In the final week of the season, with very little for the Pistons to play for, it’s a good time to start thinking about postseason awards and how some of the Detroit players might fit in.
There aren’t many categories where Pistons will be in consideration, but one intriguing one is the All-Rookie Team, where there could be some history made. The first and second teams, voted on by 100 media members, don’t consider position, so it’s generally the top rookies spread among those 10 spots.
Three of the first-team spots seem to be pretty easy to figure out, with No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves), No. 3 selection LaMelo Ball (Hornets) and No. 12 pick Tyrese Haliburton (Kings) getting recognition. The other two are up for debate, with Saddiq Bey (Pistons), Isaiah Stewart (Pistons) and Jae’Sean Tate (Rockets) among a group of worthy candidates.
The Pistons haven’t had a first-team selection since Brandon Knight in 2012. The only time they’ve had two first-team picks was in 1982 with the mercurial duo of Isiah Thomas and Kelly Tripucka.
It’s an easy case to argue for Bey and Stewart both to make the first team, but could a team that finishes with the second-worst record get two players? That could be a tough sell, but media members should consider it, even if they don’t get to see a lot of the Pistons on national TV.
The Memphis Grizzlies pulled it off last season, with Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, and it has happened another time in recent years, so it’s certainly possible. The last two games of the season could play a role for the Pistons — and other candidates — to make a final push.
This week’s mailbag looks at some roster and lineup projections and what changes the offseason could bring:
► Question: How can Killian’s new move to “combo-guard” be seen as ANYTHING other than an admission by Piston’s brass that taking him at #7 as a Point Guard was a failure & that Haliburton was the vastly superior pick? — @RoachOppressor
► Answer: I was caught off guard (excuse the pun) when the Pistons made the move this week, using Saben Lee as the point guard and Killian Hayes as the off guard for extended minutes. For a while, I had been commenting on how Hayes had been not aggressive enough in finding his shot. When he wasn’t handling the ball, he looked like a different player.
Some of that can be just the game coming to him with more minutes or simply that the defense plays him differently. Whatever the reason, if it starts giving him stat lines with 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, do more of that. He’s finding a mid-range jumper and getting in different positions on the court to pass.
Whatever coach Dwane Casey has to do to open more scoring opportunities for Hayes will be a positive change. Now, imagine Hayes playing with Cade Cunningham or even Jalen Green or Jalen Suggs as that other guard.
► Q. You think they try to re-sign Frank Jackson? — @Danthemancarnah
► A. I definitely think they try to bring back Frank Jackson. He’s a two-way player now and will be a restricted free agent in the offseason, so the only real question will be whether another team comes sniffing around and tries to offer Jackson a big contract. It could happen, but I don’t think it would be an unreasonable offer that the Pistons couldn’t — and wouldn’t — match.
Jackson has proven that he can be an asset as a scorer off the bench and that he can score in bunches if given the opportunity. In 40 games this season, he’s averaged a career-best 9.8 points in 18.5 minutes and is shooting 41% on 3.8 attempted 3-pointers per game. That’s very high production for a two-way player. There will be other roster moves, but I would think that Jackson will be a keeper.
► Q. I know it’s hard to predict off-season growth but what do you think the ceilings are for some of our notable players right now? Can Saddiq be a go-to option? Is Killian better suited as the “3” in a Big Three etc — @Lo1of1
► A. The big revelation is that the young rookies excelled this year without a normal offseason, where they would have gotten extensive run in Summer League and rookie camp. That they are playing this well after just basically meeting each other in a truncated training camp is notable. They’ll jell more in the offseason and I can see Bey adding some moves off the dribble and working in the pick-and-roll.
We’ve already seen the improvement that Stewart has made with his 3-point shot, and he’s getting more of them up in the final weeks of the season. Hayes has been playing more combo guard, which is helping open his offensive aggressiveness and can only be a good thing. There will be more improvement for Lee and others too. Casey has said this is an important offseason for internal development of the young players.
► Q. Is it time to move on from Sekou? Just not sure where he fits in this new core? — @CaptainODouls
► A. No. He’s 20. Chill. He may not be a starter right now, with Jerami Grant and Bey in front of him on the depth chart, but Sekou Doumbouya can be a valuable reserve with his skill set. Casey has said that Doumbouya knows the system well, and it’s easy to see he has the right instincts to make the right plays. There’s no rush because he’s still under team control for a couple more years and he’s not hurting the team.