Las Vegas — The Pistons are halfway through their four-game Summer League schedule and there are a handful of notable takeaways from the first two games.
It’s not surprising that Detroit is 1-1 after a win over the Orlando Magic and a lopsided loss to the Houston Rockets, especially considering the fact that the team is blending roster mainstays, a couple of rookies, several members from the Motor City Cruise and more in hopes to find some sense of cohesion.
The Pistons have two games remaining with Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors and Friday’s finale against the San Antonio Spurs. While it’s unclear if any Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren or James Wiseman will be available, here’s a quick rundown what I like and don’t like from the Pistons’ first two summer league games.
▶ Likes: Ausar Thompson’s quiet, but promising game.
The Pistons knew exactly what they were getting when they drafted Thompson with the fifth overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft. The 20-year-old rookie wing excels as a playmaker, finisher and defender. Troy Weaver’s comparisons of Thompson to future Hall of Famer Andre Iguodala can be seen in flashes during the Pistons’ first two games. Thompson’s ability to see the floor and make accurate reads makes him a threat in the halfcourt, but even more dangerous in transition. His simple, but effective bounce pass to a trailing James Wiseman was his most impressive play in Las Vegas.
Thompson used Sunday’s game as an effort to be more assertive on the offensive end, specifically with his jump shots, which I’m sure Detroit’s coaching staff encouraged, but Detroit will have Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Harris, Alec Burks and Monte Morris to shoulder the shooting load. Thompson just needs to find them when they’re open.
If Ivey and Duren forgo the Pistons’ final two Summer League games, it’ll give Thompson and Marcus Sasser more of an opportunity to showcase the skills that made them first-round picks.
▶ Wiseman’s assertiveness
It’s been said since Wiseman arrived in Detroit earlier this year and it’ll likely ring true until the end of next season, but game reps will continue to benefit the former No. 2 pick. The 7-footer is using Summer League to find his footing and his aggressiveness is bearing positive results for the Pistons. Wiseman uses his post game, which often results in baby hooks or simple dunks, or his ability to stretch the floor with perimeter jumpers to be effective on the offensive end. He admits that patience will help him be more effective on both ends of the floor, but he particularly wants to become a better defensive player. He has the potential and size to be one of Detroit’s best defenders, but his shifting and timing will be crucial to achieving that goal. Either way, if this version of Wiseman can blend with Detroit’s real roster, it’ll make the depth chart at the center/power forward position very interesting.
▶ Dislikes: Two-big lineups
I see no problem with Detroit starting their five most talented players in Sasser, Ivey, Thompson, Wiseman and Duren. However, the frontcourt’s cohesiveness hasn’t been as fluid as Wiseman and Duren both need to occupy the paint in order to be effective. Both players haven’t shown a consistency from beyond the 3-point arc to strecth the floor, but there has been flashes of a budding chemistry between the two. Duren was double-teamed in both games and was able to find Wiseman for an open dunk. Wiseman returned the favor on Sunday with an on-target pass as Duren slid by two Rockets defenders for an easy dunk. The two-big lineup could work when the regular season begins because Isaiah Stewart has improved significantly after transitioning to the power forward spot last season. Marvin Bagley is also factored into the equation, especially since he showed promise from the perimeter during the last month of the season. If Isaiah Livers, who was listed on Detroit’s summer league roster but hasn’t been in Las Vegas due to personal reasons, was available, the summer league starting lineup could look much different. But Wiseman might be able to command the paint in Detroit’s final two games if Duren doesn’t suit up.
▶ Ivey’s turnovers
Ivey did an impressive job of bouncing back from a tough game against the Magic with a dominant performance against the Rockets. He recorded a double-double of 22 points and 10 assists and appeared more comfortable deciding when to attack and when to facilitate. Despite the improved play, there is one glaring stat that needs to be cleaned up. Ivey has 10 turnovers in two games, six of which occurred against Orlando. Some of those giveaways were a result of the soon-to-be sophomore guard pressing the issue and driving against multiple defenders. He regained his composure against Houston and was able to force a turnover of his own, which resulted in a two-handed dunk for Thompson. After learning to play the point guard position last season in Cade Cunningham’s absence, Ivey has the ability to lead an offense. His role will be slightly different this season with the return of Cunningham, so he won’t be tasked with being the primary ballhandler on most nights. And that’s when he’ll be able to use his explosiveness to his benefit.