Oakland, Calif. — Svi Mykhailiuk is like a green tomato. Based on coach Dwane Casey’s southern upbringing, it’s an apt metaphor to describe the Pistons coach’s outlook on the rookie wing, who was acquired at the trade deadline.
The Lakers drafted Mykhailiuk in the second round in 2018 and he carved out some playing time in 39 games and posted modest numbers: 3.2 points and 32 percent on 3-pointers in 10.8 minutes per game.
The Lakers liked Mykhailiuk but liked better the idea of adding more 3-point shooting, prompting them to trade for Reggie Bullock, the Pistons’ best outside shooter, before the deadline. The Pistons also got a second-round draft pick, and although they had an immediate opening at the wing position, they had other plans.
After adding free agent Wayne Ellington, the Pistons’ playing time at the wing dried up and that usage didn’t transfer with Mykhailiuk, who has played in only three games. In trading their two tallest wings, Bullock and Stanley Johnson — both of whom had expiring contracts — the Pistons looked to be opening a spot for Mykhailiuk.
That didn’t happen, partially because the rookie isn’t ripe for playing time — yet. Along with fellow rookies Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas, Casey is high on Mykhailiuk’s upside.
“(Mykhailiuk) is a big-time shooter. I’m excited about him and Khyri (Thomas) for our team in the future. He is athletic and he’s tough. He doesn’t back down from anybody,” Casey said. “Even if he misses a play or a shot, it’s not from a lack of toughness or ability. With Bruce, it’s going to be great for our program down the road.
“You have to be able to shoot the 3 and he definitely brings that to the table.”
Mykhailiuk has shown flashes in eight games with the Grand Rapids Drive in the G-League, with 23.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists. There’s not enough playing time for Mykhailiuk with the Pistons, so any time he gets to play with the Drive is valuable in trying to help him develop and to get a sense for how his game fits with the Pistons.
At 6-foot-8, Mykhailiuk projects to be a shooting guard or small forward, but he could have a different role as he develops more.
“He’s a really good passer. Talking to the coaches down in Grand Rapids, they feel like he’s going to be more of a point guard in the future than anything else — who can shoot the ball,” Casey said. “That’s great to know and great to see. He plays strictly (shooting guard) in practice here but he’s a multi-skilled guy and he’s smart and knows the game.
“Unfortunately, he has some vet guys like Wayne and Galloway in front him here and there just aren’t enough minutes for him. We’re excited for him.”
The Monday Drive has some other observations from the past week, as the Pistons hurtle toward a playoff spot in the last three weeks of the season:
► 1. The Pistons haven’t clinched a playoff spot, but with a margin of 2.5 games over the ninth-place Orlando Magic, they have a very good chance for a second postseason appearance in the past decade. The remainder of the schedule still is tough, but if they can win five more games, they should be in good shape.
► 2. Blake Griffin bounced back from a subpar game in the win over the Suns looking more like himself in the loss to the Blazers. With three days’ rest after sitting out Monday, Griffin will have to carry a huge load of the offense for the last couple of weeks of the regular season.
► 3. The Pistons’ bench has ignited, with Ish Smith, Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway handling themselves well in their minutes in the second and third quarters. Casey is mixing the lineups more, finishing with hybrid groups that include three starters and two reserves, based on how well they’re playing. So far, it’s working.
► 4. Thon Maker is establishing himself on the defensive end and is becoming a presence inside. He’s played with Andre Drummond more, which is tougher because both tend to be shot-blockers and both can be attracted to driving opposing guards, which leaves an open man sometimes.
► 5. Casey is leaning more on Ellington and Brown to guard the opposing best wing, which has brought mixed results. They’re not rangy and lengthy like the prototypical wings on defense, so players like Kawhi Leonard will have an advantage, but just staying in front and shutting off their drives seems to be the tact.