A rising star – and now a Rising Star – Svi’s progress a silver lining in injury-plagued Pistons season

Svi Mykhailiuk
Svi Mykhailiuk will represent the Pistons at this month’s Rising Stars Challenge as a part of All-Star weekend
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – In a season pocked by too many losses – of players to the injured list, then of games played without those very players the Pistons expected to carry them – this has emerged as a clear win: The trade made nearly one year ago to bring Svi Mykhailiuk to the Pistons.

It was last Feb. 6 when the Pistons shipped Reggie Bullock to the Lakers for Mykhailiuk, then a little-used rookie who’d been drafted with the 47th pick in 2018, plus a 2021 second-round pick.

Take a look at Mykhailiuk’s numbers in January compared to Bullock’s from last January: In 15 games last season for the month, Bullock averaged 11.9 points in 32 minutes a game, shooting 34.4 percent from the 3-point arc with a .525 true shooting percentage and a 17.7 percent usage rate. In 16 games this January, Mykhailiuk averaged 13.3 points in 29 minutes a game, shooting 43.8 percent from the 3-point arc with a .653 true shooting percentage and a 17.0 percent usage rate.

And Mykhailiuk did that at 22 while Bullock was on the verge of turning 28 and, more relevantly, about 30 games away from hitting free agency.

“He’s on track to be one of our core pieces as far as his shooting ability, his ability to make plays off the dribble,” Dwane Casey said. “He’s right with Luke (Kennard) as far as being able to put the ball on the floor, run pick and rolls. And the kid’s a sponge – you can get on him, you can coach him, you can teach him.”

NBA coaches have taken notice, apparently. Mykhailiuk Friday was named to the World Team for this month’s Rising Stars Challenge as part of All-Star weekend.

“It means a lot just to be a part of All-Star weekend,” Mykhailiuk said after scoring 13 points and hitting 4 of 6 from the 3-point arc in Friday’s loss to Toronto. “Just have fun and enjoy being there. Just blessed to be there, to be a part of it.”

It was Mykhailiuk’s 3-point shot that got him drafted after four years at Kansas, beginning his career there as a 17-year-old who’d played professionally in his native Ukraine prior to that. There were concerns about his defense and athleticism, but Mykhailiuk began to put those to rest with a star turn during NBA Summer League in 2018 and then lit up the G League as a Lakers rookie.

When multiple teams came sniffing around Bullock at last year’s trade deadline, Pistons front office chief executive Ed Stefanski found the Lakers package of Mykhailiuk and a second-rounder more attractive than other offers of multiple future second-rounders.

Casey’s eyebrows were raised by what he saw from Mykhailiuk over the summer and he began the season in the rotation. But minutes were spotty until injuries forced Casey’s hand. Mykhailiuk is a different player today than he was even two months ago, Casey seeing the biggest difference at the defensive end.

“I would say just probably getting confident with the game,” Mykhailiuk said. “If you play a lot, any young player, and get adjusted to the game, you get the feel for the game. You get more comfortable moving forward.”

The comfort level and the productivity spike that drew the attention of NBA coaches enough to vote Mykhailiuk to the Rising Stars Challenge also is reflected in scouting reports. Just as Casey noticed around this time last season that opponents were focusing more of their defensive attention on Kennard, they’ve also adjusted to Mykhailiuk’s growing threat.

“They’re getting him off the line quicker,” Casey said. “They’re going at him defensively, which I think he’s done a decent job of competing on the defensive end. Mainly his pick and rolls. They’re sending him a certain way, but the main thing is they’re running at him with respect at the 3-point line. He’s not a surprise there.”

Casey observed marked year-over-year growth in the young players that developed into the guts of the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors during his time as coach there. He expects a similar leap from Mykhailiuk among other Pistons young players for next season.

“He’s a student of the game and the future’s going to be bright for him if he keeps working,” Casey said. “I’m excited to see it. I’m happy to see it. I didn’t think it would come this quick, but it’s good to see.”

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