Villanova’s Jay Wright gives new Piston Saddiq Bey ringing endorsement: ‘He’s really good now and he’s ready’

Coming off of the 2018 NCAA national championship, Villanova put together a highly regarded four-man recruiting class. Saddiq Bey was the lowest rated of the bunch. He’s the first to get to the NBA. And his coach, Jay Wright, thinks Bey is going to keep growing and exceeding expectations thanks to his makeup – exactly the profile that new Pistons general manager said he sought when scouring for draft prospects.

“I think Saddiq is a really unique combination of extremely high character, extremely high intelligence off the court – a 3.8 in our business school – and great basketball IQ,” Wright told me Thursday. “Very mature – on the court and off the court.”

Bey was a 5-foot-8 point guard as a high school freshman at powerhouse DeMatha Catholic near Washington, D.C., before transferring to Sidwell Friends, famous for schooling the children of White House occupants, among other luminaries. There he experienced a growth spurt that saw him shoot to 6-foot-6 as a senior. He’s grown to 6-foot-8 since arriving at Villanova as a three-star recruit in the fall of 2018 and immediately becoming a key contributor for the defending national champs.

The Pistons acquired Bey by shipping Bruce Brown to Brooklyn and Luke Kennard plus Justin Patton and four second-round picks to the Clippers in exchanged for the 19th pick in Wednesday’s draft, plus veterans Rodney McGruder, Dzanan Musa and Toronto’s 2021 second-round pick. Bey was widely considered a lottery pick and frequently linked to San Antonio at 11 before the Spurs picked Florida State’s Devin Vassell.

Bey, 21, led Villanova in scoring as a sophomore at 16.1 points a game, hitting 45.1 percent of his 3-point attempts on 5.6 attempts per game. He’s about as fundamentally sound as a rookie arriving to the NBA can be at both ends, projecting as an above-average 3-point shooter with plus size and defensive versatility. He got nicked for average athleticism in predraft evaluations, but nobody questions his work ethic, selflessness or court IQ.

And to those who think the athleticism limits his growth potential, Wright – who’s sent eight players to the NBA in just the past four drafts – scoffs.

“He’s still got an upside,” Wright said. “There’s still a youth to him. He still can learn a lot and he’s open to learning and being coached.”

A more defined role for Bey in his rookie season can’t be ascertained until the results of new general manager Troy Weaver’s radical makeover of the Pistons roster is completed after free agency, but he appears about as NBA ready as a rookie can be from a makeup perspective. Wright had conversations with the Pistons brain trust, has known Weaver for years and has the Philadelphia connection with both Ed Stefanski, senior adviser to Pistons owner Tom Gores, and Arn Tellem, Pistons vice chairman.

“I think Troy and those guys – just talking to Arn and Ed – I know they know it: I’m hoping he’s a steal,” Wright said. “I’m hoping he’s a steal for them. He’s really good now and he’s ready, but he can really get a lot better. That’s a unique kind of guy.”