Victories have rarely been in the cards for the Detroit Pistons this season, but progress has certainly been evident within the organization in terms of their longer-term objectives.
Much of the conversation has been focused on the in-season growth of top pick Cade Cunningham and rightly so, but the development of Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, and Killian Hayes, as well as the return of Jerami Grant from surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb are all welcome headways.
Bey, in particular, stands out as he joins a long list of Villanova Wildcats who have found their niche in the league as valuable cogs who can rise to the occasion when needed. The 22-year-old serves as the ideal complement to both Cunningham and Hayes, as he can take on the opposing team’s best offensive perimeter player while also serving as a solid offensive threat both guards can connect with.
This take-over ability was on display in the Pistons’ 127-126 overtime victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Bey led Detroit with 28 points and scored five points in the final 41.4 seconds of regulation to help keep the Pistons within striking distance.
Overall, it was a close affair in the final stages of the game, with the Hornets failing to convert on several chances to close out this game. Detroit was able to overcome that and a combined 62 points from Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges thanks in large part to Kelly Olynyk’s game-winner.
Bey is averaging career-highs in nearly every statistical category, but his efficiency has taken a hit in his sophomore year. Part of this comes from taking on a larger load as Cunningham, Grant, and Hayes have all missed significant time due to injury. In fact, Bey, who was named to the 2021 USA Select Team, is the only person on the Pistons roster to have played in 60 games this season.
The Pistons have had quite a few moving parts this season and Bey has had to take on other roles on various nights. Part of that has come in terms of producing more, and the North Carolina native’s career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and in made field goals, 3-pointers, and free throws have all come in this season. Being able to take on a high usage rate has also been helpful as his teammates have been able to ease themselves back into the thick of things.
Numbers aside, he has helped set the tone largely by not taking any nights off. That means a commitment to both ends of the floor, which is something that should spread over to his teammates considering he is already one of the longest-tenured players on the team.
With the play-in a longshot at this point in the season, Detroit can use the remaining 21 games to give Bey and the rest of the Pistons’ foundational pieces more run together. It would matter even more to Detroit from a continuity and stability perspective if the front office decides to keep Pistons head coach Dwane Casey for 2022-2023. Moreover, the intangibles they develop with each passing game, will help build a culture that will make them an even more competitive team next season.
Over the last two weeks, Detroit won three of their last four games and those three wins have come over Charlotte, the Boston Celtics, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, teams slated to be in the play-in if the season ended today. After their win over the Hornets, Detroit will be playing three games over the next four days against the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, and the Indiana Pacers. Among the three, only the Raptors are above .500 and have a relatively strong shot at making the playoffs, but both the Wizards and the Pacers offer intriguing matchups that will likely test Bey and the Pistons.
Individually, Year Two has so far been a good one for Saddiq Bey, but the same can’t be said for the Detroit Pistons, who are likely to miss the postseason for the third straight year. Nevertheless, their sights should be set on the long game, with this season serving as a building block to future success.