Pistons know Svi can hit the 3 – it’s the playing D that has them excited

Svi Mykhailiuk
Svi Mykhailiuk scored 12 points and helped the Pistons at both ends on Monday as they beat Orlando.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – Svi Mykhailiuk launched eight 3-point shots and four of them connected in Monday’s win over Orlando. None of that surprised his coaches or teammates. Mykhailiuk’s shot is his carrying tool, the thing that sent him from Ukraine to Kansas to the NBA.

No, the sit-up-in-your-seat moments from Mykhailiuk in the 103-88 win came when he didn’t have the basketball poised to shoot: getting up into Terrance Ross, deflecting his pass attempt and then saving the ball with extra effort along the sideline; hustling down a Markieff Morris miss and producing an extra possession that led to a Luke Kennard three; and the big one – staying in front of Markelle Fultz at full sprint to draw a charge that even the officials didn’t believe was a charge until Dwane Casey challenged and won a reversal.

Chances are those are the first times you’ve seen any of those types of plays from Mykhailiuk, but surely his teammates have seen those moments in practices.

“To be honest, no,” Blake Griffin smiles – then laughs. “No.”

But he continues.

“Svi is a student of the game. Offensively, he’s very good. But it’s just effort, really, on the defensive end. He does things like that, he stays on the floor longer. That’s what I’ve been preaching to him I think since training camp started. Any time you can buy us extra possessions or come up with a big stop here or there, it just gives you more time on the floor to show your offensive game.”

Ed Stefanski got some tentative offers of two second-round picks last winter when playoff aspirants and title contenders came sniffing for a bargain 3-point shooter. But the Pistons front-office chief was more intrigued by the immediate deliverable of Mykhailiuk than by the extra pick, so he shipped Reggie Bullock to the Lakers for Mykhailiuk and a second.

At 6-foot-7 and with some of the same tantalizing shooting/playmaking tools that has Luke Kennard on the verge of stardom, Mykhailiuk’s offensive gifts are obvious. Still just 22, Mykhailiuk was available with the 47th pick in the 2018 draft mostly because of questions surrounding his defense – his lateral quickness and the ability to stay in front of perimeter players.

Dwane Casey fully expected that if Mykhailiuk were given enough minutes to grow comfortable, the shots would fall. What he needed to see is what Mykhailiuk showed him at the other end against Orlando.

“The defense was far more,” than what he’d seen before, Casey said after Tuesday’s practice. “We know who Svi is offensively, but his major challenge has been the defensive end. He still made a lot of mistakes last night, but he made up for it with hard play, compete, just being into (Terrance) Ross. I’ve always told him, take a foul, bump a guy, a physical foul – we’ll take that. And he did that a couple of times. He was being physical, trying to get into Ross. Two weeks ago, he wouldn’t have been touching him. That’s a big first step for him.”

Mykhailiuk’s opportunity to play arose largely due to Tony Snell’s hip injury, causing him to miss the last four games. Snell gives Casey terrific 3-point shooting – he’s at 45.5 percent for the season on five attempts a game – but what really separates him from Mykhailiuk is his defensive prowess. Mykhailiuk’s edge comes as a playmaker, someone comfortable operating pick and rolls with the size and vision to pass out of traps.

With Casey, Griffin, other coaches and teammates all in his ear, Mykhailiuk knows that to keep a foothold on a spot in the rotation he’ll need to continue to hold his own defensively.

“I would just say I’m trying hard every time I step on the court,” he said. “That’s what we preach. If you try hard, good things happen.”

Monday was his big first step. Let’s see where it leads him.

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