Are the Detroit Pistons Improving? | Part 1


How do you measure progress for the Detroit Pistons this season? They’ve dealt with injuries to key players, including star Cade Cunningham who’s still out, and depending on the youth movement.

With how much complaining I come across, you’d think Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, and Saddiq Bey were going into year eight. In reality, they just started season three which also coincides with the hiring of Troy Weaver. He tore this team down to the studs, and commenced a true rebuild. One in which fans have clamored, but seemingly weren’t prepared for. Despite factors that have worked against this team’s progress, it wouldn’t be fair to shudder all expectation and criticism.

That would prove even more detrimental. Injuries, depending on young players, finding rhythm and chemistry are just a few things all teams are subject too. So how do we know if the Pistons are headed in the right direction since wins may be difficult to come by?

One way is by focusing on player development of the core, as well as vision and track record of those in charge. So I decided to take a player by player look starting with Troy Weaver’s first draft class, for part 1 of this series.

Detroit Pistons Player Development

Killian Hayes

It’s no secret that Killian Hayes started the season bad. Epically bad. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. I mentioned on a Morning Woodward Show appearance hosted by Adham Beydoun and Jeff Iafrate it was fair to be disappointed in Troy Weaver’s first draft pick. I said this about a month or two ago when almost everybody wanted him gone. But I pointed out that it was more mental, than skill with Hayes. To expect a bounce back once he climbs out of the rut.

It might be official, Killian Hayes is no longer slumping. He’s pulled his season averages up to 8.3 PPG and five assists in 24 MPG. What really tells the story are his last seven games averages. 14.6 PPG, eight assists, while hitting about 34% of his three point attempts.

But with Hayes, you can’t just leave it at the stats. Lately he’s playing basketball with the swag equivalent to a Paris, France runway model. In the preseason his shot attempts were elevated and he played more a combo guard role. Once the season started, his shot attempts when down and he looked to be playing more facilitating point guard versus the free roaming pit-bull he showed to be in preseason. He even showed good flashes toward the end of last season too which made a lot of observers finally ready to believe.

With the unfortunate news of Cade Cunningham’s injury, it has brought a familiar opportunity back to Hayes. Starting point guard. With the opportunity, he’s taken full advantage. He’s picking his spots, taking his shots, and running the show aggressively. Defensively he’s safely looking like the best perimeter defender on the team again.

Nothing but positives for Killian Hayes growth on the season so far. Now he must master the art of consistency.

Isaiah Stewart

Isaiah Stewart aka Beef Stew has been an interesting case this season. He began by saying Al Horford was a player who’s game he wanted to model. Being able to defend multiple positions, while being a disruptive force to reckon with in the paint. And this season he’s even attempting to add three point shooting to the repertoire.

On the season he’s shooting 36% on 4 three point attempts per game. That is not a typo. Yes, Stewart is letting it fly from three like a shooting guard. Over his last seven games he’s up to 47% on on 4.6 three’s a game! How his shooting percentages are going up as his attempts do, is mind boggling.

I’ve seen steady improvement in his offensive and defensive activity, but there’s been a down trend as it relates to rebounding. The fist nine games of the season Stewart was averaging 13.4 points, 10.3 rebounds and a whopping 5.6 free throw attempts! But those numbers are much lower over his last nine games with eleven points, 7.4 rebounds and only 1.9 free throws.

I don’t know quite what to make of this dip in production for Stewart because his offensive efficiency rose, while his defense has passed the eye test. I wonder if it takes more adjusting as he’s playing more power forward over the last nine games, versus center the first nine games.

Saddiq Bey

It’s been a struggle for Bey as he’s been asked to focus on doing what’s best for the team. What if that clashes with his own player development? Bey’s veteran like demeanor makes it easy to forget he’s only just begun his third season. Ups and downs should be expected, but is his getting better? The numbers tell a mixed bag, but there are some things to absolutely love over his last three games.

21 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game with 47% shooting from the field and 37% from three. Obviously this is the trend you hope continues, as it seems he’s starting to settle into his new role off the bench.

Despite the positive trends, Bey is still shooting just 28.8% on the season so far from three. This is similar to his starts in prior seasons, so it’s safe to assume he’ll knock off the rust this year as well. In contrast to his woeful outside shooting, he’s hitting a career high 52% of two point field goals. His previous career high for a full season was 45%.

The question I’ve heard often from fan interactions: is he a viable starter or bench piece of a future playoff contending Piston team?

I’ll leave you with what Casey said, he “views Bey as a starter”. Bey and Bojan Bogdanovic were a bad fit in the starting lineup together. So he finds himself in a role I believe may suit good. Especially when the Pistons are improved.

I wont put any limit on these players, but Bey’s production off the bench of competitive Pistons teams would be a luxury if he continues improvements of the last three games.

Troy Weaver’s Track Record

Troy Weaver has shown the ability to make the improbable, possible. When the deal to acquire Jerami Grant materialized, it was assumed the Detroit Pistons wouldn’t be a player in free agency. They had little cap space, and assets highly valued at the time by Pistons fans only. Through whatever mojo Weaver worked, he was able to sign and trade unrestricted free agent Christian Wood to the Houston Rockets to help facilitate. That deal also directly brought in Isaiah Stewart.

And, pause for dramatic effect.

Then Weaver trades Grant after a few seasons for essentially Jalen Duren, Alec Burks, Kevin Knox and the cap space to acquire Bojan Bogdanovic for Kelly Olynyk. And breathe…

He’s made six first round draft picks in three seasons as Detroit Pistons general manager. In order of draft acquisition:

  1. Killian Hayes
  2. Isaiah Stewart
  3. Saddiq Bey
  4. Cade Cunningham
  5. Jaden Ivey
  6. Jalen Duren

Take a good look at that list. You’d get to Tayshaun “The Palace” Prince and Mehmet “Memo” Okur before you find Pistons’ draft picks that were just as good, if not better.

I trust Weaver’s vision, and for right now that includes head coach Dwane Casey and his duel skills of player development and connection. Time will tell if Casey is the right head coach for the future, but I could see him in a role within the organization similar to coach John Beilein.

Troy Weaver should always give Pistons fans a peace of mind and comfort, he has consistently represented improvement through his work as GM.

What’s Next

The Pistons are looking to get even with the Memphis Grizzlies Friday, December 9th at 8PM.

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