The Detroit Pistons just completed a crucial road trip. With the team looking to win more games to end the season, players and roles began to be in question. Kelly Olynyk was priming to come back from injury, therefore leaving Isaiah Stewart was needing to perform. Despite a lot of promise on the defensive end, Stewart was not producing on the offensive end. In addition. Isaiah was struggling with foul trouble. According to TeamRankings, Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Stewart both rank in the top 25 in the NBA in fouls per game. They respectively average 2.95 and 2.88 fouls per game. The difference is when Isaiah gets in foul trouble, the Pistons interior pays the price.
With a starting lineup struggling to generate offense, change was coming. And if Isaiah Stewart didn’t perform, there could’ve been possible changes at the center position. And he embraced the challenge, and ended up having a really good road trip. Stewart was able to string together some of his best offensive performances as a Piston, and was playing with aggression on both ends of the court. If he can play with this type of aggression moving forward, he can cement his spot as a core piece for Detroit going forward.
Isaiah Stewart attacks the offensive end
Going into this road trip, Isaiah Stewart was not having a great season offensively. In other areas, Stewart was notable this season for his all around aggression on the court. After an altercation that saw LeBron James elbow Isaiah in the face, beef stew had a reaction that has been immortalized in meme culture. One area that did not see the young big man’s same aggression, was on the offensive end. For example, Stewart was averaging 8 points a game, 7.9 rebounds as well. His 6 attempts per game does not garner much attention on the offensive end, and allows the likes of Cade Cunningham to draw more attention from the opposing team. Scoring from the center position can drastically open your offense, and Isaiah simply needed to be better.
One way that Isaiah Stewart started to change that for Detroit was with his play against Golden State. That night, Stewart finished with 14 points on 10 attempts, and he brought focus on the offensive end. He sought his own shot, was cutting to the rim, and looking to score off the pick and roll. His attempts were able to rise from his offensive bounding. He generated 5 offensive boards, and if he can continue to attack the glass, easy second chance points would be crucial for the Pistons. Also, he only had two fouls in 28 minutes, and the Pistons are better when he is on the court.
His offensive energy carried to the rest of the road trip. Stewart was above his season average attempts in each game, and had a pair of 3 rebound games offensively as well. More specifically, Isaiah Stewart put up a sensational performance in Denver, arguably the best game of his career. He put up 18 points on a perfect 8-8 from the field. Additionally, Stewart took his offense beyond the arc, shooting and making a three uncontested. His play demanded attention from the Nuggets defense, and he was one of the reasons Detroit stayed close in their game against Denver.
Help is on the way, progress is being shown
Between injuries and the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the Detroit Pistons have been without key players for significant chunks of the season. Perhaps nobody has been more pressured than Isaiah Stewart. He has been without his backup center for the majority of the league calendar. And that’s in addition to starting power forward in Jerami Grant. With Kelly Olynyk returning and then immediately going into health and safety protocols, left the Pistons short handed. And being short handed has just been the status quo. However, Olynyk should be able to join the team again within the next couple of weeks. In addition, Jerami Grant has been rehabbing, and should be able to rejoin the team soon.
The Detroit Pistons will have some decisions to make about their restoration soon, with identifying their core at the top of the list. Cade Cunningham has cemented his spot in Detroit, and Saddiq Bey continues to make his case each game. One position that is looking stacked in the upcoming draft is the big man. According to reports, Troy Weaver has his eyes at Jabari Smith out of Auburn. And the surge of Cade Cunningham shows the need for a pick and roll partner. Isaiah Stewart might not be that guy, but he is proving that he still has a role on this team.
Whether he is starting or coming off the bench, Isaiah Stewart represents the motor of this team, and feels like he is at the core of this rebuild. His frame and playstyle reminds fans of a young Ben Wallace, and his all around attitude on the court gives fans bad boy vibes. And if he can keep bringing that attitude on both sides of the court, Isaiah Stewart has a role on the Detroit Pistons for a long time to come.