Detroit Pistons get strong performances from rookie class during 108-96 loss to Chicago Bulls

Detroit Free Press

Despite the final score, Sunday’s game was a promising one for the Detroit Pistons.

All four of their 2020 draft picks shined, and Killian Hayes played the best all-around game of his young career. Hayes scored a career-high 21 points, dished eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds during the Pistons’ 108-96 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Hayes also had seven turnovers, a blight on an otherwise strong performance.

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Isaiah Stewart (19 points, seven rebounds, two blocks), Saddiq Bey (20 points, seven rebounds, 5-for-10 from 3) and Saben Lee (13 points, seven assists) also had impressive nights. Zach Lavine led the Bulls with 30 points, and Nikola Vucevic added 29 points and 16 rebounds.

The Pistons, who were without Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and the rest of their veterans, shot 7-for-21 in the first quarter and trailed by 18 points at halftime.

Killian Hayes flourishes as a scorer

Like most (if not all) rookie point guards, Hayes’ first season has been uneven. His passing and defense have translated well after making the jump from Europe, but his scoring has been a work-in-progress.

Hayes has shown flashes of a consistent floater and reliable outside shot, knocking down a few stepback 3-pointers. But he’s still finding a balance between when to drive and when to kick out, when to challenge or avoid the big lurking underneath the rim, and when to call his own number.

Sunday was his best offensive performance of the season, by far. His 21 points crushed his previous high of 12, and he also set career highs in shot attempts (17), makes (nine) and made 3-pointers (three). He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, making five of his seven attempts while dishing out four assists in the period.

Isaiah Stewart showcases expanded range

During his first 62 games this season, Stewart attempted 31 3-pointers. It wasn’t a focal point of his offense, but he hit them frequently enough that defenders began to close out on him toward the end of April.

In May, Stewart has been much more prolific from behind the arc, with 21 3-point attempts in the six games before Sunday. He made only two of those 3-point tries, but it illustrated just how much more comfortable he has become with the shot.

He set career highs Sunday in 3-point attempts (seven) and makes (three). He was one of Detroit’s best shooters, and also showed that he can put the ball on the floor when he has a lane to the basket. He outmuscled Garrett Temple and Vucevic to get to the rim for a hook in the first quarter and drove in for another layup in the fourth.

Stewart could shift to power forward next season, depending on the continued development of his outside shot. Given that he’s 6-feet-8, being able to reliably play power forward and center could unlock some versatile lineups for the Pistons. Stewart showed on Sunday that he has the tools to make the shift.

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

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