In wading through the new names on the Pistons roster, several things stand out. Youth. Athleticism. Length. Also…there’s not a lot of shooting.
The Pistons either shipped out or watched free agency departures for five of their top six three-point shooters from last year. Of the new faces, none can really be classified as shooters.
Jerami Grant has developed a pretty reliable catch and shoot jumper. Delon Wright is usually reliable for a mid-30s three-point percentage. There’s hope that the international guys in Killian Hayes, Deividas Sirvydis, and Džanan Musa can shoot.
If you look at the current roster, compiling up the three-point numbers from last season paints a concerning picture.
Adding up the three-point shots made and attempted of each player last season, this current roster combined to shoot just 31 percent. That is lower than the worst team mark in the league last year by more than two percentage points.
Mostly, these are guys who can punish an open three rather than the type of high volume, weaponized three-point shooter. There are two names on the roster that stand out with that kind of potential for the Pistons: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Saddiq Bey.
Svi has already shown the ability to be a high volume shooter with a solid percentage, getting up 5 three-pointers per game last year in just 22 minutes while connecting on 40 percent. It was just his first season in an NBA rotation and could position him for a nice leap forward this season.
The respectable percentage is important, but even more valuable is the variety Svi offers as a shooter. It starts with his ability to shoot off movement. He’s not particularly quick or athletic, but he can get a bit slippery off the ball and doesn’t require much space to get his shot off.
One opportunity for expansion could come from contributing more as a secondary ball-handler. After Luke Kennard’s season ended in December last year, Svi got the nod into the starting lineup plus some of those half-court ball-handling duties that previously went to Kennard. He showed that he does have some potential as an off the bounce shooter.
But if that’s going to happen, he’ll need to tighten up his handle and improve his decision making. There were moments last season where Svi would find himself a bit in over his head and the results would be ugly.
Still, that’s to be expected from a 22-year-old getting his first real NBA rotation minutes. Growth and development in those areas are entirely reasonable to project for next season. But growth and development will be needed for that next step to happen.
The willingness to put the ball on the floor and attack is promising. His willingness to pass is promising. But his instincts aren’t there yet. Too often he’d get too deep and force a bad pass through traffic, or he’d get himself stuck by picking up his dribble or getting in the air without a clear shot or pass. These turn into turnovers and easy transition buckets for the other team.
But the good news is that most of these issues should improve with experience. Also, fortunately, those occasional mental mistakes didn’t seem to rattle him much. He had three games last season with four or more turnovers, but still shot 12-24 from three in those games. That’s the kind of mental makeup you want to see from your shooter.
Aaron Nesmith probably deserved the title of the best shooter of the 2020 NBA draft class, but Saddiq Bey wasn’t far behind him. He was Villanova’s leading scorer, and did it with nearly half of his field-goal attempts coming from behind the arc (47 percent) and shooting a great percentage (45 percent). That kind of volume and effectiveness is promising.
Along with Svi, the versatility in how Bey was able to generate those three-point shots makes them stand out from the rest of the team. Whether it’s transition, your typical catch and shoot, off movement, or off the bounce, Bey checks the boxes.
While he fits the usual mold that you think of with a Jay Wright coached player, fitting in well within a team construct, Bey also showed a good amount of aggressiveness. You need that from a shooter who is going to get the type of volume that moves the needle.
We’ve already seen some of that through the first preseason games from Bey.
Sorry, the clips are all bricks. Hey, it’s only been a couple games for Bey so far, there’s not a ton to pull from just yet.
But one thing we can tell already, Bey isn’t going to be one of those rookie wings who just hang out in the corner and knock it down if the ball makes it his way. Through his first two preseason games, he took 11 three-point shots with only two coming from the corner. He’ll be opportunistic looking for his chances to launch from deep, and that’s something this team needs.
It’ll be worth watching Bey’s ability to put the ball on the floor in his rookie year. His role at Villanova was that of a finisher rather than someone who set up his teammates. But his 15 percent assist percentage isn’t terrible and shows a willingness as a passer. By comparison, Nesmith’s was just a notch under 7 percent.
He’s flashed some ability to put the ball on the floor so far in the preseason, punishing over aggressive closeouts.
Bey has decent athleticism and has shown some ability to finish through traffic. If he can expand that to also get teammates involved, he can quickly become a valuable contributor to the offense.
Of course, all of this hinges on Bey knocking down his shots. Last season, no rookie with more than 150 three-point attempts shot higher than 40 percent from three. But 35 percent might be a better mark to watch for Bey. If he’s above that with the same kind of aggressive style, that’s promising for even bigger things to come. If it’s lower than 35 percent, he might not see a ton of time on the court just yet.
Shooting is one of those things that you can take for granted when you have it, but miss desperately when it’s not there.
Last year the Pistons shot 36.7 percent from three, which was the 10th best in the league. But it was just 2016-17 when the Pistons finished 28th in the league in three-point percentage, contributing to the undermining of Stan Van Gundy’s squad that went from 44 wins and the playoffs to 37 wins and the eventual firing of SVG.
Certainly, that wasn’t the only problem of those teams. But generating points was such a challenge on a night in-night out basis and the team slogged to a 24th ranked offensive rating.
With Troy Weaver’s reshaped roster, there’s some risk of seeing that again. Through these first preseason games, the Pistons have shot just 29 percent from three. Some of that is a small sample size, but it’s a red flag that it tracks so closely to the 31 percent that the players shot cumulatively last year.
If Svi and Bey can provide a dynamic threat in that element of the game, it raises things for the whole team. It means they attract more gravity. That means more driving lanes for Derrick Rose and Killian Hayes, less of a load on Blake Griffin, more open looks during ball rotation for the catch-and-shoot guys like Sekou Doumbouya and Jerami Grant.
And the Pistons should be really hoping that these two are up for the job. Because there aren’t really any other candidates on the roster.
To be sure, the defining factor for the Pistons this year will be the health of Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose. The quality of play for all of the young guys will be right up there with it. But the shooting that they get from Svi and Bey will be right up there with those two other keys to the season.
Featured Image: Duane Burleson/Associated Press