The Detroit Pistons will likely be without starting big man Isaiah Stewart for the remainder of the season after the third-year player was diagnosed with a left shoulder impingement. The team announced the diagnosis after an MRI and evaluation and said Stewart would be re-evaluated in 3-4 weeks.
The shoulder injury dates back to an early January loss to the Philadelphia 76ers after a Paul Reed foul. Stewart missed the next three games, played in two more games while going 4-of-16 from the field and then missed another game. He played 10 consecutive contests but was offensively limited and has been sidelined for the team’s past five games, all losses.
Prior to the injury, Stewart was shooting 45% overall and 34% from deep while averaging 11.8 points and 7.9 rebounds. After the injury, Stewart’s shot abandoned him. He hit just 40% from the floor and 28% from 3.
If you follow the beat writers for the Pistons, who are closely connected to the team and thoughts of the Pistons leadership, Stewart is the most beloved of the team’s four draft picks from Troy Weaver’s first draft. It included Killian Hayes, Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee. Lee and Bey have already been traded, and the conventional wisdom is Stewart is the most likely to have a long-term future with the club.
But this season was a challenging one for Beef Stew, who was transitioning from a low-usage center with solid defensive skills out to the perimeter into a more uncertain role at power forward, which asked him to shoot, pass, handle and screen in all-new ways.
He saw intermittent success in every area save for perhaps passing. His shot looked smooth, and there were long stretches where he was hitting the 3 at an acceptable rate. His handle was never pretty, but he found some success facing up and driving to the basket. And his screening improved as a perimeter player because it is more natural for him to pop out to the 3-point line as opposed to driving to the rim.
However, his lack of size was often apparent no matter which position he played. He is a ground-bound player and is only 6-foot-8. He uses long arms and solid defensive instincts to defend well and rebound, but size is always going to give him a bit of trouble.
Stewart now also must contend with a roster with more big bodies on it than ever before. The team has added Marvin Bagley III, Jalen Duren and James Wiseman all since the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline. All three are signed through next season at least.
Whether Stewart finds success within that larger rotation remains to be seen, and whether that success would come as a starting power forward or as a backup big man is a big open question.
Hopefully he gets healthy and is able to continue to fully work on his game in the offseason and returns next season an even more comfortable, confident shooter. Get well soon, Stew.