The Detroit Pistons had a 2020 NBA draft night to remember, introducing their new general manager Troy Weaver to the basketball world. They made the chalk pick at No. 7, selecting Killian Hayes, and at 16 (a draft pick they had acquired via the Houston Rockets earlier that week) they selected Isaiah Stewart.
Then they made a stunning draft night trade, sending Luke Kennard to the LA Clippers as part of a three-team deal involving the Brooklyn Nets, and they received the 19th pick in return. They used that pick to draft Saddiq Bey out of Villanova.
The Detroit Pistons had a massive win in November’s NBA draft, and Saddiq Bey has proven to be the best of the crop so far this season.
It seemed like an incredibly aggressive move for a fledgling general manager to make, sending a proven NBA player in Luke Kennard elsewhere for a mid-to-late first-round pick, but that’s Troy Weaver. For that matter, stringing together a bunch of aggressive moves that pan out almost perfectly is just about the best way to start off a rebuild, and that’s exactly how things have played out for Weaver and his Pistons.
Hayes got hurt just seven games into his NBA career and missed the next 40 games with a torn labrum, but he’s shown why he was seen as a top prospect since returning to action. Stewart has immediately become a fan favorite thanks to his Bad Boys-esque energy and intensity, and he’s turning into a stretch big thanks to a surprisingly lethal jump shot.
Best of all, Saddiq Bey is justifying the faith Weaver placed in him by making an audacious move on draft night to secure the ability to pick him.
Before the season began, Blake Griffin stated that Bey was one of the most complete rookies he’d ever seen, thanks to offseason workouts together in Los Angeles. It seemed like lip service, given that the two were teammates with the Detroit Pistons at the time, but we’ve quickly seen that Bey does indeed have a maturity to his game and advanced skill set unusual in a rookie.
Although LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards have deservedly gotten most of the rookie buzz this season, Bey has been getting harder to ignore every night that goes by. In fact, the Pistons had a 7 PM EST start against the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this week, half an hour before any other team started. That meant the NBA world had their eyes trained on this meaningless basketball game between these two lottery-bound teams, at least for 30 minutes before the real games began.
Saddiq Bey took full advantage, starting the game 6-of-6 from 3-point range and scoring 18 points in the first quarter.
He’s shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range this season and 68.2 percent of his field goal attempts are coming from long distance.
Bey has had a handful of signature moments this season, including a 30-point, 12-rebound effort in a win against the Boston Celtics that lead to him winning an Eastern Conference Player of the Week award. It was the first time a Detroit Pistons rookie had won the award since Kelly Tripucka in 1982.
In addition to his consistent 3-point shooting and occasional ferocious scoring outbursts, Bey has displayed defensive abilities that are much better than average in the NBA, let alone good for a rookie.
Thanks to Ball and Edwards’s play and pedigree, it’s safe to say that Bey doesn’t have a case to win Rookie of the Year. Sportsbooks like BetWynn rank him fifth behind Ball, Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton and Immanuel Quickley, which is lofty company for the 19th pick in this year’s draft.
However, he’s going to get some votes on the ballot for the award and rightfully so. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him finish higher than fifth thanks to the impact left in the minds of voters after moments like that 18-point first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers.