As aggressive as the Detroit Pistons were during November’s 2020 NBA Draft, with Troy Weaver on more phone calls than Kevin Gates, no move stands out more than what became a three-team trade involving the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers. The Pistons traded promising guard Luke Kennard and four second round picks to the Clippers, and fan-favorite Bruce Brown to the Nets, grabbing the 19th pick in the process.
Kennard, known for his flamethrower perimeter creation and Brown, known for his toughness and Bad Boys mentality, are gone. But when the Pistons drafted Saddiq Bey with the Nets’ 19th pick, they may have killed two birds with one stone.
Through his first six games, Bey looks like every bit the three-point shooter Kennard was in the Pistons white and blue. He’s shooting 42% from three and every shot looks like it’s going in — a quick, line drive shot that hits the net in a hurry. Bey seems to prefer to catch and shoot, but he’s flashed the ability to handle the ball confidently and create his own shot off the bounce. In a game in which Jaylen Brown & Jayson Tatum put on a self-creation masterclass, Bey got his own shot by being patient and taking what the defenders gave him.
While Bey might not be the visibly athletic, quick-twitch, everywhere-at-once player that Brown was for Detroit, he is a smart defender that knows when to pick his spots. Watch as he continues to scan Tristan Thompson on this high-low action. Bey is (admittedly) one step too far away from Brown, but seems to read a designed action had Josh Jackson on the much bigger Daniel Theis. Thompson doesn’t see Brown open in the corner, and he doesn’t see Bey eyeing down this action the whole time — Bey comes over to help at the perfect time, snatches it, and they’re off the other way.
Bey doesn’t have to be a 40% outside shooter and a tremendous off-ball defender right now like Kennard and Brown were individually. But he’s trending towards being able to both shoot the ball at a high clip and defend at a high level, something that Brown and Kennard were not able to show.
The Pistons have needed to acquire a player like this for a long time. A 6’8” dude who can defend multiple positions and hit the three ball. New general manager Troy Weaver recognized that. The Pistons drafted Bey, and signed Josh Jackson and Jerami Grant, bringing three of this type of player to Detroit. And the results are noticeable:
Of three-man lineups that have played more than 50 minutes together for the Pistons this season, the Grant-Jackson-Bey lineup finds itself second in net rating. Looking closer, Bey is involved in the top three lineups, four of the top six, and the only lineups with a defensive rating less than 100.
He’s really important to this team’s success. (Notable names omitted from this list: Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose)
This is a small sample size, but the eye test backs this trend: putting Saddiq Bey out there with other players of similar archetypes is the closest way for these Pistons to resemble winning basketball. Dwane Casey inserting Bey into the starting lineup in the absences of Jackson & Griffin is a good sign. Often, Bey is the first player off the bench. The Pistons know what they have in Saddiq Bey: a reliable outside shooter who makes the right play and doesn’t do anything outside of their game.
The early red flag from Bey is his percentage from two-point range. Inside the arc, he’s shooting 18% (3/16) compared to his 41.9% from three (13/31).
Bey doesn’t have the burst to blow by defenders yet — and that’s fine — but he could use his body more to seal off contact, to gain an advantage and keep it. He doesn’t shy away from contact, but he also doesn’t create it. Not something to be worried about fully just yet, but it may come with time.
The Pistons have a player in Saddiq Bey, both in the short and long term. In the short term, he fits Weaver’s mold as a 6’8” versatile 3&D wing. Long term, he’s shown out of the gate that he will be a great shooter in this league, a smart team defender, and that he belongs. While it didn’t make much sense at first, the three-team trade with Brooklyn and LA makes sense now.
What looked like an overpay at first, giving up two of the Pistons better players in a deal for Saddiq Bey and fillers, may prove to be a steal in the coming months.
Featured Image: Raj Mehta (USA Today Sports)