Energy plays lifting Pistons' Isaiah Stewart to new heights
Isaiah Stewart was going for a rebound against the Cleveland Cavaliers this week and seemed to jump for the ball three times before the defender had jumped once. He’s been doing it all season, but the instances of those kind of energy plays are becoming daily occurrences rather than anomalies.
It looks like that’s part of Stewart’s game — and maybe the best part of it, to this point of the season.
Stewart has a double-double in each of his last three games, and although he’s faced taller players — he’s listed at 6-foot-8 — he’s been able to play taller than his height because of his energy and effort around the rim.
On a critical possession in the final minute against the Cavs, Stewart didn’t get the rebound, but he worked through a double-team and tapped the ball to a teammate to help preserve the lead. It’s that extra effort that sometimes rubs veterans the wrong way, which has caused some friction.
“The old veterans don't like to use that much energy, and it's not like Isaiah does it one time — he does it every possession, whether it's practice or games,” coach Dwane Casey said. “What it does, it opens up the floor because they've got to commit two men to box him out. So now that may allow another player to come in and get a rebound or whatever it is.”
Stewart’s versatility on the court, including his improved jump shot, have made him a valuable asset and difficult to keep off the court. He’s been getting more minutes and Mason Plumlee, whether battling injury or getting days off for rest, has been seeing less time as the season nears an end.
Stewart puts in the extra work between games to make sure he’s progressing in his development and that he’s learning about other players as well.
“I do all extra things and take the take the time out to watch film, watch every game and make notes on every game, to see where I can grow,” Stewart said. “I put in the work after practice or on off days working on my game.”
When he was drafted, the signs didn’t point to Stewart being as valuable as he has been this season. But general manager Troy Weaver has a way of finding the hidden gems, as he’s done with the other rookies in this class.
Stewart stood out, but with the NBA’s transition from traditional big men who work in the paint, it wasn’t a natural fit for some evaluators. The Pistons saw the value.
“All those little nuances, those little things that he brings to the table, the activity he brings. That's big for rookie and I just think he's one guy I remember Troy talking about when he first got here, about how important his kid was,” Casey said. “He was as high on this young man as anybody. He was spot-on with him, and the beautiful thing about it is he's just scratching the surface.”
Honors for Bey?
Saddiq Bey is flying under the radar for many observers because the Pistons have a losing record. But there is growing sentiment for him to be considered for rookie of the year. It’s not a ridiculous notion — Bey is having some big games and is shooting 38% on 3-pointers and posting 11.4 points and 4.1 rebounds.
“I think you have to talk about Saddiq — I don't know if he'll get rookie of the year, but he should be in the conversation,” Casey said.
Like Stewart, there weren’t high expectations for Bey, but he’s delivered more than many of the prospects taken in the top 10 of the draft. He was regarded as a shooter, but to accomplish what he has, with the durability and high-level play is notable.
"I think he's a good shooter. He's one of the best shooters in our league right now, which to me is a surprise that he's a 3-point shooter,” Casey said. “He was a prolific scorer in the mid-range and what he wanted to do at Villanova. I didn't see the efficiency of his 3-point shooting and his ability to get his 3 off with the low release, as he's doing now.”
Pistons at Spurs
►Tip-off: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, AT&T Center, San Antonio
►Outlook: Both teams will be on the second night of a back-to-back, with the Spurs at home and the Pistons traveling from Dallas. The Spurs are in 10th in the West, holding on to the last play-in spot for the postseason.