Pistons vs. Magic preview: Battle of the rebuilds

Detroit Bad Boys

The Detroit Pistons host the Orlando Magic for the first time since Detroit’s 113-109 opening-night victory. A lot has changed since then. For Detroit fans, those 48 hours after win number one of the season were the most hope the fan base would feel all season. Aside from some rookie highlights and a Killian Hayes resurgence, a season-ending injury to Cade Cunningham and the league’s worst record underscores what has been a bleak first third of the season.

On the other hand, the Magic have been everything Piston fans hoped their team would be this season. Orlando currently sits 13th in the Eastern Conference with a 13-22 record in large part due to their talented young core of players. Jamahl Mosley currently has his team playing the best basketball in years, with the Magic winning 8 of their past 10 games, including a 6-game win streak.

Game Vitals

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +2

Golden State Warriors v Orlando Magic

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Analysis

3 Things to watch for:

1. Orlando’s gigantic & talented wings

The Orlando Magic are currently rolling out a starting lineup that has 6-foot-10 Franz Wagner at the shooting guard position, 7-foo-2 Bol Bol at the small forward slot, and 6-foot-10 Paolo Banchero playing power forward. Even without conducting research, I’m pretty confident in saying that is the tallest starting trio of wings in the NBA right now.

Banchero is the head of the Magic’s scoring attack. The 20-year-old rookie is having one of the most impactful rookie campaigns of the past two decades. The jumbo-sized playmaker is averaging 21 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 34 minutes a night for the Magic. His combination of size, strength and ball-handling ability makes him an incredibly tough guard for the league’s best teams. Only four games ago, he led the Magic to an unlikely road victory over the Boston Celtics with a career-high 31 points.

Banchero is flanked by the equally impressive Wagner. Like his rookie teammate, Wagner is listed at 6-foot-10 and possesses a unique playmaking and scoring touch. After turning heads as a rookie, Wagner broke out over the summer representing Germany at the Euro Basket. He’s kept that momentum rolling into his second season and has played arguably the best basketball of any 2021 Draft Pick. In year two, Wagner is averaging 20 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists as the team’s secondary option.

Finally, the weird and whacky Bol Bol has been one of the NBA’s most fun storylines in 2022. After years spent toiling in the depths of the Nuggets rotation and, it should be noted, a rescinded trade to the Detroit Pistons, Coach Mosley has empowered the 23-year-old wing, starting him in all but five of 34 outings. Bol has rewarded his coach by averaging 12 points, 7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a night. His shooting and rim protection, particularly from the weakside, has provided the Magic fans with plenty of fun moments.

Orlando Magic v Atlanta Hawks

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

2. Point guard revivals

Markelle Fultz and Killian Hayes have both been cast as draft busts. Each of the young guards has also spent significant time on the sidelines, in turn hampering their development.

While Fultz has shown flashes of being a productive NBA guard in recent seasons, it feels like his impact on winning has never been greater. Since returning from injury in late November, the Magic have won 6 of 11 games and been a tough outing each and every night. Point guard play has plagued Orlando since the days of late-stage Jameer Nelson. And with the depth chart stocked on the wings and big positions, Fultz is making a solid case to fulfill the point guard position long term.

Much has been written about the resurgence of Hayes in his third season, and rightfully so. The former seventh overall selection has gone from the runt of Troy Weaver’s 2020 litter to the team’s most reliable offensive creator in a matter of months.

In 25 games since scoring a then-season-high 16 points in Boston, Hayes is averaging 12 points and 6 assists in 29 minutes a night. Perhaps the most astounding part of Hayes’ redemption tour is the sense of comfortability he provides Piston fans when he has the ball in hand. His -to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio reflects as such.

Detroit Pistons v Los Angeles Clippers

Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

3. Saddiq Bey’s three-point shot resurgence?

Saddiq Bey has been the roster’s biggest disappointment in terms of development as we approach the end of 2022. Whether you were high or low on Bey’s ceiling, not many would have predicted the third-year forward shooting a career-low percentage and coming off the bench.

Bey’s three-point shooting percentages have declined each year since shooting the long-ball at a 38% clip as a rookie. So far in year three, Bey has shot a lowly 30.9% from distance on 5.2 attempts, both career-lows. For a player whose offense relies on being a perimeter threat, this is clearly a sub-optimal trend.

However, there might be some hope!

In his past 10 games, Bey is shooting 40% from three on five attempts a night. He’s still shooting sub-40% from the field overall, but MAYBE the streaky forward is on the cusp of breaking his shooting slump.

Projected Lineup

Detroit Pistons (8-28)

Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren

Orlando Magic (13-22)

Markelle Fultz, Franz Wagner, Bol Bol, Paolo Banchero, Mortiz Wagner

Question of the Game

Are the Magic a TRUE threat to make the play-in tournament?

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