Beard: Jerami Grant’s play outshines Pistons’ poor 2-8 start

Detroit News

Rod Beard
 
| The Detroit News

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Detroit — The Pistons’ rough start to the season has been what many experts predicted.

Not that anyone was expecting an NBA Finals appearance this year.

There’s no sugarcoating their 2-8 record, which has been wrought with a mostly new roster trying to build chemistry, some porous defense and plenty of young players quickly adjusting to the league.

That’s one way of gauging where the Pistons are.

Another is a deeper look at what they’ve set out to do with their rebuild. They got three first-round picks, including Killian Hayes with the No. 7 pick. The revamped their roster to get two other picks to get Isaiah Stewart (16th) and Saddiq Bey (19th) and also added a second-round pick to select Saben Lee.

They committed to Jerami Grant for three years and $60 million in what some deemed an overpay for a secondary player who hasn’t shown that he can handle the spotlight as a go-to scorer.  More than that, they took chances on Mason Plumlee, Josh Jackson and Jahlil Okafor to complement the roster that just seemed to be cobbled together on new general manager Troy Weaver’s whims, ahead of the quick start to the season.

It’s still too early to make any sweeping proclamations, but the early returns are showing some positives in the plan to take the first steps toward respectability in the East.

Here are five early takeaways from the start to the Pistons’ season:

1. Jerami Grant is the real deal: Any reservations about whether Grant could take on a bigger role with the Pistons have been answered already. He’s been everything they hoped — and maybe even a little bit more. Grant has scored 20-plus points in the last nine games and is averaging 25.1 points and 6.2 rebounds and has shown an ability to create his own shot, getting to the rim with relative ease and to be a reliable 3-pointer shooter (38%). He’s become their primary scorer and the Pistons player that defenses must plan around. If he continues at this pace, Grant could be in line for All-Star consideration or possibly for Most Improved Player at the end of the season.

2. Hayes’ injury hurts: When Hayes went down because of a torn labrum in his right hip, the biggest part of the Pistons’ rebuilding plan went with him. It’s still not clear how long Hayes could be, but the fact that it’s listed on the injury report as a sprain could lean more toward Hayes not needing surgery. Either way, it could be a while for him to go through rehab and get back to playing form. Even in the seven games he did play, Hayes wasn’t lighting up the stat sheet, with 4.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and a miserable 28% field-goal percentage. One thing to keep in mind is that Hayes is just 19 years old and isn’t in the same development phase as the Sacramento Kings’ Tyrese Haliburton or the Celtics’ Payton Pritchard, who are older. In the Pistons’ building timeline, Hayes likely could take another year or two — and maybe more after this injury.

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Pistons coach Dwane Casey on 96-86 loss to Utah

Pistons coach Dwane Casey talks about the 96-86 loss to Utah and how it’s “tough to survive slow starts.”

The Detroit News

3. Weaver drafted well: When he came from Oklahoma City, Troy Weaver was highly regarded for his eye for talent, and it has shown in his draft picks. Saddiq Bey has been an excellent pickup and has slotted immediately into the rotation, where he’s getting big minutes with the second unit and has had three starts. He played in the closing minutes of the win over the Phoenix Suns, which shows coach Dwane Casey’s faith in the rookie’s readiness. Isaiah Stewart has been just as good, as an energy boost off the bench. He’s been a find because of his offensive rebounding, which has been critical, especially at his size. Saben Lee has been good in his short stints, after looking simply to be a developmental player.

4.  The schedule hasn’t been kind: Of the Pistons’ first 10 games, eight were against teams with a record of .500 or better. In the last seven, the Pistons have gotten both of their wins, against the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns. They’ve scrapped to stay close in most of their games, despite falling behind in double digits and having to whittle away for a chance in the fourth quarter. They haven’t really been blown out in lopsided games, which is a good sign, but they’ll need to find the right rhythm and lineups, which could entail shortening the rotation below the 11 players that Casey has used in many of the games.

5. Development is underway: In a shortened offseason, the Pistons didn’t get to do the development work they would have done in a normal season. That’ll be critical as they try to do as much as they can during the season, with an eye on significant jumps for the young players next summer. Though they won’t have their own franchise in the G League bubble, they can have their players be flexed to join other rosters. That could be the case with Deividas Sirvydis, who doesn’t look to be part of the rotation now.

“Sirvydis is a more a guy who’s developing and still picking up things,” Casey said. “He’s an excellent shooter and he’s done an excellent job with his body over there Europe. There are only so many guys we can develop at it one time.”

The problem with the G League bubble is that NBA players will have to quarantine for a week before entering that bubble, then another week before they come back to the NBA bubble. A young player like Saben lee also could benefit, but with their injury issues at point guard, potentially losing him for two weeks in quarantine isn’t likely.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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