Las Vegas — In the first few minutes of the Pistons’ Summer League opener, Cade Cunningham passed to Killian Hayes and moved to the corner. Hayes drew the defender away and found Cunningham for an open 3-pointer.
Just like they drew it up.
Not long after, Cunningham was dribbling up the court and with the defender giving him space, he pulled up for an open 3-pointer. Pistons fans on social media exulted. This is what they were expecting from the No. 1 pick.
It was finally coming to fruition.
The rest of the night wasn’t as easy for Cunningham, he finished 5-of-17 from the field, but with 12 points, six rebounds with two assists, two steals and two blocks. Then, there were the five turnovers and five more missed 3-pointers in the 76-72 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
More: ‘We wanted a win’: Pistons’ Cunningham unsatisfied with 76-72 loss in Summer League debut
Overall, it was what most people should expect from a Summer League opener. There were plenty of mistakes, including 20 turnovers, and some missed opportunities. That doesn’t overshadow some good things that came out of the first look at most of the Pistons’ young core.
In perspective, it’s just one game, but there are some further-reaching takeaways that could provide a glimpse of how things could look when training camp starts in September and the regular season begin October.
►No shade for Cade: Cunningham scored on his first two shots, but he didn’t seem to find a good rhythm outside of those two 3-pointers. He had a steal for a breakaway dunk, which should be more of an indication of what he’ll bring to the backcourt. With his size, he can bring a defensive presence that the Pistons didn’t show much at the position last season. As advertised, his 7-foot wingspan will help him be a defensive ballhawk, and there were some disruptions that he caused because of his anticipation. Paired with Hayes, who is 6-5, the backcourt size can create some havoc in the passing lanes and getting better looks at the rim.
►Handling business: The Pistons seemed to want to feature Hayes as the primarily ballhandler and facilitator, with some Cunningham mixed in. There were long stints of Cunningham and Hayes player together and even some minutes with Saben Lee as a pseudo-third guard. There seems to be a feeling-out process in seeing several options they have in the backcourt, which is fine. Lee looked fine, but there will be more minutes with Cunningham as the creator and Hayes as the shooter. Understandably, the Pistons kept things relatively simple, but they will evolve as Summer League progresses. In some of those instances, Cunningham had a favorable matchup — either against a smaller or slower defender — and he didn’t get the ball. They should be able to recognize those mismatches better.
►Missed chances: Tyler Cook, who was on the roster last season, had 11 points and five rebounds, but the stats don’t tell the story. He couldn’t get a handle on several passes in the paint, which led to some of the team’s 20 turnovers (Cook had three). He finished 4-of-8 from the field, but there were more opportunities that he would have had if he had been able to hold on to the passes. Defensively, he was out of position on some possessions, and the Pistons gave up too many points in the paint.
►Center of attention: The Pistons didn’t have Isaiah Stewart, who has an injured ankle and likely won’t play in Summer League at all. That changes the complexion of how the center position will look. They didn’t have a strong post presence with the bigs, Anthony Tarke and Jamorko Pickett, but Luka Garza was a big body that the defense had to account for, and he made his first 3-pointer, showing that he can stretch the court. Garza finished with nine points and four rebounds in 13 minutes, which is a solid showing for the No. 52 pick. The Pistons also had some minutes with Sekou Doumbouya as the small-ball center, which is a different look.