In five post-All Star break games, the Detroit Pistons look similar to how they did during the first half. They’ve had two wins against the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets, competitive losses against two likely playoff teams in the Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets, and a blowout defeat to the San Antonio Spurs.
The Pistons remain on pace to finish with one of the NBA’s worst records, and are committed to developing their young talent this season regardless of the record. Thankfully, they’ve seen continued growth from both their rookies and assorted new core of players. They also have a chance to hit their first three-game winning streak of the season, when they host the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.
Here’s who’s trending up and down more than a week into the second half of the season.
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Frank Jackson: The two-way guard is coming off of his best performance with the Pistons, scoring a season-high 23 points against the Rockets on Friday. Injuries to Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder and newcomer Hamidou Diallo paved the way for Jackson to enter the rotation, and he’s the latest young player on the roster to string together a good week after playing inconsistently earlier in the season. He’s a quick athlete who has struggled to knock down outside shots early in his career, but his 5-for-5 performance from deep Friday could be a sign he can reach higher as a shooter.
Isaiah Stewart: The rookie big man didn’t have a reputation as a 3-point shooter when he left Washington last season, though the Pistons and many draft analysts saw his potential. He’s in the beginning stages of realizing it, knocking down four of his five 3s in his past five games, including a 2-for-2 performance against Toronto on Wednesday. On Friday, he said he’s noticing defenders are beginning to recognize him as a threat when he pops.
Coach Dwane Casey cautioned against putting too much weight into his recent success, noting he’s still at his best offensively when at the rim. But it’s a positive sign Stewart is confident he can hit, and is already putting it to work during games.
Saddiq Bey: Since January, Bey has been one of Detroit’s best shooters. With each passing month, he has gotten a little better. His post-All Star break play has been one of his better stretches this season, and his continuing improvement as a finisher inside the arc makes you wonder how good of a scorer he can become. At Villanova, he was mostly a 3-point specialist. Can he become a primary option?
Wednesday and Friday marked his first time this season scoring 20-plus points in consecutive games. He’s learning how to pressure defenses despite not possessing elite speed or athleticism, using timing, footwork and his body to attack space and finish at the rim. Casey has praised his vision and upside as a playmaker. He’s looking like one of the steals of the 2020 draft.
Rodney McGruder: The 29-year-old veteran has missed the past two games with an elbow sprain, but he had previously carried over his momentum from the end of the first half of the season. He logged 28 and nearly 25 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets and San Antonio Spurs, respectively.
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Sekou Doumbouya: The lone-remaining player from the 2019-20 roster after this month’s trade of Svi Mykhailiuk, Doumbouya hasn’t been able to establish himself into the rotation. He played fewer than 10 minutes in three of his past five games. While he hasn’t always been rewarded by teammates for his off-ball activity, he’s still very raw and has struggled to find ways to positively impact the game every time he’s on the floor. “Don’t count your minutes, make your minutes count,” is one of Casey’s favorite phrases, and Doumbouya has to find ways to impact the game as a defender and rebounder when his shot isn’t falling.
Dennis Smith Jr.: The fourth-year point guard missed three games due to health and safety protocols before returning Friday. He only took three shots in about 19 minutes against the Rockets, and it could take some time for him to find his footing after missing several days of practice.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.