'Kid is a sponge': Pistons' Svi Mykhailiuk will play in Rising Stars Game at NBA All-Star Weekend
Detroit — Svi Mykhailiuk’s improvement isn’t going unnoticed.
The Pistons’ second-year wing has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season, going from a spot player last season to a solid rotation piece. Mykhailiuk was rewarded Friday with a spot in the Rising Stars Game on Feb. 14 during All-Star Weekend in Chicago.
The format of the game is two squads, each with 10 first- and second-year players — one from the U.S. and the other composed of players from around the world. Mykhailiuk, 24, from Ukraine, is making an impression this season, posting 8.7 points and shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers.
Coach Dwane Casey lauded Mykhailiuk’s improvement this season, with a quick adaptation to more minutes, in the wake of the myriad injuries that have opened opportunities for him and other young players.
“I’ll tell you what — he’s on track to be one of our core pieces as far as shooting ability and his ability to make plays off the dribble,” Casey said. “He’s right with Luke (Kennard) as far as being able to put the ball on the floor and run pick-and-rolls. The kid is a sponge; you can get on him, coach him and teach him.
“He is a student of the game and his future is going to be bright if he keeps working — but he has to keep working because nothing is going to come easy for him.”
It’s been a turnaround for Mykhailiuk, who played in just three games with the Pistons last season after playing 39 for the Lakers, who originally selected him in the second round (47th overall) in the 2018 draft.
Mykhailiuk has started in 15 of the last 20 games and in that span, his numbers have been a pleasant surprise: 12.9 points in 28.7 minutes, with 44 percent from beyond the arc.
The Pistons acquired Mykhailiuk at the trade deadline last season in the deal that sent Reggie Bullock to the Lakers.
Derrick Rose will be the other Pistons player in All-Star Weekend, as he's agreed to participate in the Skills Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 15. No Pistons were selected for the All-Star team.
Casey's guiding hand
With a slew of injuries this season, the Pistons have had to rely more on their young players, which has meant more work in developing young talent such as Mykhailiuk, rookie Sekou Doumbouya and Bruce Brown into being bigger contributors for longer stretches.
Casey was highly regarded as a high-caliber developer of young talent, which has come into play this season with mainstays Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard out for significant chunks due to injury.
“I love it; it’s the same thing we did in Toronto in the first couple of years. People forget that Toronto won 23 games and 34 games. It’s the same thing and it’s the same thought process,” Casey said. “You hate losing and you are playing to win, but at the same time, if we can get a glimmer of improvement from a guy like Svi, Sekou and Christian Wood, that is great.
“But at the same time, I’m pushing Andre Drummond, I’m pushing Markieff (Morris) and all the older guys to do what’s right to help us win. It is fun and I enjoy it.”
The Pistons have fallen out of playoff position and it’ll be a tough climb to get back into it, but with mostly young talent to rely upon, the outlook may be more geared toward preparing for the future and establishing chemistry with the young core.
Casey was brought in to help establish a winning culture and try to get this group to the playoffs, but this could be a step to getting there too.
“It’s not what we came here to think about doing, but Father Time and injuries dictate the direction sometimes that you go in … we hate losing, but we enjoy teaching.”