Saddiq Bey didn’t know he was going to start for the Detroit Pistons on Monday until shortly before the opening tip.
Dwane Casey took his time figuring out how he was going to fill the space left in the starting lineup by Blake Griffin, who sat out of Monday’s loss against the Atlanta Hawks due to rest. Derrick Rose (rest) and Jahlil Okafor (foot) also missed the game, opening minutes up and down the roster.
All three of the Pistons’ first-round picks — Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart — played significant minutes during the 128-120 loss to the Hawks. While the loss dropped the Pistons to 0-3 overall, the postgame vibe was lighter compared to the first two games’.
Detroit managed to cut a 24-point deficit to five in the last seven minutes of the game, against an Atlanta team that’s off to a hot 3-0 start following a productive offseason.
“Young guys, we’re all coming in trying to find our role and how we can help the team,” Bey said. “They came in playing hard, playing tough and just trying to go every play. We will get better and we just continue to work to get better each and every day and that’s what matters.”
Bey finished the night with 10 points and seven rebounds on 3-of-11 overall shooting, but he made a strong impression early. He scored eight of his points in the first half on 3-of-6 shooting, and two of his makes weren’t easy.
He got on the board with a 3-pointer in the first quarter. After weighing if he should drive or shoot after receiving a hand-off pass from Mason Plumlee, he decided to shoot it with a defender in front of him. It went in. During the second quarter, he drove left of Clint Capela from the left wing, stopped in the paint and used his footwork to create space and hit an off-balance turnaround jumper.
Bey missed a few open 3-pointers and couldn’t get two other turnaround jumpers to fall, but he had Casey’s trust. He played 30 minutes, 13 of which came in the second half.
Hayes played the best game of his short three-game career, tallying 10 points, eight assists and two turnovers. He was better in the second half than the first, scoring seven points along with seven assists in the final two quarters.
He’s still finding his rhythm as a scorer, but he’s finding his stride as a passer. He made quick decisions with the ball, hitting open shooters, pushing the ball up in transition, and late in the game, working the pick-and-roll.
Casey has praised Hayes’ effort on defense, and Monday was another encouraging night for him on that end. Trae Young is one of the toughest covers in the NBA, but Hayes fought through screens and did an admirable job staying with him.
“It’s going to be an ongoing thing for him, getting more comfortable with the NBA, understanding what he can get away with, the passes he can make, the decisions he can make,” Casey said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t have a summer league or a full exhibition season. Tonight was better. The entire team took care of the ball. He was in there at the end, he did as good a job as she could possibly do with Trae Young trying to use his size and body.”
Okafor’s absence finally allowed Stewart to make his NBA debut, and he was impactful despite playing fewer minutes than his fellow first-round picks. He scored two points and grabbed eight rebounds in 14 minutes, with five offensive boards. Stewart is, to put it simply, bouncy. He has an infectious energy to his game and appeared to relish every box-out, tip-in, and loose-ball dive.
He did pick up three fouls, but Casey defended him after the game. It’s early in the season, but Stewart has already won over the coaching staff and teammates with his effort.
“The young man plays so hard, he wears himself out,” Casey said. “That’s why we brought him here. his intensity level is so high. Once you get the reputation of playing that hard, you’ll get away with a lot in the league. I thought he had a couple of ticky-tack fouls. Love the way he competed. That’s who he is. Great that each and every night, that’s just not a one night thing. He does that in practice, he does that in games. We gotta continue to have that and that sets the tone for us.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons’ rookies show potential in loss to Atlanta Hawks
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