Saben Lee vs. Dennis Smith Jr.: Pistons have a battle at point guard and it’s fun

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 13: Saben Lee #38 of the Detroit Pistons moves the ball up court against the New York Knicks in the second half of an NBA game at Little Caesars Arena on December 13, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Detroit defeated New York 99-91. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) (Dave Reginek, 2020 Getty Images)

The Pistons have had a merry-go-round of point guards this season, but right now, the two guys in the mix both have something to prove.

⚔️ Saben Lee vs. Dennis Smith Jr.

Who’s playing point guard for the Detroit Pistons depends on which game you’re watching. First it was rookie Killian Hayes and Derrick Rose. Hayes got hurt, and Delon Wright entered the fray.

Rose was traded to the Knicks for point guard Dennis Smith Jr., and Delon Wright is now dealing with a groin injury. Enter second-round pick Saben Lee.

Last night, the rookie Saben Lee and Dennis Smith Jr., who we talked about in the last newsletter, put on a point guard show in a win against the Orlando Magic. Don’t get me wrong -- the Magic stink. But the consistent play at point guard did not stink.

In 29 minutes, Saben Lee scored a career-high 21 points, including 3/3 from three point land. Dennis Smith Jr. had 14 points in 18 minutes, 2/3 from the three. The duo combined for only five assists, oddly.

We’ve seen what Dennis Smith Jr. is capable of -- he has some success on his record, especially as a playmaker. But this is the first we’ve seen of Saben Lee’s ability, and it was exciting. He isn’t a proven shooter but can take the ball to the rim and finish. He also showed up on the defensive end -- he has five steals in his last two games.

Lee was drafted in the second-round out of Vanderbilt, where he played for three years, averaging 18 points per game in his junior year. Don’t underestimate how big that added college experience can be, especially when you compare it to someone like Killian Hayes, two years younger and without college basketball on his resume.

We’ll see if Dwane Casey decides to give Lee a chance with starting, but it really doesn’t matter -- they’re going to split minutes either way. From a wide-view, one thing is clear: Pistons general manager Troy Weaver knows talent when he sees it.

The Pistons take on the Pelicans tonight, a team they routed on Valentine’s Day. Detroit is 4-6 in their last 10 games, and 9-22 on the season -- second worst in the NBA.

🌟 Bright spots

It’s rare that we’d have so many bright spots on a team that has one of the worst records in the league, but that’s where we’re at with this Pistons team.

They can’t win many games right now, but the rookies are putting on a show. Having said that, today’s bright spots feature is dedicated to the veteran, center Mason Plumlee.

When Plumlee was signed, Twitter had all of the jokes. But Plumlee has proven his worth. The team is much better with him on the floor.

(2021 Thearon W. Henderson)

Plumlee is averaging near career-highs this year, with 10 points, 9 rebounds and nearly four assists per game. His free throw shooting is much improved, shooting 71% this year -- up from a career 56% average. He’s averaging a career-high in minutes, too, at 28 per game.

Plumlee is the only Pistons to record a triple double this year, too. The guy is all over the place. While rookie Isaiah Stewart is the future at the position, he can sure learn a lot from Plumlee.

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About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter.