Detroit Pistons mailbag: How Saddiq Bey’s emergence impacts Jerami Grant status on roster

Detroit Free Press

CHICAGO — The season is not even a week old, and there’s plenty of intrigue for the Detroit Pistons.

Cade Cunningham hasn’t made his debut, but we’ve already seen strong play from Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart. Jerami Grant is picking up where he left off last season. Killian Hayes is still a bundle of potential as he approaches his 30th NBA game.

Fans had questions for the first mailbag of the season, and I had answers. Thanks to everyone who sent one.

SHAWN WINDSOR: Wings and Pistons have a winning approach. The wins are coming next

Do you think Saddiq is going to improve to the point the team entertains offers for Grant or is his desire to play in Det and value to contract more valuable@MichaelMMcKay

The Pistons want to win, so I don’t think they’re itching to trade Grant. If Wednesday was a legitimate sign that Bey’s development as a shot-creator is sustainable, it means the Pistons have two forwards who can defend and get a bucket. That’s good. They view Grant as a core piece — he wants to be in Detroit, and he’s on an inexpensive contract relative to his production. Unless they expect he’ll leave in free agency in 2023, there’s no reason to move him unless a can’t-miss offer comes along.

A NICE START: Why Saddiq Bey already looks different compared to his rookie season

Grant isn’t an easy player to replace. He’s a good spot-up shooter, versatile defender, gets to the line at a high rate and hit a career-high 84.5% of his free throws last season. He was slightly overmatched as a No. 1 option, but he may not have to shoulder as big a load this season with Bey emerging as a versatile offensive threat, and Cunningham potentially being an impact offensive player as a rookie. Grant’s efficiency can improve. He can get better.

Some may believe the Pistons’ best option is to sell high on Grant while they can, but I don’t agree. No draft pick is guaranteed to produce a player as good as Grant, and few players in Grant’s salary bracket are producing more. If you’re not getting a bona fide superstar back in a trade involving Grant, it probably isn’t worth it.

Also, Grant and Bey can coexist. They add strength and length to Detroit’s defense, can shoot, and Bey is emerging as a secondary ball-handler and rim finisher. Bey’s continued development should have no bearing on what the front office decides to do with Grant. You need talent to win, after all.

Do you think Killian is better suited off the bench as primary PG on the second unit? — @AmineNou5 

I think solid arguments can be made for either scenario, but it makes sense to keep Hayes in the starting lineup. For now.

MORE FROM WINDSOR: Cade Cunningham won’t fix these Pistons — but he’ll help a lot

The Pistons are sticking with the plan they set for Hayes last season. He was a starter before his hip injury, and eventually resumed his place in the starting lineup after he returned. He still has had relatively few reps compared to his fellow 2020 draft class, with just 28 NBA games under his belt. And it’s logical for him to continue building chemistry with the team’s other core players —- Grant, Bey, Stewart and Cunningham (when he returns). The Pistons don’t have a mandate to make the playoffs this season. I don’t see much downside to allowing Hayes to start. If he figures it out, no one will care that he struggled early on.

That doesn’t mean Hayes will finish games if he’s struggling, though. Cory Joseph finished Wednesday’s loss; Hayes was 0-for-6 from the floor with just two assists in about 20 minutes of play. It’s certainly possible that Hayes could be better-suited for the bench, playing the bulk of his minutes against second units. Hayes has good court vision and is an aggressive, physical defender. That aggression hasn’t translated on offense yet. Whether he starts or comes off of the bench, he’ll need to play better to finish games. Finishing games is a bigger vote of confidence from the coaching staff than starting games.

If Killian Hayes wasn’t on the team…who would take the mantle as the most polarizing #Pistons — @MotorCityHoops

This is a tough one, because I don’t think this roster is very polarizing. Hayes hold that “honor” now because he was the seventh overall pick, got hurt and hasn’t adjusted to the NBA as fast as Stewart and Bey. He still has some fan support, and he can change his reputation rapidly by improving his play. 

MORE FROM WINDSOR: It’s too soon to call Killian Hayes anything other than a work in progress

There’s a case for Josh Jackson, simply because of his play style. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders and slashers on the roster, but he’s also one of the highest-volume shooters on the roster (even when his shot isn’t falling) and is turnover-prone. But he’s overall been one of the better role players on the roster, he’s from the city, and he’s a proven trash-talker, which fans love. If he’s polarizing, there’s only a small number of naysayers.  

As leaders, Troy and Casey must have had several off season goals for the org, roster and player development. How successful do you think they feel their off season was? What of their abilities and leadership do you think they are focused on improving for the upcoming year? — @TeelaThePistons

This offseason was much more straightforward for the Pistons compared to last offseason. They already had a core of young players and veterans in place, so the main goals were to continue developing their young talent, retaining several of their key veterans, bringing in outside help to improve their shooting and getting the right player with the No. 1 pick.

From that standpoint, I think their offseason was pretty successful. Olynyk has an established track record for being a good shooter, and Trey Lyles’ advanced shooting numbers are better than his regular stat sheet numbers suggest. Cory Joseph and Rodney McGruder returned on team-friendly deals. Stewart looks like a genuine starting center, and Bey is showing more levels to his offensive game beyond 3-point shooting. Hayes still has to come around, and Cunningham has yet to make his NBA debut, so we can’t check every box off yet. But overall, they accomplished what they set out to do.

As far as this upcoming year, the Pistons will have to assess how ready this roster is to make a playoff push. They could have another high lottery pick, and will likely have a good chunk of cap space. Ideally, they’ll see their young players make notable steps forward this season and will only need a handful of moves to close the gap. It still feels as though this team is at least one piece away from becoming a genuine playoff hopeful. Weaver will have an opportunity to bring about significant roster changes once again, if he deems it necessary.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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