With Detroit Pistons rookie Saddiq Bey, ‘you feel like you’re playing with a veteran’

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Saddiq Bey has had a very good week. 

Last Saturday, in the Detroit Pistons‘ second game of the season, he made a quiet NBA debut against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played just six minutes and missed both of his shot attempts.

But Dwane Casey liked what he saw. 

Three days later, with Blake Griffin missing the game for rest, Bey made his first career start against the Golden State Warriors. His work load increased significantly, as he logged 30 minutes and tallied 10 points and seven rebounds. 

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The Pistons won for the first time this season on Friday night against the Boston Celtics, and it coincided with the best game of Bey’s young career. Casey started Bey once again, as Griffin missed the game while progressing through the NBA’s concussion protocol.

Bey scored a career-high 17 points and hit five off his eight 3-point attempts, along with seven rebounds and two steals, to help the Pistons starve off a late Celtics run and win, 96-93. He also held his own defensively against Boston’s star wing duo. Standing 6-foot-8, he had the size to match up against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and held his own well enough to draw praise from Casey after the game. 

“He’s depending on his teachings from Villanova, and his defensive presence, his defensive feel, his defensive disposition is unbelievable,” Casey said. “That’s who he was at Villanova. His shooting is coming around, and again, he’s a work in progress. He’s not a finished product by any means. That’s how he built the trust, just through his hard work, his intensity, his sticktoitive attitude is second to none.”

Bey, the 19th pick of the 2020 draft, has emerged as one of the Pistons’ core rotation players. His mature demeanor off the court, and defense and quick trigger behind the arc, has impressed Casey and his teammates. 

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Saddiq Bey on his big game helping Detroit Pistons to 1st win

Saddiq Bey after his career-high 17-point performance with five 3s in win over Celtics at LCA, Jan. 1, 2021.

Detroit Pistons

Though Casey has preached the importance of having a patient approach with the young players on the roster, Bey’s ascent is showing that he’s a quick learner. At Villanova, he earned a reputation as one of the best 3-and-D players in the country. He’s played to his strengths so far, and his shooting has already become a reliable weapon. Through four games, he’s 10-for-22 (45.4%) from 3. That accounts for 66.6% of his 33 total shot attempts so far. 

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“He’s very mature in his approach to the game,” Mason Plumlee said after Friday’s game. “He’s super steady. He takes the shots that are there. You feel like you’re playing with a veteran when you’re playing with him.”

Even when Griffin returns, it’s tough to see Bey slipping out of the rotation if he maintains his current level of play. He logged the second-highest minute load on the roster Friday, playing 30 for the second time this week. He’s surpassed third-year guard Svi Mykhailiuk, who’s in the midst of a shooting slump, in the rotation. 

Bey closed out Friday’s game and split two free throws with 25.7 seconds left to help to seal the win. 

“I make sure that whenever I’m out there with him, I always keep an eye on him, see where he is on the floor and that’s really all I need around me, is shooting and people just playing hard and we just go from there,” Derrick Rose said after the game. “Tonight, he played great. He rebounded the ball, made a big free throw and made some huge shots behind the arc. If anything, we just want his confidence to keep growing and him to keep learning the game and understanding every game.” 

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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