Pistons Saben Lee seizes opportunity, ready to keep grinding in Detroit

With the Detroit Pistons owning the top pick in this year’s NBA Draft, there has understandably been a lot of attention on Cade Cunningham. On Saturday night, though, second-year guard Saben Lee reminded everyone of what he can do and why he is here.

The former Vanderbilt Commodore put up 22 points in Detroit’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Las Vegas Summer League. The Pistons sat both Cunningham and Killian Hayes, opening the door for Lee to run the team’s offense.

He made eight of his 16 shots in the field, showing little hesitation in driving through traffic and drawing contact. Just like one season ago, Lee reminded everyone that he will go out and dunk the ball, no matter who is in his face.

His driving dunk to the basket to start the team’s 10-2 run in the first quarter and helped set the tone of the game. By the end of the quarter, Detroit established a 12-point lead.

“Just stepping up and being there for my team, leading the young guys and just whatever I needed to do to get a win and just do that,” Lee said.

Saturday’s performance comes after some build-up over Lee’s last three games at Summer League. The Pistons have largely played Cunningham and Hayes together in the first quarter of their games, then staggered their minutes later in the game. Lee then plays intermittently with the two as Detroit works experiments with the best ways to play Cunningham and Hayes off of each other.

With many keeping a close eye on how Cunningham and Hayes fit, Lee has quietly had some solid performances at his first Summer League. He scored 13 points (4-of-7 FG, 1-of-2 3FG, 4-of-8 FT) in last Tuesday’s loss to the Houston Rockets. He dropped 15 points on Friday night against the New York Knicks.

“Saben’s done a great job of preparing himself each day,” assistant coach JD DuBois said. “He works extremely hard, and in the weeks leading into Summer League, he put a lot of time in during our voluntary workouts and coming back at night. I just saw him taking that next step, stepping in for guys. We told them before the game, there are going to be some guys that are getting a little more minutes than they have. I thought he and the rest of those guys really stepped in and prepared to play.”

Even with all of the preparation and the strong performance, Lee has already thought about where he would like to improve.

“I mean I feel like I had a couple more turnovers than I would like just continue to try and take care of the ball and make the right reads,” he said. “And then defensively, be a little more aggressive.”

His attitude and work ethic are just a part of why the Pistons want him to play a part in the restoration of the franchise. The 22-year-old re-signed with the team ahead of Summer League after a strong rookie season. He averaged 5.6 points, 3.6 assists and two rebounds through 48 games last season and is considered to be one of the Pistons’ “Core Four.”

“It definitely feels great,” Lee said. “Very blessed and grateful to be here. I’m just excited to continue to do the work and continue to grind here in Detroit.”

The Pistons will face the Orlando Magic on Monday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).