POP 2022-23 Positional Preview: The Wings

Detroit has a smattering of useful wing players, and recently acquired a very interesting one in Bojan Bogdanovic. But there is plenty of youth on the roster that offer enticing upside too. Let’s get into it in the preview for perhaps the most sought-after positions in the NBA: wings and forwards.

Saddiq Bey: 16.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game; 39.9% FG%

Saddiq Bey offers the most enticing upside in the wing room. Add in the fact that he is searching for a new, more lucrative contract and there will be some additional motivation to make some strides. The Pistons are highly likely to keep him long-term, as he has displayed the chops to be a key offensive weapon. But there is some growth that would be nice to see, especially entering a pivotal year where Detroit has an outside chance of competing for a play-in spot. 

Perhaps the biggest thing that Bey needs to work on is consistency. When Cade Cunningham was nursing an injury and the Pistons were finding points hard to come by, Bey was ice cold. In his first 15 games, he shot 30% from deep, a points per shot attempt (PSA) of 90.1 (which is dreadful) per Cleaning the Glass. He swung back to the other way in the middle of the season and was scorching hot. The key there was his free throw shooting and aggressiveness, which kept opposing defenses off balance. In his last 15 games, Bey evened out to what the norm should be – 40.8% from the floor, 35% from three-point, and a PSA of 110.4. That is more in line with what should be expected from Bey, but that should be around the floor. 

You want to see Saddiq even out his shooting and be more efficient, even if that means not shooting. If nothing else, develop a tool or skill he can go to when the shot is not falling. That was displayed in the middle part of last season, when he was getting to the rim at a career-high rate and taking more free throws per game than he ever had before. That is something that he can lean on when there is a lid on the basket, and it would benefit the rest of those on the floor as well. It collapses defenses and may open up additional passing lanes as a result. 

It is a big season for Saddiq Bey, and not only because he is due for a contract extension. Some slightly heightened expectations around the team means he will be asked to perform more efficiently. That may be a good thing, as the first few seasons in the league were low-risk for him. He just had to go out there and shoot and showcase some skills. But now some additional pressure is on. 

Bojan Bogdanovic: 19.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists per game; 45.5% FG%

Detroit acquired Bojan Bogdanovic from the Utah Jazz just a few weeks prior to the season, a surprising move considering how many other contenders reportedly were inquiring about him. Instead, he heads to the rebuilding Pistons and fills a really key role. Bogdanovic likely fills the power forward spot formerly held by Jerami Grant, a great spot for the 33-year-old. His veteran savvy, shooting prowess, and expiring contract encapsulate a solid – and flexible – asset. Add in that the Pistons moved Kelly Olynyk and Saben Lee for him and it looks even better. 

Let’s get the boring thing right out of the way. Yes, the Pistons could flip Bogdanovic at the trade deadline if he is playing well and recoup more additional assets from desperate playoff hopefuls. That could be the smart move, considering his age. But if Bogdanovic is playing well, the Pistons very well could be in the think of the play-in picture. We know Detroit team owner Tom Gores would love a playoff spot and the financial ramifications of that. Plus, the Pistons will have quite a bit of cap space next summer and could just sign Bogdanovic outright and keep him as a quality veteran. Both are good options. The Pistons should listen to teams if they ask for Bogdanovic, assuming he is playing well, but they do not have to move him. And offering an extension may be in the cards. 

Ok, on to stats and fit. Bogdanovic is a good player and fills the wing role admirably. He is a solid shooter (38% from deep last season) and spaces the floor of an otherwise poor-shooting team. He was far more efficient than Bey was last season, which will help steady the offense. While the three-point shooting as dipped a bit over the last few seasons, he would still be one of the best shooters on the roster. The fit is seamless too, as there are capable downhill threats in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey to keep defenses honest and open up shot attempts for Bogdanovic. Detroit was one of the worst three-point shooting teams last season in both attempts and makes. By adding Bogdanovic, those numbers will slowly be rectified. Maybe not overnight, but over the course of the season for sure.

Isaiah Livers: 6.4 points, 3.0 Rebounds, 1.1 assists per game; 45.8% FG%

Prior to the Bogdanovic trade, there was a strong case to be made that Isaiah Livers should start for the Detroit Pistons. Sure, he only appeared in 19 games but the tools are there for him to be a solid 3-and-D wing. Livers shot 42.2% from deep last season, a mark that is probably a bit unsustainable but encouraging nonetheless. Livers attempted 67% of his shots from beyond the arc, which is also encouraging. A young player who can shoot from deep and defend a little goes a long way, especially in filling out the bench. Livers really looks like someone who will get more run this year and have an opportunity to thrive. 

Hamidou Diallo: 11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists per game; 49.6% FG%

Diallo is a confounding player. On paper, he seems like an athletic two or three who plays bigger than his position. But add in the fact that there are some players above him who will get run and he is not a sound shooter and quickly the holes start to show themselves. He was no certainty to even return to Detroit this season, but he adds depth to a young team. After shooting 39% from deep in 2020-2021, Diallo regressed back to this career norm of 24.7%. That will not do. Considering the fact that the Pistons just drafted a sub-par shooting (for now) downhill threat in Jaden Ivey, Diallo will have a harder time finding the court this season. 

The Pistons will attempt to revive the career of former top-10 pick Kevin Knox (above), who was traded to Atlanta last season and not retained. (Photo Credit: Nick Wass/Associated Press)

Kevin Knox: 3.1 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists per game; 36.5% FG%

The savior of the franchise! Jokes aside Kevin Knox is a young player looking for a fresh start, and he will find that in Detroit. Will he play a lot? No, probably not. There is a reason the Knicks gave up on him and the Hawks had no interest in retaining him. But, like Marvin Bagley, the Pistons are willing to take on “failed” lottery picks and try to squeeze usefulness out of them. Knox appeared in 19 games last season, a far cry from the 32 games the season prior and the 65 the year before that. His shooting has been abysmal, something that if rectified could really give him a leg up on other non-shooting bench players. But there is significant work to be done (or myriad injuries) for Knox to be even a regular bench player on a team with significant young talent. 


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