Friday, July 4, 2014

2014 Summer League Preview

The Pistons tip off their Summer League slate on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m., and if you're a junkie like me, you'll be finding a way to watch.  Detroit has been playing in the Orlando Summer League since the summer of 2011, where the games are played at the practice court inside of the Amway Center.  Detroit will be in attendance, along with the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers.  The league kicks off at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 5th with a game between the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets and will wrap up for the second straight year with a "championship day" where teams play for final positioning based on their performance through their other four games.  Click the "Orlando Summer League" link below for rules, schedules and more information on the details of how the league operates.  For more on what to expect from the Pistons in Orlando, and the ins and outs of Detroit's time in Orlando, continue on for the rest of the article.                                

Click "Read More" for the rest of the Orlando Summer League breakdown...
PISTONS SCHEDULE

Date
Time
Opponent
TV
Sat., July 5
3:00 p.m.
Houston
NBA TV
Sun., July 6
3:00 p.m.
Memphis
NBA TV
Tue., July 8
5:00 p.m.
Miami
NBA TV
Wed., July 9
7:00 p.m.
Boston
NBA TV
Fri., July 11
TBD
TBD
NBA TV


PISTONS ROSTER
*Listed in order of my personal estimation of the depth chart

PG: Peyton Siva, Markel Starks, Ian Miller, Spencer Dinwiddie*(Injured)
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, David Lighty
SF: DeAndre Liggins, Damion James, Tristan Spurlock
PF: Tony Mitchell, Justin Harper, Christian Watford, Brian Cook

ROSTER ANALYSIS

Point Guard: Peyton Siva returns for his second SL appearance, looking to cement his spot on the roster, and make progress towards earning rotation minutes in the regular season.  Siva finished last season, strong, although that is likely lost on a new coaching staff.  He can earn the respect of the new staff by doing smart things and playing his role within the offense without doing too much.  Showing an improved outside shot will also be important.  Starks and Miller are both UDFA from the 2014 draft class, and will be looking to make an impression on any scouts in attendance.  Both are score-first PGs with Starks relying more on athleticism and Miller on a streaky three point shot.  If one of the two are going to land in Grand Rapids come fall, I'd prefer it were Miller.

Shooting Guard: KCP is back for his second go in Orlando, and should be the focal point of the Pistons' SL offensive scheme.  He too finished the season with one hell of a performance, notching 30 points (11-19fg) and 6 rebounds against Oklahoma City in the 82nd game of the season.  Outside of that performance, KCP struggled to score efficiently, but played solid defense in his rookie season.  Detroit will be looking for better outside shooting from him this year, and Orlando would be a great place to start.  Lighty is a 26 year old wing who played for Asvel in French Pro-A ball most recently.  He shot well from three in his time at Ohio State, but has been inconsistent in his pro career.  If he can't make his name known in Orlando, he'll likely be back to Europe next season.

Small Forward: The Pistons main position of weakness entering this season doesn't really feature any potential upgrades on the SL roster.  Liggins may be a talented player, but has had off-court issues and has yet to put any kind of strong season together as a professional player.  Still, he has some level of experience with SVG from his time in Orlando in Van Gundy's last season.  Judging off his past behavior and lack of production, I'd prefer this was the last time we see him associated with the Pistons.  Damion James has more of a track record in the NBA, but seems like much less of a fit for what Detroit wants out of its wings.  In 623 minutes of NBA court time, James has only attempted 6 threes.  Regardless, he's a strong positional rebounder, and has had some level of success in the D-League the last two years.  This may be a tryout for a spot on the Pistons' D-League squad for both he and Liggins.  I know nothing of Spurlock, besides that his college stats are awfully uninspiring.

Power Forward: This position should feature one of the more interesting battles for minutes across the whole of the roster.  Mitchell remains a good prospect (in theory) with his excellent athleticism and strength.  However, Mitchell doesn't quite fit the PF mold that SVG prefers, while he is familiar with Justin Harper, who was drafted in his last offseason with the Magic.  Harper had a reputation as a stretch four in college, but has struggled to adjust to the longer professional three point line since leaving Richmond in 2011.  Watford played last season in Israel, after a successful four year career at Indiana.  He too had a reputation as a stretch four in college, but struggled last season professionally to connect from deep.  Cook has been in and out of the NBA since 2004, with his most recent appearance coming for Washington in 2012.  He's a career 38% three-point shooter, who played for SVG between November of 2007 and February of 2009.  In his season and a half with the Magic, Cook shot the ball well in limited minutes.  At 33 years old, Cook may be out of NBA opportunities.

