Isaiah Stewart’s 3-pointer vs. Hornets a sign of things to come for Detroit Pistons

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II | Detroit Free Press

When the ball reached Isaiah Stewart’s hands at the top of the key late in Thursday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, he didn’t hesitate. The rookie big man was wide open and immediately launched a 3-pointer. It went in, giving the Detroit Pistons a three-point lead.

Stewart had only attempted five 3s, and converted one, for the season entering the game. The Hornets’ scouting report probably didn’t mention Stewart had range behind the arc, since their starting center, Cody Zeller, half-heartedly closed out. Hornets television commentator Eric Collins’ shocked reaction said it all.

‘No, he’s not going to, oh my goodness,” Collins said as Stewart readied the shot. “Oh, how did that happen?” Collins screamed as the shot glided between the net.

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Stewart didn’t enter the NBA with a reputation as a 3-point shooter. He attempted 20 during his freshman season at Washington, and made five. But the Pistons have been high on his potential as a floor-stretcher since they drafted him in November. He was a good free throw shooter in college (77.4% at the line) and was able to consistently knock down midrange jumpers.

“I’m confident to take them, the coaching staff believes in that shot and it’s a shot I work on,” Stewart said in February. “It’s a shot I know I can knock down.”

Stewart isn’t learning how to shoot. He’s building on skills he already had. And his 3-pointer will continue to become a bigger part of his game as his career progresses.

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Coach Dwane Casey praised Stewart’s quick decision to take the 3 after Detroit’s 105-102 loss to Charlotte, and said he can eventually see Stewart playing more power forward. He’s logged nearly all of his minutes at center this season. It’s a position he’s found success in, but also a position he’s slightly undersized for at 6-foot-8. Being able to play both the four and five spots would open more opportunities for him in the future, and give the Pistons a versatile big on both ends of the floor.

“Isaiah has great ball skills,” Casey said. “He can shoot the ball, he’s steady and that’s who he’s going to be. That’s what he’s growing into. I love that he took that shot, he stepped right into it and it wasn’t forced. He took what the game gave him and knocked it down. I think that he’s got a great opportunity to move over to the four position some if we need to, play on the perimeter a little bit, be that pop four or pop five that can screen and pop, and really give us some versatility going forward. It may not happen this year a lot, but he’s growing into it as we’re going. By this time next year he should be there.”

Casey’s comments echoed general manager Troy Weaver’s on Tuesday, when he said he can eventually see Stewart playing power forward next to Mason Plumlee. There’s a plan in place for Stewart, and he’s showing signs his ability to hit 3’s may not be a surprise for opposing teams much longer.

“It’s big time man,” Saddiq Bey said. “We’re excited for him. He works on that every day. To be able to be versatile like that, stretch the floor out, it’s no surprise. I’ve seen him work on it every day.”

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

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