2021-22 Rewind: Stewart’s 2nd season cements Pistons’ building block status

Not too long ago, Isaiah Stewart’s draft stock would have matched his scout status. The fact that Stewart was a bona fide five-star recruit at or near the top of his high school recruiting class and didn’t go to the lottery a year later says a lot more about the evolution of the NBA play over the past decade. to Stewart’s talent or makeup.

But Stewart is on track to beat expectations for 16and pick after two years in the NBA ended before turning 21. He went from a quality backup as a Pistons rookie to a starting center in the second year and ended his sophomore season on a strong recovery.

Here’s a look at Stewart’s past, present and future:

PROFILE: 6-foot-8 center, 20, 2 NBA seasons

2021-22 STATISTICS: 8.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks in 26 minutes per game on 51% shooting

STATUS: Stewart still has two years left on the rookie contract he signed ahead of the 2020-21 season

DID YOU KNOW?: Stewart helped the United States win gold at the 2018 U17 World Cup in Argentina, finishing top scorer with 15 points and nine rebounds in the championship win over France. Stewart averaged 11.1 points and 8.4 rebounds in seven games for Team USA. Among Stewart’s teammates were Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs, Scottie Barnes, Isaac Okoro and Evan Mobley. France’s top scorer in this game? Pistons teammate Killian Hayes.

LOOKING BACK: Stewart grew up in Rochester, NY, and spent his first two years of high school basketball there before transferring to LaPorte, Ind., the La Lumière prep powerhouse. A member of the 2019 McDonald’s Team USA, Stewart chose to travel to Washington rather than Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke and Syracuse. In one season with the Huskies, Stewart led the team in points (17.0), rebounds (8.8), blocked shots (2.1) and minutes (32) per game while playing alongside fellow freshman Jaden McDaniels, picked 28.and overall in the 2020 draft by Minnesota. Stewart was ranked the No. 2 rookie in the 2019 class according to the Consensus Ranking Index behind James Wiseman and ahead of Cole Anthony and Anthony Edwards. The Pistons chose Stewart 16and in 2020 and he came off the bench behind Mason Plumlee as a rookie, averaging 7.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in 21 minutes per game. Stewart and fellow Pistons rookie Saddiq Bey have been asked to join USA Basketball’s draft squad to help the 2020 Olympic team prepare for the delayed games in Tokyo last summer. Stewart suffered an ankle injury during this camp which saw him wear a walking boot for several weeks.

THE SEASON THAT WAS: With the draft trade that sent Plumlee to Charlotte, the Pistons paved the way for Stewart to enter the starting lineup. It meant more than a few more minutes per game – it meant facing a different level opponent every night. The drop from starting center to substitute is perhaps the most pronounced of any position, putting Stewart to the test. Undersized by traditional measure for an NBA starting center at 6ft 8in, Stewart uses his 7ft 4in wingspan and unusual strength to win positional battles and get his man away from the rim even if it doesn’t. does not always repay its rebound. statistics. Stewart mostly maintained his productivity by 36 minutes – scoring fell from 13.3 to 12.7 as shot attempts fell slightly, rebounding went from 11.2 to 12.2 – despite overtime minutes and more difficult confrontations. After seeing a spike in 3-point attempts at the end of his rookie season, Stewart was encouraged by Dwane Casey to focus more on rolling to the basket instead of rushing to the 3-point line and the result has been rare perimeter attempts. But after going 4 of 28 from the 3-point line in the first 74 games of the season, Stewart showed the shooting touch that general manager Troy Weaver hinted at in his drafting when he logged on on 11 of 18 from the arc in the final eight games of the season. . Stewart was handed a two-game suspension when, after absorbing an elbow to the face from LeBron James that spurted blood above his eye, he had to be stopped from pursuing James in a game on 21 November at Little Caesars Arena.

A GLANCE : Stewart has established himself as one of the NBA’s best among big men when defending perimeter attacking players after turning to them in pick and roll this season and that’s primarily for his defensive prowess that Stewart has established himself as a fundamental piece for the reconstruction of the Pistons. Stewart’s improvement in the second half of his sophomore season wasn’t measured in traditional scoring stats as much as it was in the quality of shots created for the Pistons by his scouting and the quality of shots disallowed at the other bout by his ability to stifle pick-and-roll ballhandlers and fetch to provide a physical presence in the paint. If the season-ending spurt of 3-point shooting proves sustainable, line-up combinations that include Stewart and another big man — Kelly Olynyk or Marvin Bagley III, perhaps — become more viable. Stewart has also shown the occasional ability to ground the ball from the elbows and use his speed and brute strength to gain corner advantages and create scoring chances. He also spread his wings as a passer in these situations. Stewart’s strength and willingness to use it is rare and his killer style of play clearly wears down opponents. Whether Stewart has as much physical maturity ahead of him as a typical 20-year-old remains to be seen, but the rest of the NBA can’t be pleased to think of the bruises he’ll inflict over the next decade as a Stewart. better learns the tricks of the trade and integrates them into his repertoire.

MONEY QUOTE: “Isaiah Stewart has taken one of the biggest milestones on our team in his role. Screening – how to screen, when to screen, the road screen; taking advantage of the switches in the position. He has grown by leaps and bounds in his role. He’s probably one of our best one-on-one defenders, believe it or not, at any position.– Dwane Casey, March, on Stewart’s progress

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