Who’s the 4? Saddiq Bey’s maturing body, game could unlock Pistons offense

Detroit Bad Boys

The moment Jerami Grant was traded, the big question became, “Who is going to take his place in the starting lineup?” As it stands, the Pistons have zero prototypical power forwards on their roster. As we search for answers, Detroit Bad Boys will be examining five candidates on their potential as the starting 4.

The Detroit Pistons tasked Saddiq Bey with becoming a more well-rounded player last offseason. After a shaky start to the season, Bey delivered, highlighted by a 51-point eruption where he scored 30 points from beyond the arc, seven from the free throw line, and another 14 from inside the arc.

On the season, Bey averaged 2.7 of his field goals off of one or more dribbles on 7.0 attempts per game, shooting 39.1% on such attempts.

Perhaps that doesn’t impress you, but in the context of his rookie season splits, it’s evident that Bey made significant strides as a scorer in year two. During Saddiq’s rookie season, he averaged just 1.3 makes off of one or more dribbles on 3.8 attempts, shooting 31.6%.

This is a significant improvement. Despite nearly doubling his off-dribble attempts per game, Bey was able to improve his shooting off the dribble by nearly 7.5%.

On top of his versatility as a scorer, Bey quietly improved his passing from year one to year two, increasing his assists per game by 1.4, while only turning the ball over .3 more times. Bey still only finished the season with 2.8 assists per game, but in the context of how much more Bey was asked to do (and how much more he had the ball) this shouldn’t go unmentioned.

Bey’s offensive improvement is a boon for the Pistons, who have assembled a promising young core, but still don’t quite know how the pieces will fit.

But the Pistons have options, thanks to Bey. His improvement in these areas allow the Pistons to slide him to the 4, which would give them a blend of shooting, driving, and playmaking that no other player on the roster possesses. It also allows the Pistons to take a serious look at the 3 spot, specifically Isaiah Livers who showed promise as a 3-and-D player in his limited run as a rookie.

We can probably pencil in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey as the back court starters going into the season (though it’s tough to 100% rule out Alec Burks at this time).

Isaiah Stewart started and played in 71 games last season. His position as a starter is safe, especially after displaying his offensive development in Summer League.

In this hypothetical scenario the Pistons would roll out a Cade/Ivey/Livers/Bey/Stewart lineup.

While Cade had a subpar showing from the arc last season and Ivey’s jumper is still very much in question, this lineup does give the Pistons a threat from behind the arc at all five positions on the court. In today’s NBA, shooting reigns supreme.

The Pistons finished just 29th in 3-point shooting last season. Deploying a lineup with a couple above-average shooters, and at least a threat to shoot at all five positions will only open up lanes for Cunningham, Ivey, and Bey to create for themselves and others, while still offering enough defensively to match well with most lineups.

I’d argue that Bey playing the 4 allows the Pistons to start the five best shooters, the best mix of playmakers, and it gives the Pistons the best chance to maximize each of these player’s best attributes. However, it should be acknowledged that this lineup doesn’t feature an explosive front court player like Marvin Bagley III or Jalen Duren, which has proven to be a lethal weapon for Cunningham and the Pistons.

Sure, sliding Bey back to the 3 would allow the Pistons to play some one of Bagley III or Duren to give them that explosive lop threat.

But that would come at the expense of playmaking and scoring, and for a team that finished 28th overall in points per game, can the Pistons really afford that?

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