Dwane Casey’s case for Detroit Pistons rookies to make 2021 Rising Stars roster

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Pistons, in coach Dwane Casey’s estimation, have a few players worthy of named one of the NBA’s Rising Stars — despite the annual All-Star break showcase being canceled this season. 

Casey lobbied for Pistons rookies Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey to be included on the league’s Rising Stars rosters, which will be announced Wednesday.

“I would love to have Isaiah in, he’s deserving,” Casey said Tuesday. “But Saddiq is definitely one of the top rookies in shooting and all that stuff, all the metrics they look at. Just hopefully our rebuilding situation and our record doesn’t hurt him. But Saddiq, I’d put him in the top, and also Isaiah, in the top of all those rookies that are in the league, for what they bring to the table, what they’re going to be.”

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The Rising Stars Challenge won’t take place this year because of the NBA’s abbreviated All-Star format. Rather than over the course of an entire weekend, this year’s Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest  and All-Star Game will all happen March 7.

There wasn’t enough room for the annual showcase for the league’s young players, but the league’s best rookies and sophomores will still be recognized.The teams will follow the same format the league has used since 2015, with one roster consisting of players born in the United States (Team USA), and the other being international players (Team World). 

Each roster will have just 10 players, so the Pistons will have some stiff competition to get a player in. But Bey and Stewart, who have been stalwarts in Casey’s rotation this season, appear to have the strongest odds. 

Bey, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week from Feb. 8-14, has been one of the best scorers of the 2020 rookie class.

Through Monday’s slate of games, he was second among rookies in 3-point makes (69) and in 3-point percentage (40.6%) among those with at least 100 3-point attempts. He’s also top-10 in scoring (315 points, seventh overall) and rebounding (126,  tied for eighth overall). 

Stewart has been one of the best rebounders in the class, leading all rookies in offensive rebounds (78) by a wide margin. Jae’Sean Tate is second with 58 offensive rebounds. Stewart is second overall in total rebounds (186), behind LaMelo Ball, and first overall in blocks (32).

And it may not be a stat that matters when it comes to candidacy for being named a Rising Star, but Stewart is a plus-33 (fourth overall) through 32 games. 

“Their potential is right up there with any rookie in this league,” Casey said. “And I challenge anybody to say otherwise.” 

Casey said it’s unfortunate that Killian Hayes, who played just seven games and is rehabbing after suffering a hip injury, won’t be in the mix for a roster spot. But he made a case for Saben Lee, who’s coming off of a strong week. In his last five games, Lee is averaging 12.6 points, 3.4 assists and 1.4 steals on 60% overall shooting.

“I’ll tell you what — another rising young man is Saben Lee,” Casey said. “Saben is a two-way contract, but his contract status doesn’t tell his potential and who he is.”

Sekou Doumbouya, who is averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds through 30 games this season, is also a candidate for Team World.

Svi Mykhailiuk made the Rising Stars Challenge last season, and was the first representative for the Pistons since Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2015. 

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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