| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Pistons’ Killian Hayes on ‘getting his groove’ in NBA
Detroit Pistons rookie Killian Hayes talks after the team’s final preseason game Dec. 19, 2020, about getting his groove back and his stepback jumper.
Dwane Casey said it several times over the last two weeks, and he reiterated it once more on Saturday night after the Detroit Pistons closed their four-game preseason schedule with a 99-96 loss to the Washington Wizards.
“I wouldn’t read very much into the rotation,” he said.
Casey’s rotation decisions during the four exhibitions may not represent what the rotation will look like once the Pistons tip off their regular season on Wednesday. Only four players returned from last year’s roster, and the coaching staff was allotted just five days of training camp and a little more than a week of preseason to figure out how all of the new pieces fit together.
The coach was more concerned with getting most of the roster enough playing time to at least be able to make an impression, and getting players their legs back under them after a nine-month offseason. He anticipates much of the league, just like the Pistons, will need additional time to figure out their rotations.
”I’ve said this almost every game, it’s probably going to be two or three weeks into the season before it’s established,” Casey said. “Because guys are still competing.”
We do have some certainty on what the starting lineup could be on Wednesday. Based on preseason performances, we also know which bench players have positioned themselves to secure more minutes.
Killian Hayes, Delon Wright, Jerami Grant, Blake Griffin and Mason Plumlee started all four preseason games. If Casey makes any tweaks in the lineup, they will likely happen at the two guard positions. Grant, Griffin and Plumlee are the three best players on the roster at their positions, and Casey has stated that most of the positional battles are happening at the wing positions and point guard.
During media week, Casey said that Hayes and Wright are in the mix for starting point guard. Hayes spent significantly more time at point guard than Wright during preseason, and Wright played mostly alongside either Hayes or Derrick Rose, who will once again have a prominent role off of the bench.
Sticking with a Hayes/Wright starting backcourt would help to clear minutes for two of the best wings and overall preseason performers — Svi Mykhailiuk and Josh Jackson. Mykhailiuk picked up from where he left off last season as the best shooter on the roster, and also flashed improved ball-handling. During one possession on Saturday, he danced around a Jahlil Okafor screen until he had enough space to launch forward into an open 3.
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“He’s taken a full step from last season as far as having the basketball,” Casey said. “Again, I thought he played a little bit frenetic. He had some open looks, he hit a couple, but then take your time, let the game come to you. But he’s really improved not only offensively, but also his defense.”
Jackson, the Detroit native who signed a two-year deal last month, showcased his ability to play both sides of the floor. He was an engaged, versatile defender throughout preseason and also shot the ball well, 16 for 33 from the field and 9 for 18 from behind the arc. In the last two games, he aggressively looked for his shot at times. He also grabbed 17 rebounds during preseason, the fifth-highest total on the team.
“Josh has really played well on both ends of the floor,” Casey said. “Defensively, offensively he shot the ball well. He’s a talented young man, he just needs an opportunity. He’s going to be a big plus for us this year and the way he’s playing, defensively he sets the tone for us.”
Second-year forward Sekou Doumbouya also appears to be a candidate for a substantial role. Like Jackson, Doumbouya was solid on both ends of the floor this preseason. He shot a team-high 61.9% (13 for 21) through four games, hit three of his eight 3-point attempts and consistently played hard and made good reads on defense.
The Pistons saw individually good performances, but the roster as a whole hasn’t gelled offensively yet. They averaged more turnovers per game (21.5) than assists (19.5), and shot only 41% from the floor and 32.7% from 3. Tightening the rotation should help, as it’ll certainly help him emphasize rotations that can compete. At least 14 Pistons appeared in all four preseason games. That doesn’t appear to be the plan during the regular season.
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Casey has a few more days to evaluate the roster. One of his wishes is to find lineups that are better at taking care of the ball. The Pistons committed 14 of their 20 turnovers on Saturday in the first half, and their near-comeback was fueled in part by them taking care of the ball better.
“Taking care of the ball was huge for us, it helped our defense and I thought our defense was solid in the second half,” Casey said. “First half it was nonexistent, but second half since we did take care of the ball, we made some stands, which says a lot about our team, our character. I told them at halftime the second half would be about our character and they showed it.”
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.