Positions in the NBA are like stop signs – they are more of a recommendation than an actual requirement. Guys with wing-like frames can be guards or small-ball bigs. Bigs can be point-forwards and bring point guard qualities to the floor. When we talk about the wings on Detroit’s roster, there is some positional overlap. Some guys will play the one or the two, some could play small-ball center in certain matchups. There is a lot of intrigue with the wings on this roster, so let’s get into it.
Out of all of the “wings” we grouped together Saddiq Bey has the highest upside and the most secured spot. Bey locked things down by establishing himself as a sharpshooter, drilling 38% of his threes on fairly low usage. Bey is a smart player. He does not turn the ball over very much and he does not foul a whole lot either. The defense will not overwhelm you, his steal and block rates are fairly middling, but again he knows where to be on defense. The offensive side of the ball is the intriguing part for Bey, and there is plenty to like.
Bey is pretty one-dimensional on offense. He generally had to create his own shots last season, something that will hopefully change now with two more playmakers on the floor. He is not an isolation maestro, so he will not be breaking down his defender. To highlight just how concentrated Bey’s offense is, he shot more threes (63%) than two-pointers last season. And while he did hit 38% of his threes and was better from non-corner shots, the same cannot be said for anything inside the arc. He shot 44% on two-pointers last season, in the Wes Matthews tier according to Cleaning the Glass. AKA, not good. He was pretty poor from the rim, the short-mid, long-mid…you get the point. He is pretty one-dimensional, relying on others to get shots at the rim and in the midrange. But even despite that, the three-point shooting and size is fun.
Considering the lack of bigs on the roster (yes, Jerami Grant is considered a “big” in this positional overview, put down the pitchforks), Saddiq may be floating around from a shooting guard to a power forward in small-ball lineups. The best Pistons lineup last season in terms of point differential featured Bey at the two, while the third-best lineup had him at the three. That is likely where Bey will hover around for the season, given Cade Cunningham and the glut of capable shooting guards on the roster that will need playing time. Regardless, Dwane Casey will need to find Bey time on the floor somewhere. I have a good feeling we will not need to worry about that.
After having a bit of a renaissance early on, Josh Jackson faded a bit for the Pistons down the stretch last season. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old has more to prove this season if he is to stick around next year and beyond. Jackson is not a shooter – he was downright dismal from nearly everywhere except the long mid-range – but he has some athleticism and had a pretty decent assist rate. Even more shocking is that Jackson was in the best Pistons lineup last season. That lineup rebounded well, limited turnovers, and forced turnovers.
Assessing Josh Jackson is difficult. He flamed out in Phoenix, and Memphis had no interest in keeping him. He is a poor shooter, but athletic and can put together some alright defensive possessions. But it is an important year for Jackson. Hamidou Diallo does effectively the same things but has more upside and is a slightly better shooter. What will Jackson get better at to push himself over the edge?
The Pistons swiped Diallo from the Thunder and the fit seemed pretty natural: an athletic two-guard who can throw down dunks and play some defense. He is 23-years-old and shot 44% on non-corner three-points per Cleaning the Glass while being a pretty good rebounder! Sure, the shooting is not particularly good but there are other things that Hamidou brings to the table.
Well, I mean it would be pretty nice if the shooting did come around. Hami does not take threes, and by not take threes I mean only 19% of his shots were from downtown. That 19% is a career-high. For a guy that was pretty average last season for made threes, he should take more. The Pistons would benefit from having another shooter out there on the floor, instead of another guy who sucks the offense in. It’s one thing if Diallo can kick it out after collapsing a defense, but that does not appear to be in his arsenal yet. If Hamidou wants to make a big dent it will likely have to be done with shooting – particularly from deep.
Much like Christian Wood and Josh Jackson (kinda) before him, the Pistons worked their reclamation magic with Frank Jackson. The 24-year-old combo guard/wing had a positive season for Detroit after two years in New Orleans. Jackson averaged a career-best 9.8 points per game on 45% from the floor and 40% from deep, some of those even being career-highs. Those are solid numbers for a backup wing, and the Pistons will need that once again if they want to have a well-balanced bench unit.
Jackson is more one-dimensional. He is a shooter, and an efficient one at that. He is not a distributor and he is not a multi-tooled defender, although Dwane Casey seems to think so. But the Pistons have plenty of distributors and some quality defenders. What they don’t have is shooting, and Jackson fills that gap. It may not be enough to push out Diallo or his Jackson counterpart for playing time, but it could make things interesting when the offense gets stuck in the mud.
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The six-foot-seven Livers was drafted 42nd overall out of the University of Michigan and provides some interesting qualities. He shot a career-best 43% from deep and dished out two assists per game last season for the Wolverines. That combination of size and shooting is enticing, at the very least.
Livers cut down his turnovers, provides some good defense, and rebounds the ball. He does a little bit of everything but in a very non-flashy and unspectacular way. You will likely not see much of Livers this season unless you are interested in watching the Motor City Cruise. But his size is intriguing and his shooting is notable.