Fourth-year big man Isaiah Stewart will be sidelined for the next 10-14 days to allow his right toe sprain to heal, the Detroit Pistons announced on Friday.
Stewart sustained the injury on Dec. 15 against the Philadelphia 76ers, missed two games, and attempted to play through the pain in the following three before sitting again on Thursday against the Celtics.
The team decided playing through the injury wasn’t worth it and will formally sideline him for up to two weeks to allow for, as the team calls it, “rest and rehabilitation.” He will be re-evaluated throughout the process, and the team promises updates as appropriate.
Stewart is one of the team’s best and only defenders at the big-man positions, and it’s noticeable when he has been forced to miss time. At the same time, it seems increasingly clear that the Stewart as a starting power forward experiment is not delivering the returns the team had hoped for.
Beef Stew is hitting a respectable 39% of his 3s in his first season as a true stretch big man. But the defenses don’t treat him like a threat and gift him those open looks. He knocks down enough of them, yes, but it doesn’t help create much space, and he really struggles when he is forced to put the ball on the floor or has to work as the roll man going toward the rim.
That has left a giant hole at one of the forward positions as the Pistons seem to be toggling through options to put alongside the sweet-shooting, light-rebounding, poor-defending Bojan Bogdanovic.
They have played Ausar Tompson, Isaiah Livers, and Kevin Knox in the starting lineup, and all of them have had varying degrees of not much success. Ideally, you’d want to play Ausar in that role as a quality rebounder who can also defend, but his lack of shooting and penchant for out-of-control passing has been amplified lately, and the team seems intent on at least trying to put shooters around Cade Cunningham in the starting lineup.
The team will now have two more weeks, which translates to roughly eight games, to audition candidates on the roster to wrest that starting spot from Isaiah Stewart on a more permanent basis.
On the season, Stewart is averaging 10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists on shooting splits of 47/39/74. The team’s net rating is nearly 10 points per 100 possessions worse when Stewart is off the floor than when he is on the floor.
This also raises the possibility that the Pistons might call up a player from the G League as bench depth, though all three two-way players for Detroit—Stanley Umude, Jared Rhoden, and Malcolm Cazalon are more guard than forward.
It also means the team will need to try to salvage reserve center minutes from among Marvin Bagley and James Wiseman. Both are poor defenders, though better rebounders than Stewart. Bagley has been receiving DNPs lately, and it is unclear if they are simply giving James Wiseman another shot in the rotation or if they are resting Bagley, who has been suffering from back tightness lately.