Pistons begin 2nd half of season: 4 things to watch

TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Saben Lee #38 and Sekou Doumbouya #45 of the Detroit Pistons react after defeating the Toronto Raptors by a score of 129 to 105 at Amalie Arena on March 03, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) (Douglas P. DeFelice, 2021 Douglas P. DeFelice)

DETROIT – The Pistons return to action this week to finish off their 2020-2021 season -- here’s what we’re watching.

👀 4 things to watch in 2nd half

Return of Killian Hayes

The Pistons first-round pick has been sidelined with a hip injury for the last two months and is set to return to the floor in the coming weeks. He’ll be re-evaluated next week and the Pistons expect him back soon.

Hayes got off to a slow start in his rookie season and has been outplayed by the three other rookies on the team, all drafted after him, so far. But Hayes has a bigger learning curve, coming from an international setting, so we’ll be patient.

It’ll be interesting to see how he fits into what could become a crowded point-guard position, with Saben Lee and Dennis Smith Jr. both playing well. Maybe Dwane Casey plays two of them? Who knows. Either way, getting Hayes valuable minutes in a shortened rookie season will be big, even if he’s not lighting up the scoreboard.

Trade deadline

The NBA Trade Deadline is March 25, and the Pistons have already moved on from their two biggest pieces, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose. But could more be coming?

Pistons GM Troy Weaver told reporters on Tuesday that the Pistons will be active at the trade deadline, but told fans not to expect the same “fireworks” from the offseason, as in, a flurry of surprising moves and new players.

Weaver did say that nobody on the team is untouchable. “Nobody’s untouchable. I learned never say never, but there’s some guys that are here to stay. We’ll see”

I’d think a guy like Delon Wright could be moved. I’d think guys like Jerami Grant and Josh Jackson are staying put. We’ll see!

Paging Sekou...

Pistons second-year forward Sekou Doumbouya, still just 20, has been pretty hit-or-miss this season, even looking a bit lost at times.

Sekou is averaging less minutes, less points and is shooting a worse percentage. He’s had some nice moments, but he hasn’t really emerged as a threat of any kind.

Weaver urged more patience with Sekou: “When you’re tired of being patient, you have to be patient some more. We’re definitely being patient with him, as he grows and develops with the rest of the young guys.”

It would be nice to see Sekou get more minutes, but this Pistons team has competitive players jockeying for valuable time and potential contracts -- they don’t have the patience Sekou is being offered. Let’s see if the young guy can get his game to the next level -- because we all know how quickly a team can turn.

Draft position

If all things continue on, the Pistons should have a great shot at a top-3 draft pick, if not the top pick overall. It’s a lottery, so I’m not holding my breath.

The 2021 draft class is loaded, especially in the top five. It is really crucial that the Pistons land in this area.

Right now, the Pistons are 10-26, the second-worst record in the NBA, but with the same odds for the first pick with Minnesota and Houston. They have a decent cushion before the fourth and fifth place teams, so it’s a pretty safe bet it’ll stay this way. Mock draft season is approaching!

🌟 Bright spots

I mean, honestly, this team is all Troy Weaver. The new Pistons general manager is off to a great start.

The team isn’t winning yet, but it’s very competitive, fun to watch and filled with young, high ceiling talent. Weaver said he’s optimistic -- and here’s why: “Tune in and watch. We compete. I’ve said from day one we wanted to compete. To a man, to a coach, guys have been very competitive. We never talked about wins and losses, and we won’t right now.”

Nearly every player Weaver has brought in has been a win: Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant, Josh Jackson, all four rookies -- Saddiq Bey, Saben Lee, Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes. Even veterans like Wayne Ellington, Delon Wright and Jahlil Okafor have contributed.

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The second half will be all about the young guys getting minutes and learning to compete. It’ll be fun to watch. Pistons are back in action on Thursday against Charlotte.

This article first appeared in the Pistons Pivot Newsletter -- sign up below:

About the Author:

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