Center: Tim Ohlbrecht is the only true center on the Pistons' SL roster, standing 6'11, 255.  He appeared in 3 NBA games for Houston in the 2012-2013 season and has otherwise played in the D-League.  He posted modest numbers last season, but was a 2nd-team All NBDL selection in 2012-13.  Jordan Heath is a 6'10, 240 pound big who shot 39.7% from three on 197 attempts in two years at Canisius.  He played more PF than C in college, but of the other bigs on the roster not named Ohlbrecht, he figures to play more C than PF.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR

The Pistons SL team will be coached by head assistant Bob Beyer, who will be joined by fellow assistants Brendan Malone and Charles Klask.  With only a few days of working together, and not much to gain from doing such, don't expect the Pistons SL team to run much of what will be in the playbook come fall.  What will be more important is seeing what some of the unknown guys can offer from an attribute standpoint.  The Pistons really don't have much roster flexibility, so if any of the non-roster guys show out, it'll likely see them land in the D-League or with another NBA squad.  Of those non-roster guys, they're split almost evenly between guys who SVG has experience with and undrafted rookies.  None of the UDFA on the roster (Starks, Miller, Spurlock, Heath) were projected to go in the draft, and will probably have some catching up to do with the SVG guys.  Of that group, I'm expecting to see quite a bit of Harper and Liggins.  Both players were once seen as having a role in the NBA, but have failed to materialize yet.  KCP, Siva and Mitchell should see their minutes and touches regardless.

On offense, I'm expecting the bulk of the possessions that Detroit has to run through KCP when he's on the floor.  It's hardly a question that he's the most naturally talented player on the roster, and really the only player who can create his own looks.  While it's very easy to put too much importance on SL performances (Austin Daye usually looked great in SL games), Orlando will be the first glimpse of what KCP is going to provide this season.  If he's improved his shooting stroke, look out.  The other two picks from last year's draft will also have my attention.  Siva's roster spot and salary could be on the line in Orlando, as his contact doesn't become guaranteed until the day after the OSL wraps up.  With the pick of Spencer Dinwiddie and the possible acquisition of Isaiah Thomas, the PG spot seems to be in flux.  If Siva wants to stick around, he may need a strong performance.  Tony Mitchell also has something to prove in Orlando, although his situation may not be quite as dire.  Still, he could do himself a lot of good by showing an improvement in the technical aspects of his game.  I've always liked Mitchell's style of play, but his clock could start ticking if he doesn't show some form of gain on what he displayed last season.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Orlando Magic: SG Victor Oladipo: The 2nd overall pick in last year's draft had a solid rookie season, finishing with a 13.6 PER, 13.8 PPG and a few explosive games, including the first triple-double of his career.  Was a 1st-team All-Rookie selection.  Looking to improve upon his 41.8 FG% and 32.7 3P%.
PF Aaron Gordon: This year's 4th overall pick; I'll be watching him  closely because I think that Orlando screwed up by picking him over Dante Exum.  Far from a finished product, but is an impressive athlete and is said to be a smart player.
PG Elfrid Payton: The 10th pick in this year's draft, and noted as a freak athlete and excellent defender.  Should make for a long, athletic, intimidating backcourt.  Similar to Oladipo, he struggles to shoot.

Boston Celtics: G Marcus Smart: Smart's ability to shoot is also in question, but he's an aggressive defender, strong finisher and could be taking Rajon Rondo's spot in the backcourt if he's moved.  Will Smart be the default starter at PG by the time the OSL is over?  If Rondo is traded within the week, he could be.
SG: James Young: Young fell into the Celtics' lap at 17, and has good upside potential if he can shoot consistently.  Excellent length and athleticism, which should make for one of the better backcourt duos in Orlando this week.
F/C Kelly Olynyk: A 2nd-team All-Rookie selection, Olynyk probably had a better season than most people realize.  His 15.27 PER ranked 5th among all rookies with a USG% greater than 15.0%.  Shot 35.1% from three and 50% on 2PA.

