Pistons mailbag: Is Dwane Casey in danger of losing his job?

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Pistons looked to be on their way to ending their eight-game losing streak, but somewhere in the second half, things got away from them. The Oklahoma City Thunder, also on an eight-game skid, erased the deficit and steamed ahead for a win.

It’s just another setback in a tough season for the Pistons, who have had their share of injuries and other issues. It’s not what things looked to be in the offseason, when the Pistons added Cade Cunningham to an improving roster.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Tre Mann (23) knocks the ball away from Detroit Pistons guard Saben Lee (38) during the first half of an NBA basketball game.

The next stage of improvement is taking a little longer than some expected. It’s been a slog through the first part of the season, and there are a couple of encouraging signs, such as Jerami Grant and Cunningham’s chemistry improving together.

There’s still much more to figure out, but some of the eyes are on coach Dwane Casey and who might bear the blame for the sluggish start.

This week’s mailbag looks at some of the issues in the first part of the season.

►Question: How much of the blame should Dwane Casey shoulder for Detroit’s underwhelming results to date? Do you feel like Casey is on borrowed time? — @DetroitJockCity

►Answer: The Pistons have the worst record in the league. They entered Wednesday having lost nine straight games, and the season is only a quarter of the way over. The schedule will ease up eventually, but it doesn’t mater who the Pistons play — if they aren’t making shots and playing more consistent defense.

That’s not completely on Casey. That’s a player issue more than it is a coaching issue. The shots are there, but the players aren’t making those open shots. It’s been well documented about how the Pistons have struggled to find an offensive rhythm and that some of their top 3-point shooters are below their production from last season.

Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey yells towards a referee during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Moreover, four of the Pistons’ starters are either in their first or second season. That’s going to involve some significant growing pains. The Pistons hired Casey because of his ability to get the most out of the young players and his relationships with players. He’s done that in his time here, though it hasn’t resulted in wins.

I don’t think Casey is in any danger of losing his job at all. Given that he just added another year on his contract, Casey is solid from an organizational perspective, and there’s no inkling that team owner Tom Gores or general manager Troy Weaver is unhappy with his to stay around.

The rebuild is going to take time. Turning things around never was going to be a straight line. There will be curves and ups and downs and it might get even tougher before it gets much better. Casey has the support he needs, but they simply need more talent.

►Q: How does Saddiq Bey get right? Should he focus on his bread and butter (just 3 and D), or be benched or take some time off? — @KetoLasagna

►A: Bey has been one of the big lingering issues of this season. He’s coming off a first-team All-Rookie selection, and the immediate presumption was that he would make another jump in his second season. That’s not a straight line, either.

Bey actually has comparable numbers to his rookie season: 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists, which are all a tick higher than last season. The 3-point percentage dropping from 38% to 29% is the most alarming stat. The 3-pointers are a concern, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of his progression.

Bey has been one of the big lingering issues of this season.

The big difference this season is that Bey has been putting the ball on the floor and creating inside opportunities for himself. That seems to have impacted his 3-point shooting in some way. His release looks quicker and might be rushed a tad bit.

Nevertheless, the odds are that he’ll get things turned around.

It doesn’t seem to be a sophomore jinx; rather, it seems to be more of trying to grasp the fullness of his expanded game. Playing more with the starting lineup will bring some more consistency and continuity, but again … time.

►Q: Who would be a potential big the Pistons could target in a signing or trade?

►A: After the reports that the Indiana Pacers might be open to dealing Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, there was some thought that the Pistons would look in that direction. The issue is that they’d likely have to break up their core to get to either of them. That doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Remember that Kelly Olynyk is only out for a few more weeks, potentially, and that his return will help slot some of the other rotation issues back into place. They would love to have another big in the rotation, but they likely will just continue with Luka Garza and Trey Lyles as the backup options.

I wouldn’t think that the Pistons would be buyers ahead of the trade deadline, but if they did, it would be something smaller to smooth out the roster or to try to get value for expiring contracts, not anything major.