Detroit Pistons: Rookie Saddiq Bey is the latest victim of rotational chaos

One of the biggest concerns Detroit Pistons fans have had this season revolves around the heavy minutes Blake Griffin has played, and the resulting limitations placed on the team’s youngsters. In the first 10 games or so of the season, it seemed like Sekou Doumbouya was taking most of the damage as he could barely crack the dozen-minute mark in most games.

However, head coach Dwane Casey’s rotations have grown more puzzling as now promising rookie Saddiq Bey can’t get any action.

Why can’t Saddiq Bey get minutes for the Detroit Pistons?

In the first two games of the season, Bey got a DNP-CD and a six-minute introduction to the NBA, but he quickly forced his way into the rotation and even got a handful of emergency starts.

Between December 28th and January 10th, Bey played all eight games with three starts, averaging 25.5 minutes per outing. In this eight-game stretch, he averaged 11.9 points (with a 20-point outburst against the Milwaukee Bucks), 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.6 steals.

He shot 46.0 percent from 3-point range, and although he shot a borderline comical 21.9 percent from inside the arc, he didn’t take many twos anyway and he provided defense far better than should be expected of most rookies.

It sure seemed like Bey was entrenched in the rotation and becoming a reliable contributor, but apparently, Casey suddenly remembered he was a rookie in recent days. Since playing 19 minutes against the Bucks on January 13th, his minutes have been in free-fall. He played just 11 minutes against the Miami Heat on January 16th, then played three minutes in their rematch against the Heat, a six-point loss.

On Wednesday night in an eight-point overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks in which the Pistons’ veteran core lost a 17-point lead in the final six minutes of regulation (note: the Hawks were the NBA’s worst fourth-quarter team coming into that game), Bey played just eight minutes.

At this point, it’s becoming clear that when Blake Griffin is available to play heavy minutes, getting him those minutes is Casey’s priority and the rookies’ time will come when it comes. So far this season, Griffin has played 35 minutes or more five times in his 11 games, and he’s played 39 minutes or more three times.

There’s becoming a corollary between Griffin’s big-minute games and Bey’s low-minute games. In those 35-plus minute games, Bey has had one DNP-CD, a six-minute game, a three-minute game and an eight-minute game. He had a 26-minute game against the Phoenix Suns, but that was Josh Jackson’s first game back from an ankle sprain and he played just 18 minutes himself.

Using Saddiq Bey as an indicator, it’s obvious that Blake Griffin is the priority, and minutes for players like Doumbouya and Bey become secondary. It’s an odd approach considering the rebuilding status the Detroit Pistons find themselves in, and it’s disappointing because in these close late losses that they’ve suffered this season, their failures can be traced directly back to the ineffectiveness of vets like Griffin and Derrick Rose.

There are many approaches to a rebuild, some more effective than others. Riding veterans to fumbled and bumbled losses while the youngsters look on from the bench unless forced into action appears to be the approach chosen by Dwane Casey and the Detroit Pistons.