Who gains the most from Detroit Pistons’ divorce with Blake Griffin

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II | Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons have already gotten glimpses of what their post-Blake Griffin roster will look like. The six-time All-Star had already missed seven games this year due to rest, prior to Monday’s news he and the Pistons have agreed to make him inactive until he’s either traded or bought out.

The Pistons (8-19) return to action Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls, and it’ll be our first look at the new roster, and head coach Dwane Casey’s updated rotation. Based on those previous Griffin-less games, we have a good idea of what adjustments Casey could make. Let’s take a look:

Bey a full-time starter?

Saddiq Bey has started eight games this season, more than any of Detroit’s rookies, and started all seven Griffin missed. It’s likely Bey will be permanently inserted into the starting lineup.

It’ll certainly be earned if it happens, as he’s in the midst of his best stretch of his career. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week is averaging 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and two assists in his past four games — a stretch that saw the Pistons go 3-1. Bey shot 25 of 35 (71.4%) and a scolding 69.6% from 3 (16 of 23) for the week, including 7-for-7 on 3s against the Boston Celtics on Friday.

Moving Bey into the starting lineup would create a “chain reaction” of opportunity for the rest of the roster, Casey said Tuesday.

“It’s for him, but also for Jerami (Grant) playing at the four more,” Casey said. “It’s also more minutes for Svi (Mykhailiuk) to get in there at the three when Jerami is at the four, Saddiq at the four. It’s a chain reaction as much as anything else. It’s not only just Saddiq, it’s four guys altogether. And also Sekou (Doumbouya) as he comes back.”

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Grant moves to natural position

While Grant has thrived as a starting small forward this season, he has historically spent more time and been more comfortable at power forward. Casey has acknowledged that when Griffin missed games this season, it allowed him to move Grant to the four. Now, he should be able to play the position full-time.

Grant has played 57% of his minutes at small forward this season, according to Basketball Reference — the highest total of his career. Prior to this season, he had almost exclusively played power forward since 2017. By shifting him up a position, Casey can ease a longjam in the rotation that has suppressed the minutes of the Pistons’ other forwards.

Mykhailiuk, Doumbouya could be biggest beneficiaries

Even though they’ve only missed a combined four games this season, Mykhailiuk and Doumbouya are ninth and 11th on the roster, respectively, in minutes played. Neither have made strong cases to receive more playing time. Mykhailiuk is shooting 39% overall and 32.7% from 3 — both down from last season — and Doumbouya is shooting 35.3% and 25.6% on 3s.

Mykhailiuk is the more-proven player and has had more standout performances this season. He had what might’ve been his best game against the Pelicans on Sunday, tying his season-high with 18 points, while setting season-highs in shot attempts (11) and makes (seven). Even though his 3-point percentage has slumped, he’s hitting 70% of his shots at the rim — a significant increase over last season’s mark of 55% — and 40% of his midrange shots, another increase from last year.

Despite his low shooting percentages, he has been a more diverse and creative scorer compared to last year. He has had some savvy cuts and drives to the rim and tough finishes from midrange. Casey has also praised his progress on defense.

“He had a cut-off the other night when he got switched on (Brandon) Ingram, and used his chest and put his hands back, moved his feet,” Casey said. “I would say a year ago he wouldn’t have made that defensive stop. His pick-and-roll defense has improved. He’s another young guy that’s getting the opportunity to grow and that’s part of the plan.”

Doumbouya has had stretches where he has held his own defensively and shown he can create offense without the ball. But he hasn’t improved as a finisher or shooter compared to a year ago, and hasn’t taken advantage of opportunities. Part of his offensive woes are due to him not consistently being rewarded when cutting to the rim. But when he isn’t scoring, it can be tough for Casey to justify playing him for extended stretches.

Doumbouya has missed two straight games with a concussion, but when he returns he’ll have a clear path to playing more minutes as the backup power forward, his natural position. While he’ll still have competition at the forward positions, he should have more chances to prove he can handle more responsibility.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

 

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