How Pistons’ Saddiq Bey has gained NBA status as top-scoring forward

Detroit News

Detroit — Pistons forward Saddiq Bey showed that he’s capable of becoming more than good this season. He could become great, and that was clearly on display March 17, when he scored 51 points in Orlando.

Detroit coach Dwane Casey was asked how that performance affected how Bey saw himself and how opponents viewed him.

“First of all, his confidence level,” Casey said. “He has it himself in his ability. Other teams point to him in the game plan. They put either their best or second-best defender on him because of that respect.

“And the reason for optimism is that Saddiq isn’t even who he’s going to be yet. The things he can do off the dribble, pick-and-roll. I see him playing pick-and-roll basketball at some point. Very rarely do you have that.

“I’ve had Rashard Lewis (as an assistant in Seattle), Terrence Ross (as a head coach with Toronto) and Blake (Griffin in Detroit). All those guys – you saw them after they got 50 points, their confidence level, their status, the way the league viewed them (changed).

“It’s not easy to score 50. It’s hard to do. So, that’s a great thing for Saddiq.”

At 22, he became the youngest of seven Pistons to register a 50-point game in the franchise’s 74 seasons.

Bey (6-foot-8) also has increased every one of his major statistical categories since his rookie season of 2020-21.

►Points: 12.2 to 16.3.

►Rebounds: 4.5 to 5.6.

►Assists: 1.4 to 2.9.

“I love the improvements Saddiq has made in his shooting,” said Casey. “He’s attacking the paint, his passing. If he makes the same steps next year – and it’s not going to happen just because they talk about it – they still have to get in the gym, get in the work, make that next step.”

Bey is averaging 13.4 points in the last five full games he’s played after coming off a three-game run in which he averaged 32.0 and had that 51-pointer.

Casey was asked this week if Bey might be tired having played all 78 games this year while averaging 33.7 minutes per game. He averaged 27.3 minutes in 70 games last season.

“That’s a good question,” Casey said. “I would say, just as much as anything, it’s his work. He stays after practice, comes back at night shooting. He’s just a basketball addict and it’s hard to tell a young man not to work. But you’re probably right.

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“He hasn’t taken a break. He went right from the USA (Basketball) games (last summer) into working out. So, there is a time guys have to recoup and recover. But it’s hard to tell a young man, a second-year player, to kind of take it easy. It’s not in his personality. It’s probably not mine, either, but it makes sense.”

Casey said Bey’s also been playing with a “banged up” hip and limited his playing time to 6:09 in Friday night’s 110-101 win at Oklahoma City. He scored three points, but missed his only 3-point attempt, bringing his franchise-record streak of 51 games with at least one trey to an end.

Bey broke Allan Houston’s franchise record of 191 3-pointers that had stood since 1995-96. He’s at 201, and became just the fifth player in NBA history to reach 200 at 22 or younger by joining Anthony Edwards, Trae Young, D’Angelo Russell and Klay Thompson – each of whom has done in in the last 10 seasons.

“Now,” said Bey, “I just try to beat my own record every time, every year. That’s the goal. But it’s just a blessing to share that with my teammates. Glory to God first, and then to my teammates and staff to put me in this position.

“But I’m motivated just to try to keep getting better. There were a lot of the games early in the season when I didn’t shoot it as well, and it was definitely a motivation factor.”

So is pushing the team into the win column much more often.

Detroit (22-56) will be trying to match its season-best three-game winning streak Sunday against the Pacers, and Bey has averaged 22.7 points in three games against them this season. He said beating top teams such as Philadelphia, which the Pistons did Tuesday, 102-94, is important in regards to confidence because “once we see it as a team, we believe it.”

Bey hit a 3-pointer in the final minutes against the Sixers that brought a six-point lead, and the fans at Little Caesars Arena roared for joy.

“It was exciting,” Bey said. “It gave us a lot of energy. Our crowd is very loyal to us, and I stay locked in for sure. But for the most part, I try to block everything out. But at that time, I heard everything erupt. So, I was just happy to see that.

“And it was, ‘We have a six-point lead now. How do we finish the game?’ We’d given it up in the past. So, it was a good building block.”

Steve Kornacki is a freelance writer.

Pistons at Pacers

Tipoff: 5 p.m. Sunday, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

TV/radio: BSD Extra/950

Outlook: The Pistons (22-56) have won two in a row and are 2-1 this season against the Pacers (25-53), who have Rick Carlisle coaching them for a second stint. Carlisle was NBA Coach of the Year with Detroit in 2002 and led the Dallas Mavericks to the 2011 NBA championship.

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