Detroit Pistons: Coach Casey playing it right with youngsters

Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Detroit Pistons coach Dwane Casey is playing it right in handling his younger players.

A birth certificate does not automatically get you playing time on the Detroit Pistons. … and that is the way it should be.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey has been tasked by general manager Troy Weaver with two edicts: 1. Develop the young players for future success. 2. Be competitive right now.

Those two objectives can be at loggerheads with each other. Playing veterans who know how to win will help you be more competitive. Giving young players playing time might pay off in future years,  but usually not immediately in the ‘Win’ column.

In the first 10 games of the season, albeit a small sample size, Casey has done an excellent job of serving both purposes.

Detroit is currently 2-8, one of the worst records in the NBA, which is just fine with management, since the draft is supposed to be stocked with talent.

But they have not been getting their brains beaten in every game, quite the opposite.

Except for Detroit’s second game against Milwaukee, the Pistons have been in every single game. Seven of their eight losses were by 10 points or less. Some losses have involved epic collapses, but fans have a reason to watch in the fourth quarter.

As for being competitive, Casey has accomplished that.

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Detroit Pistons youth need to earn minutes

As for developing the younger players, Casey has been firm about playing time: You do not get court time just because you are a rookie or need developing, a player must prove they deserve to get minutes.

This makes perfect sense. To throw on the floor a kid way over his head, would feel like an insult to veterans like Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose and Jerami Grant.

(Different sport,  but the veterans on the Philadelphia Eagles were quite mad when they did it against Washington)

Casey did admit starting Killian Hayes at point guard was not strictly because he earned the spot. But the 19-year-old was the No. 7 overall pick in the draft, and when you are drafted that high, there are expectations.

Although he had some early bumps, Hayes was doing well, limiting turnovers and was fine defensively. The Pistons have suffered a lot of slow starts since he left the lineup with a torn labrum.

Some of the rest of the young players have showed Casey they deserve to play.

Saddiq Bey started the season on the bench but, with his great three-point shooting and overall solid play, has worked his way into the rotation, including a couple of starts.

Same with center Isaiah Stewart. He was riding the bench until an ankle injury to backup center Jahlil Okafor gave him an opportunity. Stewart has made the most of his chance. His energy and rebounding skills have put him in the rotation on a permanent basis.

On the other hand, big things were expected of second-year players Sekou Doumbouya and Svi Mykhailiuk. So far (and we are only 10 games in), the promise each had shown last year has not been realized.

Doumbouya, last year’s first-round draft pick, is only averaging 4.3 points and shooting 33.3% from the field (although 43.3% on three-pointers). Doumbouya has played in every game but, except for the first Milwaukee game (in which he had 13 points) has not played more than 15 minutes in any of them.

As a power forward, Doumbouya is blocked by Blake Griffin, and Casey likes to move Grant to that spot when Griffin is out. At small forward ahead of him are Grant, Bey and Josh Jackson.

You can argue that there is no place for Doumbouya to get minutes, but his play has not cried out that he deserves additional time, so Casey had not had to make a tough decision on how to get Sekou more minutes.

As for Mykhailiuk, the Pistons would love for him to become an important part of their backcourt. Unlike last season, Detroit does not have a lot of outside shooters, they really could use Mykhailiuk to get a hot hand shooting from outside.

Unfortunately, he has been stone cold. On the season, Myklahiliuk is shooting 29.5% on three-pointes. The year before, he made 41% on threes.

He had a four game run where he made 11 of 21 three-point shots, but, in the last three Pistons games, he has shot 6-for-26.

That lack of consistency has hurt Mykhailiuk’s playing time. After playing 29 minutes in the first Milwaukee game, he has not seen more than 17 minutes in a game.

Of course, if you a three-point shooter not making three-point shots, not much incentive for Casey to play you.

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Casey has done a good job of holding the young players accountable. They might realize they are an important part of the future of the Pistons, but they have to show they deserve to play now.

And Casey still has the respect of the veterans, who are playing hard for him, and keeping the team competitive.

So far, Dwane Casey is pushing the right buttons.