The Pistons young center is already drawing comparisons to Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman, which means he must be doing something right.
Ask any fan of a rebuilding NBA franchise what they want to see the most from their team and you will receive a lot of similar answers. Developing a young core of players is one of those. Although there have been some frustrations expressed from the Detroit Pistons fan base about the distribution of playing time between veterans and youngsters, there is no doubt they are working towards being a youthful squad. Isaiah Stewart is the definition of young at 19-years-old and headlines the core the Pistons wish will carry them to a bright future.
After a flurry of draft night trades back in late November, General Manager Troy Weaver found himself with the 16th overall pick. He selected Stewart and the immediate reaction from the NBA world was that he was taken too early. Weaver did not care however, as the University of Washington product has all the intangibles he loves in a player. Athleticism, hustle, effort, lengthiness, and potential happen to be a few of those. So why did Weaver pick him at #16 when he knew he also had pick #19? Pistons fans are slowly starting to figure that out the more the season rolls on.
The Second Coming of the Bad Boys
Okay that heading may be a little too much too soon, but there is no denying Stewart has embraced what it means to be a Piston. He has had a busy start to his career, and I am not just alluding to the pandemic. In early January, he went face to face with the reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, in a postgame argument. He also matched up with one of the best centers the NBA has seen in Dwight Howard. Stewart was so physical with Howard, that he at one point ripped part of his shorts!
Isaiah has already made his first career start, in which he scored a career high 17 points. His 2.5 offensive rebounds per game are also the best among NBA rookies this season. Pistons fans are even donning nicknames on him such as ‘Beef Stew’. The only thing he has yet to do is make his first career three pointer. Oh wait, he already has.
He is the kind of player you hate playing against, but love to have on your team. At 6 feet 8 inches tall and 250 pounds, Isaiah Stewart is undersized for being a center. However, he is built like a tank and his NBA-ready stature is what allowed him to enter the draft after just one year of college. A long wing span and tenacious attitude help him not back down from any matchup. Every time a shot goes up you will find Stewart boxing someone out. Coach Dwane Casey doesn’t run any plays for the young center but that doesn’t stop him from setting a screen pretty much every possession. Whether it be a hustle play or a simple put back, there are so many things he does to impact a game. The New York native is starting to become a fan favorite in the Motor City.
The Man in the Middle
Pistons fans were more than upset when Christian Wood wasn’t resigned last fall. However, the better Isaiah Stewart plays, the more it seems like the front office made the right call. The last thing a rebuilding team like Detroit needed was another large contract. Drafting Stewart was the right move for a variety of reasons. His youth and potential are obvious upsides, but he does the dirty work for your team. Setting screens, fighting for loose balls, and getting underneath the opponent’s skin is not only what he is best at, but what he is being asked to do.
Stewart’s name isn’t getting thrown around the NBA rookie landscape, but he is okay with that. Being a McDonald’s All-American out of high school and receiving recruitment letters from Duke and Michigan State make him no stranger to success. The Pistons are hoping that trend continues as a professional and there isn’t any reason to think it may not. Stewart is exactly what the doctor ordered for Detroits roster. He is lightning in a bottle when running the floor and he is the Tasmanian Devil on the glass. As for Troy Weaver, he is hoping he can be the man in the middle for many years to come.