Pistons Mailbag - April 7, 2021

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes, Hamidou Diallo, Sekou Doumbouya, Deividas Sirvydis – we cover a lot of bases in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

MWJ (@mwjcomputing): With Killian Hayes looking amazing in the facilitator role, does that make our first pick someone who would be off the ball more? Seems like you would want to keep your best facilitator at the one, but then again Casey likes both guards to facilitate.

My hunch is that the composition of the roster will have little to no impact on Troy Weaver’s draft process. I don’t see much of an issue with redundancy with anyone and Hayes, whose size and skill set would allow him to be paired with just about any type of backcourt prospect. Hayes is already their most creative playmaker and his size and passing skills will fit with pretty much any set of players put around him. The last piece to come for him will be his scoring – figuring out how far to probe, becoming an efficient finisher, becoming a catch-and-shoot threat, pulling up off the dribble, getting dozens of repetitions in pick and rolls. As with most players, the ceiling for him will be determined by how well he shoots it, especially from the 3-point line. But if Cade Cunningham or Jalen Suggs – the two prospects among the likely top five picks who are going to have the ball in their hands a ton – are there when the Pistons pick and Weaver thinks they’re the best prospect on the board, I don’t see any reason one or the other couldn’t co-exist and thrive alongside Hayes.

I don’t think that’s going to happen as a permanent move this season, but it’s surely conceivable that Stewart is going to accumulate a few more starts along the way. The Pistons play five more back to backs, starting this weekend to close out their five-game road trip. Dwane Casey said Plumlee and Wayne Ellington sat on Monday at Oklahoma City on the advice of the team’s medical staff, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to think they’ll also determine those players should sit out some or all of the remaining back to backs. Stewart’s minutes per game have inched up from 17.4 in January to 19.2 in February to 20.9 in March. I’d anticipate that will probably take a similar leap in April and one way to do so would be to give him starts in the back to backs with Plumlee taking a night off. It’s possible they also give Jerami Grant the occasional night off in back to backs to help create more playing time for Doumbouya. Other than that, I don’t know that there’s going to be an odd man out, necessarily. Tyler Cook is getting minutes, as well. At Denver, Casey used both Cook and Doumbouya behind Grant.

Ian (Westland, Mich.): I enjoyed your article about Killian Hayes and his passing skills after Saturday’s game. I liked that he was active in getting rebounds and pushing the break, too. I didn’t see any pick and rolls run for him, so I hope coach starts incorporating that into his game. Hayes needs to shoot more and make shots but I think that will come with time. I’ve been confused with some of Dwane Casey’s decisions, especially playing Cory Joseph and drawing up the final play for him where he didn’t get a shot off a couple of games ago. Saddiq Bey only played 17 minutes against New York when he should play 30 or more. Casey needs to draw up plays for Bey and Isaiah Stewart to develop them. I feel if Hamidou Diallo doesn’t become a good 3-point shooter, Troy Weaver might make a mistake and overpay.

There were definitely some pick and rolls run with Hayes at Oklahoma City, so your wish was granted. You also saw Hayes put up nine shots in 25 minutes at Oklahoma City, a sign he was beginning to feel a little more comfortable. That’s why getting him back for the last six weeks of the season was so important, to give him those sets of experiences and increase his comfort level going into his first NBA off-season. Joseph’s role might be scaled back once Hayes and Dennis Smith Jr., who missed time with a lower-back injury, are full throttle. But Casey trusts Joseph and there’s something to be said for a veteran point guard’s ability to organize a half-court offense so all the other young players get a better chance to make progress in their roles. As for Diallo, if he becomes a league average 3-point shooter even on relatively low volume, he’s going to have a chance to be a high-impact player. Diallo is 7 of 12 from the 3-point arc as a Piston, so while that’s still a small sample size the signs are encouraging in that he’s showing a willingness to shoot them a little more often – 25 percent of his shots with the Pistons have been 3-pointers as opposed to 14 percent with Oklahoma City this season – and also exhibiting a pretty impressive form on those attempts. Weaver surely has a number in mind for a Diallo extension and it’s a reasonable guess – based on Diallo’s history with Weaver in OKC and his comments about his excitement to be with the Pistons – to think that Diallo’s side also has an understanding of where that number is likely to fall.

