Other than Sekou’s minor setback, Pistons had a smashing stay in Las Vegas
You never leave Summer League seeing all you hoped to see, but any realistic assessment of how their two weeks in the desert went for the Pistons would be overwhelmingly positive.
First-round pick Sekou Doumbouya only got to play in one game, Saturday’s finale, after experiencing hamstring pain following three days of practice leading to the July 5 opener. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot that left anyone disappointed.
Here are the takeaways from their 4-1 Summer League run:
- Bruce Brown’s step forward – Brown establishing his future at point guard was the biggest revelation of Pistons Summer League. Even if he doesn’t wind up becoming a full-time point guard, his ability to orchestrate a half-court offense and carve up defenses as the pick-and-roll ballhandler will serve him – and the Pistons – very well in whatever role he plays. The physical and mental demands of playing the position – and of being a vocal team leader, another audition Brown aced – clouds the evaluation of the primary task of Brown’s off-season: improved 3-point shooting. But that was always something he would focus on in individual skills work, which he can now devote the rest of his summer to honing. Brown will come back to the Pistons a more complete player than the frisky rookie who earned his playing time solely with his work at the defensive end.
- Khyri & Svi – There might not be room for both in the rotation. In fact, Dwane Casey can configure a credible rotation without either. But both bring unique skill sets to the table and both have the competitive gene that enables those skills to flourish. Thomas has two-way potential – 3-point range and defensive chops. Consistency with the jump shot can unlock much of that potential. Mykhailiuk’s size, shooting range and playmaking – that broken-ankle, step-back triple he hit in the Summer League finale underscores much of his appeal – would nicely complement the Griffin-Drummond-Jackson core or be a weapon off the bench. They’ll use the rest of their summer to get ready for a training camp push.
- Bone serves notice – Having him on a two-way contract is a luxury made possible by the free-agent signing of Tim Frazier to complement Derrick Rose and Reggie Jackson. Jordan Bone could force the issue, though, based on what he showed in three Summer League games. Consider that he didn’t get a single practice with the Pistons until after having played two games, as well. The more 5-on-5 experience he gets in Casey’s system – training camp and then the early weeks of the G League season with Grand Rapids – will help him adjust from the more structured system he operated at Tennessee to the relative freedom he’ll have in Casey’s offense. Eventually, as his instincts are formed and hardened, his athleticism will be unleashed by that liberty.
- Sekou peek-a-boo – You saw him for a minute there in the finale and there was just enough to see why the Pistons got excited about the chance to draft and develop someone who doesn’t turn 19 until late December. The way he moves at his size is striking. He floats. Maybe his athleticism and motor and length are enough to speed his learning curve beyond expectations and he actually helps win games as a rookie. More likely, he’ll have fits and starts in his development and stay under wraps for at least the early going. But that little peek at him to end Summer League was tantalizing stuff. Was there any setback to his timetable by missing four Summer League games? Eh, probably not much. The goal was to establish a baseline for what he is and what he can become and let him stick his toe in the water. That was largely accomplished. He’ll be around all summer to further acclimate and be as ready as he can be to hit the ground running in late September.
- Waiting in (and on) the wings – Scouts are on high alert for wings with size, athleticism and scoring ability. The Pistons spent a second-round draft choice on Deividas Sirvydis and grabbed Louis King minutes after the draft ended, getting him to agree to a two-way contract – and that gives them two players who fit that profile. They’ll incubate for 2019-20 and then we’ll see what they have starting next July in Summer League. Sirvydis just turned 19, King just turned 20. The Pistons can afford to be patient.
- A final decision – The Pistons have one open roster spot that logically will go to a big man. They have Andre Drummond, incredibly durable and able to handle major minutes, and they also have Thon Maker and Markieff Morris capable of playing center in some or most matchups. But one more true center gives them protection should Drummond miss any length of time. There are still a few veterans kicking around without a team, there might be something on the international market worth exploring and there’s always the possibility of a minor trade to address the issue. But Matt Costello gave the Pistons something to think about with his work in Las Vegas. He’s not especially long or athletic, but he’s strong and smart and ultracompetitive. Costello quarterbacked the defense, set solid screens and displayed a knack for rolling to the rim while making himself available for drop passes. If it’s not the Pistons or another NBA team, Costello’s week in the desert should ensure him a handsome payday with somebody, somewhere in the world.