Saddiq Bey has not enjoyed a strong start to his third season with the Detroit Pistons.
Entering the 2022-23 season, Bey was expected to take a major step forward in his development. The small forward had a strong rookie season where he established himself as a sharpshooter from beyond the arc. In year two, he showed growth in creating for himself and getting to the rim, including a 50-point game against the Orlando Magic. However, through 28 games played this season, Bey has struggled for the Pistons.
Bey, 23, started the season off in Detroit’s starting lineup. His struggles, as well as the Pistons’ desire to utilize a two big lineup, relegated Bey to a bench role. He has seen his play improve since coming off the bench, but he is still not playing at the level many thought he would be at the start of the season.
Bey’s name has floated around in trade rumors. However, it is unlikely the Pistons’ front office is going to sell low on a prospect they see as an instrumental part of the future. While Bey’s third season has not gotten off to a great start, it has not been without its positive moments.
Here is the good, the bad and the ugly through the first 28 games of Saddiq Bey’s 2022-23 season.
The Good: Saddiq Bey has taken strides in attacking the rim and reaching the free-throw line
If Bey has improved the most in any area this season, it is attacking the basket. Bey’s comfort level with putting the ball on the floor and driving to the rim has significantly increased since his rookie season.
He is shooting 62.2 percent in the restricted area. He is attempting 6.2 drives per game and sinking 51.2 percent off drive attempts. Bey’s touch around the rim and confidence in finishing through contact have been strong points of his season so far.
Another area where Bey has improved is getting to the free-throw line. Bey averaged 2.6 free-throw attempts through his first two seasons in the association. This season, he is attempting 4.1 attempts from the charity stripe per game. 2.2 of those free throw attempts result from fouls drawn off drive attempts. Bey is shooting 85.7 percent from the line this season for Detroit, a career-high.
The Bad: Saddiq Bey has not shot well, but has been better off the bench
Bey is currently shooting a career-low 29.7 percent from beyond the arc this season. His shooting efficiency from beyond the arc has regressed in each of his first three seasons.
It is not that Bey is not finding good looks from three-point range. He is getting open looks, but his shot simply is not falling. His biggest struggles come off three-point attempts from above the break. Bey is shooting 25.5 percent this season off such attempts. His numbers significantly increase when he shoots corner threes, 42.9 percent off corner attempts.
Since coming off the bench, Bey has improved as a three-point shooter. He is shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc over his past 10 games. It is still not good shooting efficiency, but it is an improvement nonetheless.
Bey should eventually find his groove as a shooter. He showed he can be an elite three-point shooter in his rookie season. It is only a matter of time until he returns to form. An improved three-point shot combined with his improved scoring around the rim will make Bey a dangerous offensive weapon for the Pistons to utilize.
The Ugly: Saddiq Bey might be a negative defender for a while
Bey has not been a good defender through his first three seasons. He does not have the foot speed to stay in front of most wings, and he is a liability overall as an on-ball defender. Off-ball he is somewhat better, but the Pistons would be better served trying to hide him on the defensive end.
Bey holds a 119 defensive rating through 28 games this season. Defensive rating estimates points allowed per 100 possessions. As a team, the Pistons have a 117.7 defensive rating. Bey also holds a -1.1 defensive box plus/minus this season as well.
Bey is miscast on the defensive end of the court. He would be best utilized guarding inside the three-point line rather than outside it. Bey has the size and strength to guard in the paint. He has a much better chance of holding his own in the post than trying to stay in front of a player along the perimeter.
Unfortunately, if Bey is ultimately to return to the starting lineup down the road, he will not be able to play that role. Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren have shown a lot of promise as the Pistons’ frontcourt of the future. With a two big lineup, Bey will have to guard wings rather than bigs.
This is not to say Bey can never be at least a neutral defender, but it will take a lot of development for the 23-year-old to get there.
The season is still young, and so is Bey’s career. His struggles so far this season have been concerning. However, time is on Bey’s side. He can turn it around. In his role off the bench, he is already starting to.
(Featured Image Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)