The Detroit Pistons are still attempting to figure out what they have in their young core, and one of those pieces has been developing quickly.
While things may not have gone the way fans had hoped for the Detroit Pistons so far this year, they can find comfort in knowing they have a reliable youth movement on the horizon.
Svi Mykhailiuk was drafted in the second round in the 2018 draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard out of Kansas, was seen as a potential sharp shooter and high effort player. However, there is a reason he was drafted 47th. He struggled to shoot throughout periods of his college career and was seen as a weak link on the defensive end while playing for the Jawhawks.
For him to have a successful NBA career, he needed a team that was willing to develop young assets, and to give their prospects time to grow and develop.
And at a glance, the Lakers initially seemed like a good fit, as they were young and still a couple of years away from being a realistic contender to make the playoffs. And then, a month later, the Lakers signed LeBron James.
Any hopes for Mykhailiuk to have any real estate in the future plans in Los Angeles were virtually gone, as he quickly became viewed as more of a trade asset than a basketball player.
That wasn’t just the case for him, however, as every player not named LeBron was seen as a potential movable piece to build around James and the Lakers. That’s why a few months into his NBA career, Mykhailiuk was traded to the Pistons along with a future draft pick in return for Reggie Bullock.
This trade was the greatest thing for Mykhailiuk’s career, as he was brought to a team that was reevaluating where they were as a franchise, and also now had the opportunity to play under Dwane Casey.
It was a difficult move for Detroit to move off of Bullock, who was having a career year, but he was due for a bigger contract that the Pistons could not afford due to their salary cap situation.
The minutes did not translate right away for Mykhailiuk, as he only played in three games for Detroit in the last half of the season, averaging 6.7 minutes in those outings. He did, however, get eight opportunities to play with the Grand Rapids Drive.
He put up monster numbers, averaging 23.5 points on 46% shooting. Mykhailiuk proved that he was good enough to play on the NBA level, but was not going to be able to win minutes on a team that was looking to still make a playoff push.
After his first full season in the NBA, Mykhailiuk’s next opportunity to play came in the Summer Lague, where he put up 11.4 points per game in his five games shooting 38% from the field.
He was a solid contributor during the summer league, but there was still questions to what kind of contributions he could make during the regular season.
The Pistons came into the 2019-20 season with expectations of making a deeper playoff run. With that came the uncertainty of where Mykhailiuk was going to fit in. NBA teams should always be looking to develop young talent, but Detroit came into the season with a win-now mentality.
Mykhailiuk started the season with four straight did not play’s (DNP’s), came in and played nine minutes against the Raptors, and then sat out the next game as the Bulls as well. From there, he has played in every game.
Not only has Mykhailiuk played in every game since, but he has been averaging 20.8 minutes per game. His role escalated quickly, because of circumstances unseen by the organization coming into the season.
The Pistons have been riddled with injuries to some of their best players throughout the year, with Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin missing significant amounts of time throughout the year. Reggie Jackson has also not played yet this season. Luke Kennard is also missing some time, leaving a lot of minutes available at the shooting guard position.
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With all of the injuries to start the season, the Pistons needed to implement a next-man-up mentality. Mykhailiuk started the year playing as many minutes as possible out of necessity. As the season has gone on, however, he’s been getting the nod because Detroit has completely shifted their focus.
Detroit is currently four games back out of the playoff picture, with all intentions of trading assets to reset and build around the young core. This has seen guys like Mykahiliuk and Sekou Doumbouya getting starts, and having more significant roles as the season has progressed.
That doesn’t mean that Mykhailiuk hasn’t earned his new role. All of his averages are up this season, as he’s currently producing 7.8 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists.
These numbers are not particularly stellar, but he’s shooting 43% from the three, and that’s up 11% from last year and with double the attempts per game (from 2.1 per game to 4.5).
Mykhailiuk has been a solid contributor this season, and his development has been a bright spot on this Pistons roster. With that, however, comes the burning question that has always come with him; what is his place in the future with the Pistons?
To that, it’s important to look at flashes of potential, and where he can improve in his game. He’s currently on the best stretch his season (and even of his career) against the Celtics on the 15th and then last night against the Hawks.
Mykhailiuk had 21 points on 66.7% shooting against Boston. That kind of shooting is not realistic on a nightly basis, but the shots that he was taking were not forced. This is just one piece of what this performance showed us, which is that he has a high basketball IQ.
He had zero turnovers and five assists, which was a showcase of his potential to move the basketball. He is not an elite playmaker by any means, but he has good vision and the ability to find the open man.
He then followed that stellar performance with another career high game against the Hawks, finishing with 25 points on 9 of 11 shooting. He shot 5 of 7 from 3, and was a factor in almost every facet of the game.
Mykhailiuk is attacking with confidence and is shooting at a level that is impossible to keep up. However, his confidence is on the rise and he is currently becoming a substantial contributor for a team that needs shooters. He even added three assists to the equation and was all over the box score on the offensive end.
He was slippery off of screens, he guarded Gordon Hayward for significant minutes and did well, and it was his strongest game of his professional career. That’s the kind of performance that builds trust between himself and the coaching staff, but also from his teammates.
It showed that he is just looking to make the right basketball play, and it doesn’t matter if he is the one that is getting the stats.
With that, however, there is a lot of areas where he can grow. He is by no means a strong defensive player. He isn’t a liability, but he is averaging 0.6 steals per game and 0.1 blocks. He doesn’t force turnovers, and he isn’t particularly strong on the defensive end.
He doesn’t ever show signs of giving up on that end of the ball, but he is by no means out there for his defensive skill set. If Mykhailiuk wants to keep consistent minutes, he needs to develop his defensive game so that he doesn’t have to rely as much on his three point shooting.
His future with the Pistons is still in question. he is a low-risk, high-reward prospect that doesn’t cost much to keep on the team, and with the team heading towards a rebuild, there’s going to be opportunities for him to play. At best, he can be a poor man’s Klay Thompson, and at worst, he can be a journeyman throughout the league, potentially on more of a two way contract.
One thing that is clear, however, is that he has worked hard to get where he is at. If he keeps showing steady improvement, keeps up the strong shooting, and improves on the defensive end, Svi is the kind of player that Dwane Casey would love to continue giving opportunities to.
His future will be as bright as he lets it be.