Bey joins select company as Pistons rookie wins NBA East Player of the Week honors
Maddie Meyer (NBAE via Getty Images)
Saddiq Bey can boast of doing something as a rookie that the greatest names in Pistons history – Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Grant Hill – cannot. In fact, a table for two would be enough to accommodate the entire list of Pistons who did what Bey managed on Monday.
Until then, Kelly Tripucka was the only player in Pistons history to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Tripucka, drafted 10 spots after Thomas was made the No. 2 pick in the 1981 draft by Jack McCloskey, won the honor 39 years ago.
So, yeah, Bey would have something to boast about – except on creation day the boasting gene bypassed Bey altogether.
“I’m trying to not really focus on that individual type thing,” Bey said Monday. “I try to just focus on getting better each and every day, every and every week, each and every game. That’s success to me. That’s my mentality.”
He certainly got better last week, though even before that dazzling stretch Bey had opened eyes around the NBA and outperformed his draft slot.
Over four games last week – three of them wins, not coincidentally – Bey averaged 17.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, shooting 71.4 percent overall and 69.6 percent from the 3-point arc, making 16 of 23. Included was a 30-point game to lead Friday’s road win over Boston in which Bey set an NBA rookie record for most 3-pointers made in a game (seven) without a miss. And the Pistons needed all of them; Bey’s triple with 38 seconds to go was the dagger, doubling a three-point Pistons lead.
Bey, 21, also grabbed a career-best 12 rebounds in that win, his second career double-double. He came back in Sunday’s win over New Orleans with career-bests in assists (six) and steals (three), underscoring his versatility. There are few holes in Bey’s game, who was projected as a lottery pick but was still on the board when the Pistons came up at 19.
The Pistons obviously were fans of Bey’s going into the draft, but you never know how quickly a rookie will be able to contribute in any meaningful way. Bey had Dwane Casey practically at “hello.”
“It didn’t take me long. Just his physicality. That was the first thing that stuck out – before his shooting – just how tough he was, how hard he played. You weren’t going to move him around. You weren’t going to intimidate him as a rookie.”
Bey ranks third among all rookies in 3-pointers made with 49 and he’s hitting them at a 42.2 percent clip. He’s also been a reliable defender, especially valuable for his ability to stay in front of guards or to switch on to bigger forwards and avoid being bullied.
“He’s an even-keeled young man, which serves young players well in this league,” Casey said. “He’s not sensitive to coaching. You can get on his behind. He can take it. That comes from his coaching and teaching at Villanova. That stuck out to me. Now his defense has taken a step forward.”
Bey’s readiness as a rookie gives Casey plenty of lineup flexibility and makes the Pistons an especially versatile defensive team when he’s in lineups that include athletic players of similar size like Jerami Grant, Josh Jackson and Sekou Doumbouya. And his shot-making ability makes him a player who’s going to be tough to keep out of the lineup no matter the matchup.
Does any part of his rapid ascent come as a surprise to the exceedingly humble Bey?
“Coming out, I didn’t know what to expect at all,” he said. “My mentality was just to come in and work and help the team as much as possible in whatever role I had. Just try to be the best at my role.”
For one week at least, there was nobody better at it in the entire Eastern Conference. And better days are ahead.
“He’s still scratching the surface,” Casey said. “His future is going to be bright with the Pistons organization.”