Meet the 2020-21 Detroit Pistons: 4 rookies among a wave of new faces

Killian Hayes
Killian Hayes, the No. 7 pick in the Nov. 18 draft, is one of four rookies the Pistons added on draft night to highlight a roster that returns only 4 players from the 2019-20 season
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by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

The Pistons went more than six months without gathering as a team when Dwane Casey assembled them for the NBA-approved team camp in mid-September. When it wrapped up in early October, Casey felt the Pistons at least would have a head start on training camp for the 2020-21 season – get a little closer to the 22 teams that, unlike the Pistons and seven others, were involved in the Orlando bubble relaunch.

But with training camp due to open this week – initially for individual workouts in limited numbers, then for team workouts starting later this week or early next week – Casey will probably start from square one after new general manager Troy Weaver’s radical roster makeover.

In fact, only two players expected to be on the opening night roster – Svi Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya – were participants in team camp. Veterans Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, excused from team camp to continue their off-season regimens, are the only two others left from the team that finished the 2019-20 season as Pistons. Two-way player Louis King could make it five holdovers depending on his status for 2020-21.

In any case, Casey will be starting with the basics from a roster that added four rookies in the Nov. 18 draft, swung a number of trades and was active in free agency. As of Monday morning, the free-agent additions made by the Pistons remain unofficial as the NBA sorts through an avalanche of business to sign off on them.

Here’s an introduction to the four rookies the Pistons picked in the draft:

Killian Hayes

KILLIAN HAYES

ID CARD: 6-foot-5 guard, 19, France

HOW ACQUIRED: The Pistons used their lottery pick at No. 7 in the Nov. 18 draft to select Hayes.

PRO RESUME: Hayes spent two seasons playing in France’s top pro league with Cholet as a 16- and 17-year-old. He averaged nine minutes in nine games as a seldom-used first-year player in 2017-18 but saw his role expand to 20 minutes a game in 33 appearances in his second season when Hayes averaged 7.2 points and 3.1 assists playing mostly off of the ball.

LAST SEASON: Hayes opted to sign with Ratiopharm Ulm of the German Budesliga for the 2019-20 season primarily for the opportunity to function as his team’s point guard for the first time. In 10 games against high-caliber EuroCup competition, Hayes averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 assists in 27 minutes a game while shooting 39 percent from the 3-point arc and 91 percent from the foul line.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Pistons are fully invested in Hayes as their point guard of the future, but with his size and familiarity with playing both backcourt positions he can easily fit in lineups with other point guards. Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said the two areas where Hayes is most ready to contribute to the Pistons are on defense – unusual for rookies, but Hayes’ size at 215 pounds and pro experience against veterans several years his senior give him a head start – and ability to distribute the basketball. The acquisition of equally versatile Delon Wright and the presence of veteran scorer Derrick Rose should enable Dwane Casey to find the most advantageous spots to put the ball in Hayes’ hands and limit his exposure to less favorable circumstances.

FUN FACT: Hayes’ father, DeRon Hayes, ranks as one of the best players in Penn State history and played professionally for several years though never in the NBA. Hayes was born in Lakeland, Fla., where his father was playing in the old CBA. He grew up in France when DeRon Hayes was in the midst of a successful career playing in Cholet, Nancy and Limoges.

Isaiah Stewart

ISAIAH STEWART

ID CARD: 6-foot-9 center, 19, University of Washington

HOW ACQUIRED: The Pistons acquired the No. 16 pick in the Nov. 18 draft from Houston, plus Trevor Ariza and a future No. 2 pick, in exchange for a heavily protected future first-round pick. They used that pick to select Stewart.

COLLEGE RESUME: Stewart had a highly productive freshman season at Washington, where he was named first team All-Pac-12 after averaging 17.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots in 32 minutes a game while starting all 32 games. Stewart led the Huskies in all four of those categories and also shot 57 percent from the floor and 77 percent from the foul line. Stewart’s 199 free-throw attempts ranked third in the Pac-12 and his 154 makes ranked first.

BEFORE COLLEGE: Stewart was the No. 2 recruit in consensus rankings in the high school class of 2019. He grew up in Rochester, N.Y., but finished his high school career at La Lumiere School, a boarding school in LaPorte, Ind., that has developed a high school powerhouse basketball program. Stewart signed with Washington after visiting Michigan State, Duke, Kentucky and Syracuse.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Pistons acquired two veteran free-agent centers to prevent Stewart from being rushed into the lineup ahead of schedule, but he’s about as physically prepared for the NBA as a 19-year-old big man could be. Though Stewart might seem slightly undersized for a center at 6-foot-8½ as measured at the NBA’s virtual combine, his wingspan of 7-foot-4¾ and standing reach of 9-foot-0½ give him ample rim-protection tools. Stewart didn’t shoot many 3-pointers at Washington but his shooting touch, the Pistons believe, will enable him to present a 3-point threat in short order.

