Why Detroit Pistons’ Saddiq Bey is a prime candidate to become an NBA star

Detroit Free Press
Anthony Schulte |  Detroit Free Press

Players selected in the middle of the first round of the NBA draft  rarely stand out immediately in the first couple of seasons of their careers. But Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey exceeded expectations as a rookie.

Bey averaged 12.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists during his rookie campaign and was named to the All-Rookie first team. He led all rookies with 175 3-point shots made.

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During his second season,  Bey improved across the board. He  showed more versatility in his game, developing into more than just a 3-and-D player. His numbers benefited as well, averaging 16.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He also improved from 0.2 steals a game to 0.9.

With the departure of Jerami Grant to Portland, Bey will likely become the second scoring option in Dwane Casey’s offense behind Cade Cunningham. With a bigger role, he could be in line for a breakout season. Bey averaged 19.1 points in 34 games without Grant last season.

“Saddiq, he’s one that hasn’t had a break,” Casey said. “He’s one of those guys that reminds me of Dirk Nowitzki, we used to put a lock on the gym to keep him out the gym. He’s a basketball junkie.”

Bey scored 51 points against the Orlando Magic on March 17, making 10 3-pointers. But he also had five drives and cuts to the cup that night. Last season, Bey , showing he has a lot more versatility in his game. He also had six games of at least 30 points.

Bey loves playing the villain role, his favorite being the Joker.

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“Being on the road, I feel like the world is against me.” Bey said. “My whole life I’ve felt like being on the road gives me another edge and just to focus on being with your team.”

A standout improvement was his ability to rebound. Bey played power forward a lot more this past season while Grant was out with a thumb injury. Bey had seven games with 10-plus rebounds, including 17 rebounds on Jan. 1 against the San Antonio Spurs. That same game, Bey hit the game-winning shot over two Spurs defenders, finishing  with 21 points, three assists and two steals in 47 minutes.

Bey has also improved as a passer. Bey’s  assist percentage jumped from 7.6% as a rookie to 13.8% last season. And his turnover rate went from 8.2% to 7.5% per Cleaning the Glass.

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Even during the summer months, Bey is working for hours every day to perfect his craft. His work ethic is second-to-none, though the coaches wouldn’t mind if he took it a little easy.

“That’s been recommended for me for sure from the coaching staff,” Bey said after the final game of the season. “It actually is a tough battle for me every summer. If it’s been a couple days I’ve been off, I want to get in the gym. I have to figure out that balance. I love to play basketball. Just the joy of playing basketball, not just the NBA, but the joy of playing basketball. It’s my favorite hobby.”

Perhaps the final hurdle for Bey is  consistency. He scored 31 points on 77% shooting from 3 against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 30, but the next game he scored just seven points on 16% shooting from 3 against the New Orleans Pelicans. That was a recurring theme throughout the season. Great shooting performance, then the next night he couldn’t find his shot.

If Bey can become a more consistent shooter, he won’t have to worry about being the Joker. He may develop into the perfect Robin for the Pistons next season and beyond.

Free Press sports writer Omari Sankofa II contributed to this report. Anthony Schulte, a rising senior at Lake Orion High School, is a Free Press apprentice this summer.

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