Andrew Brown (@acbonwcsr): Love these young guys, but they need to stay in the bottom three. Not to do so would be franchise malpractice. The Pistons didn’t make the rules. The NBA incentivizes losing.

Ilir Lajcaj (@IlirLajcaj): Should Detroit start limiting Jerami Grant in order to lose more? My fear, again, is winning too much and getting the sixth pick.

Lumped two questions together since they get at the same thing. As I mentioned above in the question about Isaiah Stewart and Mason Plumlee and the veteran sitting out on Monday, Grant is a candidate to get some nights off coming up. Dwane Casey said something interesting before Monday’s game in talking about resting Plumlee and Wayne Ellington on the advice of the medical team. “One thing we don’t want to do is go into the summer, we don’t want to be injured waiting for guys to be rehabbed. That’s something we’ll look at, especially guys who’ve had previous injuries. We want to make sure they’re ready once the summer does come and going into training camp.” You can interpret that a number of ways, but I think they’re going to monitor workloads very carefully from this point forward. Grant is only 241 total minutes behind his 2019-20 total of 1,892 in 71 games. He’s averaging a career-high 34.5 minutes per game, so at that rate in seven more games he’ll have played as many minutes in 16 fewer games as he did last season. Casey is going to coach to win every time out but he’s not going to run anyone into the ground to do it and he’s going to continue to experiment with lineup combinations and using players in different roles to challenge them and give a glimpse of how far their boundaries can be pushed and sometimes those things might be at odds with enhancing their chances to win. They’d love a top-five pick, of course, but not if it comes at the expense of instilling poor habits or imparting conflicted signals to the young players they’re trying to groom as winners and champions.

Ken (Dharamsala, India): Dwane Casey has the young Pistons screening, cutting to the basket behind defensive rotations and cutting to the 3-point line – all without the ball – at high speed. It’s wondrous to behold – there are targets for point guards! The biggest improvement for many very young Pistons will be this off-season when players get a chance to reflect on the season, watch film, heal and get stronger. Do you think Pistons coaches will provide a more hands-on, structured off-season for these very young Pistons?

Casey always emphasizes summer development and that will be doubly true this off-season. When players hit a certain point in their NBA careers and are established rotation players, they usually graduate out of the summer development program and plot their own course, often hiring their own personal trainers or coaches and trusted to do their own thing. The Pistons are only going to have a few players who’ve reached that stage on their roster come this summer – Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Cory Joseph and Rodney McGruder were they to guarantee the 2021-22 contracts of the latter two and that might be it, keeping in mind that Wayne Ellington will be a free agent – which means everyone else, virtually, is likely to sit down with Casey and have a program plotted out for them to work closely with members of the player development staff. So, yes, very hands on, very structured for guys like Sekou Doumbouya, Deividas Sirvydis, Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, Saben Lee, Tyler Cook, Frank Jackson if he’s back, the draft choices picked up in July, perhaps even young veterans like Hamidou Diallo, Josh Jackson and Dennis Smith Jr. if he’s back. They have 11 players on the roster 24 or younger and they have four draft picks as of now, so that’s a ton of man-hours that will be dedicated to player development this summer.

Motor City Hoops (@MotorCityHoops): Do you think Jerami Grant is the answer as the No. 1 scoring option for the next three to five years?

Ask Dwane Casey and Troy Weaver and they’ll tell you they don’t think Grant is yet a finished product. He’ll take a ton from this season that he can apply to his tailored summer workout program. Casey feels he’ll make some incremental strength gains that will help him weather the heavier workload inherent in being a go-to scorer. Casey also says often that the 3-point shooting the Pistons lack this season has affected Grant significantly as teams load up to stop him and his driving lanes get squeezed by not having multiple shooters around him. So as to what the future holds beyond this season, nobody knows. Grant has shown he had more to his game than most believed and did it almost overnight. The Pistons, more than anything, would probably say they expect that as the roster matures they won’t be as dependent on Grant’s scoring to carry them as they are today. Maybe he’ll score as much but do it on fewer shots.