FUN FACT: Pistons general manager Troy Weaver was an assistant coach at Syracuse alongside Washington head coach Mike Hopkins from 2000-2004 and used his link to Hopkins to get all the background information on Stewart to inform his draft decision. “He has all the tools to be successful as a big in the NBA, but more important he has the mindset,” Weaver said. “And with the right mindset, you can accomplish anything. We’re excited about Isaiah coming here, but I had a cheat sheet in his coach. Coach Hopkins and I worked together. I had some inside scoop that other people didn’t have.”

Saddiq Bey

SADDIQ BEY

ID CARD: 6-foot-8 forward, 21, Villanova University

HOW ACQUIRED: In what turned out to be a three-team trade that also saw Bruce Brown sent to Brooklyn in return for Dzanan Musa, the Pistons shipped Luke Kennard to the Los Angeles Clippers and got back the No. 19 pick in the draft, which belonged to Brooklyn. They used that pick to select Bey.

COLLEGE RESUME: Bey spent two seasons at Villanova, starting 29 of 36 games as a freshman and all 31 games in 2019-20 before the season was suspended in March ahead of the NCAA tournament. Bey averaged 8.2 points in 30 minutes a game as a freshman and 16.1 in 34 minutes a game as a sophomore, leading the Wildcats in scoring. He shot 45.1 percent from the 3-point line on 5.6 attempts per game as a sophomore, ranking as one of college basketball’s best shooters.

BEFORE COLLEGE: Bey began his high school career at prep power DeMatha Catholic in suburban Washington, D.C., before transferring to Sidwell Friends. He entered Villanova as the lowest-ranked of the four-man recruiting class but wound up with the most prominent role among them, finishing third on the team in minutes played behind seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth. Bey originally committed to North Carolina State, but was released from his scholarship during an FBI probe of the Wolfpack basketball program. He switched to Villanova in June 2018 when the Wildcats had a scholarship open due to Omari Spellman’s decision to remain in the NBA draft after his redshirt freshman season.

WHAT’S NEXT: Given that Bey is two years older than the two other Pistons first-round picks, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart, and he’s considered a well-rounded player on both ends of the floor, he could be ready to assume a fairly prominent role as a rookie – especially if Bey is able to maintain his 3-point accuracy with the adjustment to the deeper NBA line and the speed of the game. Bey’s size on the wing will make him a player Dwane Casey should feel comfortable using against a variety of lineups.

FUN FACT: Bey was a 5-foot-8 freshman point guard at DeMatha Catholic, but grew 10 inches over the next three years and then 2 more inches after signing with Villanova as a 6-foot-6 forward. He credits his mother – Drewanna Bey, who played basketball in college at North Carolina-Charlotte and later earned a doctorate degree in education – with pushing him to become a competitive and successful player.

Saben Lee

SABEN LEE

ID CARD: 6-foot-2 guard, 21 years old, Vanderbilt University

HOW ACQUIRED: The Pistons acquired center Tony Bradley and the No. 38 pick in the Nov. 18 draft from the Utah Jazz in exchange for cash considerations and used that pick to select Lee.

COLLEGE RESUME: Lee spent three seasons at Vanderbilt, starting at point guard as a freshman and averaging 10.6 points, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals in 27 minutes per game. When the Commodores recruited five-star point guard Darius Garland, Lee moved off the ball for the five games Garland played before a foot injury ended his season. Lee increased his numbers to 12.7 points, 3.8 assists and 33 minutes a game as a sophomore. He spent the first half of his junior season coming off of the bench, eventually starting 17 of 32 games, while averaging 18.6 points and 4.2 assists in 33 minutes a game. Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse decided to bring Lee off of the bench to stagger his minutes with leading scorer Aaron Nesmith, the 14th pick in the 2020 draft by Boston.

BEFORE COLLEGE: Lee grew up in Phoenix and led his high school, Corona del Sol of Tempe, to the state championship game as a senior and was all-state in Arizona as both a junior and senior. He was a consensus four-star recruit who chose Vanderbilt over offers from Stanford, Florida State, Louisville, Nebraska and others.

WHAT’S NEXT: Lee is a highly athletic guard whose strength is getting into the paint. He averaged more than six free-throw attempts per game in each of the past two seasons. With the greater spacing available to him in the NBA, that strength could be even more pronounced. Lee is a candidate to spend time in the G League – assuming COVID-19 conditions will allow for a G League season, at least – to refine his point guard skills and develop as a 3-point shooter. After shooting 36.2 percent from the 3-point arc as a sophomore, Lee regressed to 32.2 percent as a junior while increasing his attempts from 2.2 to 3.8 per game.

FUN FACT: Lee’s father, Amp Lee, spent nine seasons in the NFL playing for San Francisco, Minnesota, St. Louis and Philadelphia. He was a second-round pick in 1991 after rushing for more than 2,000 yards in three seasons at Florida State. Lee’s 30 rushing touchdowns are tied for fourth in Florida State history. He was a member of the Rams Super Bowl champions in 1999.

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