Frontcourt of Duren, Wiseman leads Pistons to win in Summer League opener

Detroit News

Las Vegas — There were several storylines that set the tone for the Pistons’ opener in the Las Vegas Summer League.

How would Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren look in their second summer session? What about the performances of first-round draft picks Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser? Will James Wiseman look to dominate now that he’s going into his first full year with the Pistons?

All of those topics were on full display Saturday as the Pistons grinded out a tough 89-78 win over the Orlando Magic inside the Thompson and Mack Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Pistons summer league coach Jarrett Jack went with a starting lineup of Sasser, Ivey, Thompson, Wiseman and Duren, which wasn’t surprising since Isaiah Livers was not in attendance for personal reasons. With three players in the starting lineup who started at least 20 games last season, the Pistons were more experienced than the Magic, but there were obvious adjustments as the team tried to integrate two rookies.

Wiseman was the obvious standout with a team-high 16 points and 11 rebounds. Duren totaled 17 points and eight rebounds. Ivey had 14 points, four rebounds and five assists, but struggled taking care of the ball with six turnovers. Sasser totaled 10 points. Buddy Boeheim scored nine.

Orlando was led by Kevon Harris, who finished with 21 points and six rebounds. Anthony Black, the No. 6 overall pick, had a well-balanced game with 17 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Former Michigan guard Caleb Houstan added 12 points for Orlando.

It’s easy to overreact to Summer League games, especially when expectations for teams or young players exceed what should be reality. But here are a few initial observations from the Pistons’ summer league opener:

Wiseman’s versatility: Now that Wiseman is fully healthy after injuries derailed the first two years of his career, the former No. 2 overall pick is looking to assert himself. That’s exactly what he did on Saturday. Wiseman finished 6-for-9 and the majority of those buckets came from inside the paint. He also showed his range with a corner 3-pointer, which was his only make of three atempts from beyond the arc. Wiseman was also locked in on the defensive side of the ball. He tallied two rejections and hindered several more attempts from the Magic. It is unclear where and how Wiseman will fit next to Duren in Monty Williams’ rotation, but his first game showed he’s capable of doing a little bit of everything.

Duren shows even more promise: Duren used the opener to experiment with two aspects of his game that weren’t apparent last season. On the Pistons’ first possession they drew up a play for Duren to put the ball on the floor and dribble to the rim. Duren was blocked, but it was a preview of what was to come for the remainder of the game. He had several opportunities throughout the first half to test his ballhandling. He even led a fast break once in the second quarter. Overall, Duren took on an aggressive mentality throughout the game. When he had the ball, he was looking to make a play towards the rim or find his teammates. In the third quarter, he drove to the basket but found Wiseman in the corner for an open 3-pointer. In the fourth quarter, Duren put on a unique display of his perimeter game with back-to-back perimeter jumpers, the latter of which was after a crossover. If Duren can add ballhandling and a perimeter shot to his explosive inside game and formidable rebounding, the Pistons will be able to use him interchangeably at power forward and center.

Thompson’s rebounding: I don’t think there were any vast expectations for Thompson’s first game as a Piston, but the fifth overall pick impacted the game with his rebounding. He grabbed eight boards in 25 minutes and made a few nice reads on the offensive end with his playmaking. He only attempted four shots, but the one field goal he converted was a nice hook shot while fading to his left. The Pistons desperately needed another player to attack the boards last season outside of Wiseman and Duren, and if Thompson can rise to the challenge of being a go-to rebounder, it would be nice complement to the team’s frontcourt.

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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