Oliver (Tartu, Estonia): For Hamidou Diallo, Josh Jackson, Saddiq Bey, Sekou Doumbouya, Killian Hayes, Saben Lee and Isaiah Stewart, the most important developmental assignment during the summer would be improving their 3-point shooting, right? Do the Pistons have shooting coaches who will work with them individually?

Overwhelmingly, the swing skill for perimeter players in today’s NBA – even for big men, to a slightly lesser degree – is if they can become a league average or better 3-point shooter. There aren’t many players so otherwise gifted that they can be a non-threat from the perimeter and still be more than a niche player or someone who works on some rosters but not on others. So, yes, you can be certain that Pistons coaches work on 3-point shooting especially with all of their players. The Pistons don’t have a designated shooting coach, but they’re all schooled in studying shot mechanics and working with players to iron out kinks in their form.

KrispyFlakes (@KrispyFlakes2k): Who becomes the odd man out in the guard rotation?

Once Killian Hayes and Dennis Smith Jr. both are uninhibited by minutes restrictions and get their conditioning levels back, there’s a crowd in the backcourt. Even if they play Hayes off of the ball, there’s another crowd at shooting guard. Saben Lee, Smith, Hayes and Cory Joseph can all play the point and Smith and Hayes can play both spots. Then you’ve got Josh Jackson/Hamidou Diallo – consider them one entry because the Pistons can play both at small forward, as well – plus Frank Jackson, Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder as shooting guards. Casey is going to use Ellington because his 3-point shooting helps make the offense function at a level that gives the Pistons a chance to see how the young point guards perform with the space Ellington’s 3-point threat creates for them. McGruder might get squeezed. Casey has used three point guards and divided up the minutes similarly of late. If he wants to use Hayes on the ball some, then it’s tougher to get minutes for four point guards. Maybe Joseph eventually gets squeezed for the young guys here and there. Injuries usually have a way of streamlining the decisions. Casey could also just rotate playing time on a game-to-game basis, so continue using three point guards in games and if all four available they take turns excluding one in any given game.

Michael (Windsor, Ontario): With the Pistons likely headed to the lottery, why have we not seen more from Deividas Sirvydis? In today’s game of floor spacing and the label that he’s an elite shooter, why not give him a chance?

He played in four straight games and five of six before not appearing in Denver and his two longest stints, and three of his four longest, have come within the past week. He, much like Sekou Doumbouya, would have benefited greatly from a G League option this season and certainly is in line for major minutes with the Motor City Cruise when they debut next fall in Detroit. I don’t know that anyone claimed he was an elite 3-point shooter today, only that he’s got the potential to be that down the road. But you can’t put the cart before the horse. He’s got to be able to feel comfortable with the speed of the NBA game in order to put that 3-point potential to use and that requires a great deal of physical maturation and game experience, things you can only rush so much.

Glenn (Novi, Mich.): I haven’t seen the “other” Mobley on any of the 2021 NBA mock drafts. In your opinion, does Isaiah Mobley rank in the top 60 2021 prospects. Good size and splits except for free throws and a good handle for a 6-foot-10 player.

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic had Evan Mobley’s older brother at No. 98 on his top 100 list and he’s outside the top 100 on ESPN.com, so that would indicate it would be something of a long shot for him to be drafted. But as you get past the top 10 or 15 players and the talent pool flattens, the differences between a player someone sees as 25th best and 125th best can often be tiny and polishing one or two areas of weakness can vault someone 50 or more spots up the ladder. So I’d put Isaiah Mobley in a group with scores of other prospects who have a chance to make a mark in the NBA – or, failing that, have a really nice career somewhere in the world. He’s not as long, fluid or nearly as athletic as his brother, which makes Evan Mobley an elite prospect that everybody regards among the top five prospects for the 2021 draft.

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. To have your question considered, submit it along with your name, email address and city/state using the form below.

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