Beard: Pistons rookie Killian Hayes making the right strides in return from injury

Detroit News

There’s something to be said for the Pistons in the MOET Index.

It’s not some complicated advanced-statistics formula to break down a player’s value in comparison to others around the league. It’s just a simple “My Own Eye Test” gauge that doesn’t rely on statistics, but just what’s apparent by watching the game.

For most of the season, some fans have been on the bandwagon that rookie Killian Hayes is a bust and failure, before he’s even played a dozen games. Sure, the early-season hip injury was a disappointment, but trying to make any type of substantive judgment on his career at this point is foolhardy, at best.

He’s not LaMelo Ball, the No. 3 overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets, and he’s not Tyrese Haliburton (Sacramento Kings) or Kira Lewis (New Orleans Pelicans). They’re all different types of point guards. Trying to measure Hayes by the same standards as those guards won’t bode well.

What Hayes has shown in his handful of games back from the hip injury is that he’s a good player who will fit well with the Pistons — in due time. He might take a couple of years to reach his potential, but the early signs are positive, especially on the defensive end, where he’s shown a court awareness and a willingness to defend either guard. That was evident in Saturday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, where he got baptism by fire in the Blazers’ backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Not many defenders are going to hold them down, but Hayes showed that he can be in the right position — and even when a screen takes him out of a play, he can recover and make an impact. It’s a small thing, but that’s an element that the Pistons have lacked in the backcourt.

In his first four games back, the numbers are somewhat improved: 5.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists, shooting 41% from the field and 29% on 3-pointers in 21 minutes.

Where there were so many questions about his skill level in his first seven games of the season, those queries are quieting down now, with his game looking more polished on both ends of the court.

“He’s really doing a good job of getting his rhythm in the NBA. I think he’s more aggressive than he was earlier,” coach Dwane Casey said. “I think that time off allowed him to step back and look at the game and figure out where he could be aggressive, where he could attack the pain or if he’s off the ball, where he can space, where he should be and where he should cut…

“All those things he’s picked up on, where he’s just not out there handling the ball in the pick-and-roll. He’s growing at a great rate.”

And he’s still growing. Give it time.

Frank Jackson a gem

The Monday Drive takes a look at some other developments on the roster.

Frank Jackson didn’t look to be an impact addition on a two-way contract this season. He had a small role with the Pelicans for the past two seasons, but he’s making his mark with the Pistons this season. Of late, he’s picked up his production, with 10.6 points, 49% shooting from the field and 48% on 3-pointers (in 3.8 attempts) and getting about 19 minutes per game in his last 13 games.

He’s started just three games in that span, but what’s more important is that he’s finishing games and making a statement in the fourth quarter, where’s he’s become something of a go-to shooter, while Wayne Ellington has been out.

Count Jackson as another one of general manager Troy Weaver’s finds. Jackson could very well be in the rotation next season and fighting for minutes among the wings. With 17 points on Saturday night, he got the Pistons’ comeback started, but it fell short when they couldn’t get stops on the Trail Blazers.

Jackson rates high the MOET Index as well.

Seeing Sekou

Sekou Doumbouya has acquitted himself well on the western road trip as well, with a couple of nice games. He had been mired deep in the rotation behind even Tyler Cook, who was on a pair of 10-day contracts before signing to a standard contract last week for the remainder of the season.

Doumbouya had 11 points against the Blazers and 14 in the victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s just small steps, but it’s what Casey has harped on since he arrived about earning playing time and playing the right way. Doumbouya is making the most of his time now and is standing out on both ends, especially when he’s able to take the ball from end to end after getting a rebound.

Fans’ lamentations about his lack of playing time is somewhat founded, but there are other considerations that go into playing time than just being young and “needing” it, as some would say. He needs game time, but he also needs to play well in practice and to be consistent in earning more of it.

At least for now, Doumbouya is doing just that.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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