Isaiah Stewart is playing his third season with the Pistons, and the former 2020 NBA Draft pick has embraced his role as the “heart and soul” of the rising Detroit Pistons.
Stewart is the kind of blue-collar, hard hat-wearing center that becomes a fan favorite and an integral part of any team’s long-term success. Coach Dwane Casey already sees it, calling Stewart “the fiber of our team” who has “the toughness that you want to have,” the kind of toughness “Detroit stands for — he’s that.”
Casey first saw those qualities in practices shortly after Stewart got drafted 16th in the 2020 draft. Stewart showcased a physical presence that was hard to ignore. As a rookie looking to break into the League, Stewart went 100 percent during practice.
On a team that features All-Star potential in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, a do-it-all forward that owns a franchise record for three-point shooting in Saddiq Bey, and the tantalizing talent of Jalen Duren, it may come as a surprise that Stewart is viewed as the most essential key to how successful Detroit can be. When Troy Weaver put this team together, he knew that Stewart checked off those intangibles all teams want in a glue/enforcer-type player.
“I just want to continue to be that heart and soul, be that backbone of this team” Stewart said per NBA.com. “Try to lead by example every day.”
Cade’s dish to Stew for the ? earns the very first Assist of the Week honors this season ? pic.twitter.com/5DclehNk45
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) October 23, 2022
At 21-years-old, Stewart has made sure to become a guiding light for Jalen Duren. The two are workout patterns who have been cultivating their big-man skills under the tutelage of former All-Star sharpshooter Rashard Lewis.
Stewart and Bey are known for setting the tone in Detroit with their noteworthy work ethic. Their work behind the scenes has inspired Weaver and Casey to believe that Stewart is more than an undersized post player that doesn’t do the typical things modern big-man is expected to do.
“It is kind of crazy,” Stewart said of his overnight ascension to leadership. “But time flies and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I’m thankful I get to help the young guys out. I was in their shoes coming into the league once.”
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) October 24, 2022
However, as a stater, Stewart has been able to hold his own against bigger and more experienced centers while becoming one of the best pick-and-roll defenders due to his lateral quickness allowing him to lock down speedy guards. Because he’s so physical, Stewart doesn’t matchup with to many centers that are willing to bang with him, and this season he’s knocked 3-14 triples.
With that rapid involvement in mind and the fact that Stewart has embraced being a mentor to younger players, it’s no surprise that Detroit is confident in him.
“He still has a ceiling because he’s grown so much since he first got here,” Casey said. “His entire game – his ballhandling, his passing, his feel for the game, his defensive feel. He’s growing. The great thing for our organization is he’s not a finished product.”