I am already comfortable going on record and saying Saddiq Bey should retire the shot fake, side-step 3-pointer.
It is not that I want Bey to be less aggressive and forego scoring opportunities. It is actually the exact opposite. First, I want Bey to shoot more of his catch-and-shoot opportunities. There are far too many examples in this young season of him turning down an open look from the 3-point line. It is worth noting that he is averaging 1.5 fewer 3-pointers this season than last.
Second, when the closeout deters Bey from letting it fly, he needs to attack the defense with a drive to the rim. Bey will never wow you with his euro steps, change of pace, or change of direction, but he can be highly effective when using his strength to stay on his driving lane to the rim. Bey seems like a very cerebral person and player, but, hey, sometimes brute force wins.
Bey’s aggressiveness to the rim has improved nicely in the early part of the season. He has almost doubled his free-throw attempts per game and is easily shooting the highest percentage of his career inside the arc.
He also needs to focus more on not abandoning those drives if he gets cut off in the lane. We saw rookie-year Saddiq Bey with some intriguing post footwork that could deploy in these situations.
Despite being analytical and not a huge fan of the mid-range myself, I understand the value of an effective in-between game. If we are going to ask Bey to eliminate the side-step 3-pointer from his bag, then he needs to replace it with a pull-up jump shot from 15 to 18 feet. I would love to see a heavier dose of shot fake, 1- or 2-dribble pull-up jumpers from him over the next month and see if he can establish it as a staple of his attack.
The idea of catch-and-shoot or catch, shot fake and drive will also help Bey better reach his ceiling as a passer. He is not a high-level read guy who will operate a ton of ball-screen possessions. However, he has flashed a nice ability to attack the defense in a straight line and make the easy pass if a help defender shows up.
I am not trying to limit Bey’s usage or the expansion of his game. On the contrary, this would allow him to create more usage at scale and show more of his talent.
Reaching his ceiling isn’t about Bey continuing to add an endless amount of moves to his bag. It’s about finding those things that play to his strengths and going from good at them to great. He can be great off of the catch and shoot or shot fake and drive. The latter opens up all sorts of possible outcomes of drawing a foul, finishing in the lane, shooting a pull-up jumper, or creating an open look for a teammate.
Instead of being overly critical about Bey’s defense through three games, let’s simply look at the three things to keep an eye on moving forward. Instead of jumping to conclusions, lets instead focus on the questions that deserve answers.
First, find Bey off the ball throughout a defensive possession and monitor his level of focus. So far this season, he has shown positives and negatives, so game-to-game the big question is, what is his level of focus?
Second, and this goes for all of the Pistons' guards and wings, watch for Bey’s ability to navigate screens on and off the ball. The Pistons are lowering their amount of switching so far this season, and the team has put much more emphasis on being able to navigate these screens effectively.
Third, watch for Bey’s most successful one-on-one matchups. We have seen him guard all types of players through three games, including Julius Randle, Paolo Banchero, Cam Reddish, and Bennedict Mathurin. Which of these players really give him fits, and which does he find success against?
After a slow game on opening night, it looks like Bey found his footing within the offense in games two and three. It would be nice to see that overall 3-point percentage in the upper 30s as opposed to the lower. With that said, if he can keep that 2-point percentage improved and the free-throw attempts up, it would be a huge development for his overall offensive game.