Brooklyn Nets: F/C Mason Plumlee: Brooklyn's roster is short on young talent, but while that statement is true, it should exclude Plumlee.  He led all rookies last season in PER, as well as eFG% en route to a 1st-team All-Rookie selection.
SF Donte Green: Like I said, the Nets SL roster is a collection of guys who are hard to get excited about, so Green being my 2nd pick is kind of a default.  The former top-10 HS player competed in China last season, scoring close to 20 PPG for DongGuan.

Houston Rockets: PG Isaiah Canaan: Canaan took part in the Rockets' "threes and lay-ups" experiment last season and thrived for the RGV Vipers.  He hit 36.9% of his threes, 52% of his twos and boasted a .378 Free Throw Rate.  He's a candidate to make the Rockets' roster if/when Lin is traded.
SG Nick Johnson: Johnson was a 2nd round pick of the Rockets this year, going 42nd overall.  He's a bit undersized to play SG, but is a good athlete, and was a successful scorer in junior year at Arizona.

Indiana Pacers: SF Solomon Hill: Indiana's first round pick last season failed to do much of anything, either in the D-League or NBA.  He has an injured ankle and may not play in Orlando.  Indiana's SL roster lacks players worth writing about.

Memphis Grizzlies: SG Jordan Adams: This will be Adams' first opportunity to prove those who say Memphis took him too high incorrect.  A big-bodied wing who lacks athleticism, but knows how to score, Adams could play big minutes at SG for Memphis this season if he can score as a pro.
PF Jarnell Stokes: Stokes was seen as a first round talent, but slipped to Utah at 35, and then was traded to Memphis.  Undersized, but strong and surprisingly athletic for his build.
SG Jamaal Franklin: The man known as "The Grind Son" is seen as Tony Allen's (The Grindfather) apprentice.  At 6'5 with a 6'11 wingspan, Franklin has the prototypical stopper's body.  Played well in his time in the D-League last year.

Miami Heat: PG Shabazz Napier: If the Heat don't add a PG through free agency, Napier could be the starter for the East's most dominant squad in the last four years.  Napier was picked to appease LeBron, but has plenty of talent as a scorer and is a better floor general than he gets credit for.
SF James Ennis: Ennis was a 2nd round pick of the Heat in 2013, but played last season in Puerto Rico, averaging just under 20 PPG.  Could earn a roster spot if he shows he can score like he did in college when he posted two years of 61 TS% ball.

Oklahoma City Thunder: SG Jeremy Lamb: Reggie Jackson showed hints of his breakout in Orlando last year, and OKC will need something similar from Lamb this week.  He has the talent to score efficiently and with volume, but just hasn't done it yet.
PF Perry Jones III: Jones has had solid moments for the Thunder in limited minutes in the NBA and played well in the D-League last season when he was down there.  Now he needs to prove he can bridge the gap and give OKC minutes off the bench.
C Steven Adams: Adams had a bit of a breakout in the playoffs, establishing himself as somewhat of an enforcer, who does the dirty work for Durant and Westbrook.  He has good upside, and with a good offseason could be pushing for Kendrick Perkins' starting job.

Philadelphia 76ers: C Nerlens Noel: This will be the first look at Noel in almost a year-and-a-half, after he tore his ACL in February of 2013 at Kentucky.  Noel has huge upside, but figures to be a bit rusty.  His development should be fun to watch in Orlando.
PG Pierre Jackson: The most exciting player in the D-League last season got traded from New Orleans to Philly on draft night.  He can score in bunches and figures to do just that in Orlando.  Will be making a case to back up MCW in Philly this coming season.
SF Jerami Grant: Fellow 2nd-round pick KJ McDaniels won't play until the Sixers go to the Las Vegas SL, so Grant will get more minutes in Orlando.  He'll look to prove that his drop was ill-advised, as many saw him as a first round lock until he slipped all the way to 39th on draft night.

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