Pistons Q&A: Rookie Killian Hayes struggling to finish drives to the rim

Detroit News

Rod Beard
| The Detroit News

The early results were promising, with the Pistons playing a solid first half and showing their improved defense.

Things fell apart in the fourth quarter and they couldn’t hold the lead against the Minnesota Timberwolves, losing the opener on Wednesday night.

Those types of games are building blocks, but in the end, a loss is a loss.

This season figures to have its share of losses, with a revamped roster and plenty of new faces trying to make their way, define their roles and looking to turn those losses into victories.

It’s not about the veterans as much as it is the growth of the young players and as the opener showed, there will be growing pains as this squad learns how to win together.

Here are some burning questions about the young core and the veterans:

Question: How good is Killian Hayes going to be?

Answer: It’s still way too early to tell, but there are some encouraging signs — and some concerns — so far. He’s only been working in the Pistons’ system for about a month and he’s shown that he can get to the rim.

The problem in the preseason has been finishing those drives to the rim. Hayes had some good looks at the rim, but the shots didn’t fall for him. His form on his 3-point shot looks to be fine, but he shoots an inordinate amount of long-range step-backs, which makes a difficult shot even harder.

Hayes’ turnovers look to be the most concerning issue. He had seven in the preseason opener and four in Wednesday’s loss in the preseason opener. At times, he looks tentative and like he doesn’t know where to throw the ball.

Knowing where not to throw the ball and reading defenders is as important as knowing where to pass it. That’s still an area of improvement that he’ll need to work in — and quickly.

What he’s shown an affinity for is learning from his mistakes. Throughout preseason, he looked better every game and the step backward that he took could have been due to the nerves of playing in his first official game.

He had a good run in the third quarter, when he scored seven points, but there will be other learning experiences for him, and coach Dwane Casey still has the utmost confidence in him.

Beard: Josh Jackson shines but untimely turnovers doom Pistons in opening defeat

Q: When will the Pistons be able to trade Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose?

A: The Pistons don’t appear to be in any hurry to trade either of them. Their main focus is to build a winning culture, and both Griffin and Rose are at the heart of that effort. They’ve resisted having a tanking effort like the Philadelphia 76ers a few years ago, and having no experienced veteran players around their young core would be more detrimental than anything else.

It seems that fans who are itching to trade Rose and Griffin are looking more for them to be in a winning situation and having a chance at a championship. Neither player has said anything about being unhappy with the Pistons or wanting to be anywhere else.

They seem comfortable with their responsibilities as mentors and the time they have left on their contracts. Rose’s is done after this season and Griffin has a player option for next season. If he opts out, that would be the surprise of it all.

Q: What going on with the Pistons’ G League players?

A: The NBA is working on the final details of what the G League season will look like.

According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, there are 18 teams ready to participate in the G League season, which could have 12 or more games, beginning in February. There have been some conversations about that taking place in Georgia, but that hasn’t been finalized yet.

The Pistons have two players on Exhibit 10 contracts, LiAngelo Ball and Anthony Lamb, who were on track to play with the Grand Rapids Drive, but if the Drive doesn’t participate in the G League season, which seems to be the lean right now, then the Drive could “flex” them to another G League team to get some playing time.

A side note is that it could be the end of the Drive, as this is the last year of their affiliate agreement with the Pistons. Beginning next season, Pistons-owned the Motor City Cruise will become the G League team and they will begin play in Detroit on Wayne State University’s campus.

Cavaliers at Pistons

Tip-off: 7 Saturday, Little Caesars Arena

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: It’s the Pistons season opener and the first time they’ll face Andre Drummond since the trade in January that sent him to the Cavs. Drummond was the Pistons’ first-round pick in the 2012 draft.

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