For all the platitudes offered in praise of rookies, the best testaments to their progress come when they are rewarded with the ultimate measure of a coach’s trust: playing time with a game on the line.
So when Dwane Casey gave Blake Griffin a brief rest in a recent fourth quarter with the Pistons having within their grasp a win that seemed beyond their reach when they fell 23 points behind in the second quarter, it was instructive who did not leave the floor when it was time for Griffin to re-enter with less than five minutes to play: Saddiq Bey.
Again in Sunday’s loss to Utah, Bey was on the floor with the Pistons again attempting to rally back from an early 20-point deficit. In both games, Casey has used a lineup with Bey out alongside the four other Pistons starters.
The 19th pick in November’s draft is performing like one of the top rookies in the class, trailing only lottery picks Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman – the first three players drafted – and Tyrese Haliburton among scoring leaders, giving the Pistons 10.6 points in 23 minutes a game. He’s shooting 44.2 percent from the 3-point arc and taking two-thirds of his shots from there but flashing the ability to score off the dribble and take smaller plays into the paint.