Coaches Corner: How Svi Mykhailiuk Will Elevate the Pistons Offense

Image: Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

“Who?”

That’s probably what most Detroit fans said when the Pistons traded Reggie Bullock to the Los Angeles Lakers for a 22-year old from Ukraine named Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.

Time has gone by and Piston fans have taken notice of the 6’8″ wing out of Kansas. He’s yet to play any meaningful minutes for Detroit, but there’s no denying the potential he can bring to an organization dying for wing depth and promising young talent.

But what piqued my interest was this quote from Dwayne Casey.

Initially, I said no.

Scratch that, I said HELL NO. The only thing I knew about Svi was that he could shoot and played for Kansas. My assumption was that he’d fill Bullock’s role as a spot-up shooter. If he could’ve contributed immediately with shooting, I didn’t want to waste time molding him into a point guard.

I was wrong.

Fast forward to Summer League. It took one game to realize what Svi is capable of on the court. Offensively, there’s more he can do than can’t. He looked and played like a true NBA player.

Looking back, the Pistons ROBBED the Lakers. Highway robbery. AND Detroit got a future second-round pick? Honestly, Ed Stefanski should be charged with theft in seven different states. The Pistons gave up an expiring contract (that they weren’t re-signing) for a promising young player with little-to-no impact on the salary cap. Bullock doesn’t play for Lakers anymore. On the outside looking in, it’s a relatively small move. But for the cost, the Pistons got a potential stud for literally nothing,

But the question still remains: How should the Pistons use Svi Mykhailiuk?

I’ve gathered some highlights from this past Summer League and his time at Kansas to show all the strengths he can potentially bring an offense that is dying for a dependable forward.

Court Vision

The best trait of a true playmaker is knowing where everyone is on the floor. I’m talking about court vision. Where the best of the best think two steps ahead of the defense. Here we’ll see a fast break where Svi confidently takes control of the offense down the court.

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With a full head of steam, Svi runs downhill to lead the transition offense. Once he makes the threat of attacking the basket, the Croatian defenders are left with no option but to collapse–or else it’s an easy basket. Once he draws in multiple defenders, he capitalizes on the poor transition defense–making an absolute beauty of a pass to the corner for a wide-open three. In a span of three seconds, Svi led the fast break, saw where his teammates were going to be, attacked the hole, drew defenders away from the corner–then ended the play with a perfect pass to a bucket. Those are the traits of a playmaker.

How about running the half-court offense?

Svi rushes from the corner to a hand-off pick and roll from Matt Costello. However, instead of going around Costello, Svi fakes his defender by pivoting 360 degrees with the ball. This gives him a wide-open lane to the basket–forcing the defense to collapse. Once he draws in LITERALLY every Indiana defender below the free-throw line (watch it again), Svi has the defense in the palm of his hands. Svi decides to swing it to Bruce Brown–who is strategically shielded by a high-post screen. Brown is wide open and drains it (surprisingly).

A lot of things needed to happen for it to go right, and they all did. What’s most impressive is that he could’ve gone up for the finish. Instead, he took the extra pass for a much better look. Svi would be a great San Antonio Spur.

Appreciate beautiful basketball, folks.

Getting Buckets–On and Off the ball

Detroit’s offense lives and dies by the pick and roll. So does the rest of the modern NBA. The goal of the pick and roll is to create space, create confusion and switch defenders. Sounds simple, but a pick can be used in multiple ways.

Let’s take a look at Svi in a spot-up shooting role–using a pick to create unoccupied space for an open look.

This is a relatively easy play. Josh Hart sets a down screen, Svi shoots to the top of the key, Javale McGee sets up a handoff pick for Svi who’s wide open for an easy three. Such a pretty shot. This play does a great job showcasing his off-ball movement. Plays like these created careers for Rip Hamilton and Reggie Miller. It’s now a staple of modern-day basketball–and Svi proves he can make these shots. With an offense that’s struggled so mightily with shooting the past couple of years, this is a reliable play he can be efficient at.

Now, let’s go to the vault and pull out my favorite Svi highlight at Kansas. Except for this time, he’ll conduct offense for himself.

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Just beautiful.

The pick and fade creates space between him and the defender. Once he breaks free, he draws another defender–creating a double team. However, the path to the basket is completely blocked off. This is great defense by Oklahoma State.

Making plays in the corner is incredibly risky. The risk of stepping out of bounds is incredibly high–and it doesn’t help being trapped there. Traps in the corner are death wishes for a possession. Scoring plays in the corner are meant for quick threes or driving the baseline.

However, Svi took the risk. Even with two defenders on him, Svi pulled out the Luka Doncic step-back special. This creates the perfect amount of space to separate himself from both defenders to pull up for three. Just a deadly weapon in his arsenal of moves.

Lastly, here’s this play.

No comment.

Feeding The Big Men

This is where Svi will thrive in this Pistons offense. Blake and Drummond work best in pick and roll situations. Hell, that’s basically the only way Drummond (efficiently) scores–besides tip-in’s. Svi being able to run the pick and roll just makes life easier for every other Piston on the floor. When’s the last time a wing player on the Pistons was a playmaker? Grant Hill?

Let’s look at Svi coming off the ball to make a play for his teammate.

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I mean, come on! This play is outrageous. How the hell did he make that pass in such a short window? That’s perfect passing with a hint of spacial awareness and a major dose of having guts. That kind of pass is a high-turnover play, but he makes it work.

Last play I’m going to show is this beauty of a pick and roll with Matt Costello. Watch very, very closely.

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Did you see it?

Watch it again.

DID YOU SEE THAT? NUTMEG! NUTMEG! This is great timing by Costello and Svi. Svi uses the pick as a decoy while Costello begins to roll. Once Svi collects Costello’s defender, both initiate movement towards the basket. With little to no space, Svi hangs his big balls on the floor again–dishing a perfect dime through the legs for a slam.

That Indiana defender will never wash off that stain of embarrassment.

Final Thoughts

Yes, these were highlights were against lesser opponents. But these are quick glimpses at what Svi can do–which is a lot. He’s not just a spot-up shooter. Casey was right, Svi is a point guard in the body of a 6’8″ wing. If developed properly, he has all the tools to succeed and thrive with Detroit.

Does he need more time to develop? Of course. He is only entering his second NBA season with very little NBA minutes on his resume. Defensively, he needs a whole lot of help. He is 6’8″, but only has a 6’5″ wingspan. Not great for defense–but great for shooting.

But the proof is out there on what he can contribute.

I’m very intrigued to see how Dwayne Casey will use him this season. He could be a starter, a solid bench role, or may not even play at all. The way Detroit utilizes their young talent is such a mind fuck. There has not been a young Pistons player who has received consistent, high minute usage in quite some time.

Here’s my take: If I was magically hired to be the head coach of the Pistons, I would start Svi. On a team where the two best players are the bigs, the Pistons starting lineup needs playmakers to open space. Svi has the potential to be the perfect solution. Physically, Detroit lacks size at the wing position, and he brings it. Not only can he create plays, but he’s a constant threat with his shot.

In the modern NBA, he is the prototype you want from a wing player.

But for now, we’ll just have to hope and wait to see how the rotation pans out.

Image: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

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