Pistons' backup point guard situation appears to show promise

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

In the span of a couple of days, the Pistons went from having question marks at backup point guard to getting some very positive signs about their future at the position.

That’s how quickly things can move in the NBA.

Pistons guard Saben Lee (38) scored a career-high 21 in Tuesday's victory in Orlando, Florida.

After Delon Wright’s groin injury was announced, they looked to be in a bind with rookie second-round pick Saben Lee and the recently acquired Dennis Smith Jr. Two games later, the question is more about which will start, how the minutes will split and what happens when Wright returns in a couple of weeks.

Oh, and don’t forget about first-round pick Killian Hayes, who is recovering from a torn labrum in his right hip and could be back in April.

Lee was electric in Tuesday’s win over the Orlando Magic, with a season-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including making all three of his 3-point attempts. That’s hefty production from a two-way player who hadn’t played for almost two weeks before Sunday’s 12 points against the Magic.

“It's difficult, but he's not the typical rookie,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He's not caught up in the deer-in-the-headlight types of situations. He's not overwhelmed by the NBA or the excitement of the NBA.

“That in itself carries something. He's a very intelligent young man and he doesn't get rattled. He understands the fundamentals of the game.”

That Lee has found a comfort level so quickly and hasn’t made many mistakes — only four turnovers, with nine assists — has been remarkable.

With Smith, who had a season-high 14 points on Tuesday, it’s an encouraging development to see that he’s finding a comfort level as he’s getting more playing time. Casey said that Smith is the starter for now but trying to find playing time for both of them in the midst of the other injuries is a good problem to have.

“(Smith’s production) gets overshadowed by Saben, but I thought Dennis did an excellent job of passing, and letting the game come to him,” Casey said. “He wasn't forcing things and did an excellent job defensively. He set the tone as far as the speed of the game and pushing the ball in transition.”

The Pistons also found some minutes for their other two-way player, Frank Jackson, in Tuesday’s game. Casey has said he wants to find more playing time for the young players, so that they can be accurately evaluated, and the coaching staff can determine which players are part of the core moving forward.

Just getting through the end of the month and into the time that Wright can return and provide more stability is the immediate goal, but in the interim, it won’t hurt to get more minutes for the Smith and Lee.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard