The Detroit Pistons are one day away from their first game in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. The Summer League season is set to span from July 7-17, with games to be played on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus.
The tipoff for the Pistons’ first Summer League game is July 8 at midnight EST. Detroit matches up against the Portland Trail Blazers who have former Pistons’ second-round draft pick, Luka Garza, on their roster.
After facing Portland, Detroit meets the Washington Wizards on July 9 at 6 p.m. EST. On July 12 at 9 p.m. EST, the team takes on the Indiana Pacers. In their fourth and final preliminary game, the Pistons matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 14 at 5:30 p.m. EST.
If the Pistons are one of the top two teams in the Summer League, the team will play in the championship game on July 17. If not, Detroit will play a fifth game on either July 16 or 17.
First-year Summer League Head Coach Jordan Brink has a roster full of young talented players. If the odds are in Detroit’s favor, maybe they could make a run at the Summer League Championship.
How much playing time will Detroit’s core players receive?
When the Pistons released their Summer League roster, some fans were left scratching their heads at the inclusion of the team’s young stars: Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes were all rostered on the team.
With Cunningham entering his sophomore season and Bey, Stewart and Hayes entering year three, many thought these four would not participate in the Summer League. Cunningham established himself as the face of the franchise this past season. Bey and Stewart have found their own roles on the team. Hayes, well, he might actually benefit from some extra reps in the Summer League.
Clearly, the Pistons’ front office and coaching staff believe playing at least a few Summer League games will help the quartet’s development. Injuries limited Cunningham’s preseason during his rookie campaign. Bey is developing his self-creation skills. Stewart is working on his floor spacing. As already mentioned, Hayes could use some extra playing time.
How much playing time will the Pistons’ young core actually receive during the Summer League? Probably not a lot. Do not expect Cunningham or Bey to play more than a couple of games if any at all. Stewart and Hayes, on the other hand, could play in more than just a few games.
More important than playing in the games, this is an opportunity for Cunningham, Bey, Stewart and Hayes to get organized practice time together with the organization.
Detroit’s 2022 draft class gets time to shine
The Pistons came out of the 2022 NBA Draft confident in their draft haul. With the fifth pick, Detroit selected Purdue guard Jaden Ivey. The 20-year-old is the most electrifying player in the draft class, and he is set up to be Cunningham’s backcourt partner. In a trade with the New York Knicks, the Pistons front office acquired the draft rights to Memphis big man Jalen Duren. The 18-year-old is the youngest player in the draft class, and he has the potential to be Detroit’s future at the center position.
Unlike Detroit’s more seasoned young players, Ivey and Duren are likely to play in all five of the Pistons’ Summer League games.
Ivey will undoubtedly show off the incredible athleticism that was always on display at Purdue. However, this is also a chance for Ivey to work on his three-point shot, playmaking and especially defense.
Shot-making from beyond the arc and improved creation for others are high on Ivey’s areas of improvement, but Pistons’ GM Troy Weaver challenged the young guard to become a great defender. Do not be surprised if defense is Ivey’s point of emphasis in his development during the offseason and this upcoming season.
Duren is a great defensive prospect and has the makings of a decent offensive game as well. However, the big man lacks experience. Getting as much playing time in Summer League and during the preseason could be incredibly valuable to the Memphis product. The Pistons currently have a logjam at the center position. As a result, Duren could see limited minutes during the regular season until the G-League season begins. Getting as much development and playing time now as possible is critical.
Other Pistons to watch
Isaiah Livers is entering his second NBA season. The 23-year-old’s rookie season was limited due to injuries, but Livers made a positive impact in the minutes he was able to play. He made the extra pass on offense, shot 42.2 percent from beyond the arc and played solid defense. Livers has carved a role for himself on this team as a solid three-and-D player off the bench.
Since Livers missed most of the 2021-22 season, Summer League could be a great opportunity for him to get those valuable minutes before heading into his sophomore season.
Saben Lee has not shown much in his two-year career. The 23-year-old point guard spent a lot of time with the Motor City Cruise this past season, and would have spent his rookie season in the G-League had the COVID-19 pandemic not restricted player movement between the NBA and G-League in 2020-21.
Lee might not be much more than a depth guard moving forward for the Pistons. At his best, he could be an Ish Smith type, but it is unlikely he finds that role in Detroit. The Pistons have Cunningham, Hayes, Ivey, Cory Joseph and Alec Burks all capable of running the point guard spot. Summer League play could be an opportunity for Detroit to showcase the young guard before trading him off to another team. If not, Lee could find himself spending some time this upcoming season with the Cruise as well.
Buddy Boeheim is one of Detroit’s two two-way players heading into next season. The rookie wing spent four seasons playing for his father, Jim Boeheim, at Syracuse. In his senior season, he averaged 19.2 points and 3.1 assists for the Orange. Most notably, Boeheim shot 34.1 percent from beyond the arc this past season, 36.2 in his collegiate career.
If Boeheim’s shooting translates to the NBA, he could develop into a solid depth shooter for Detroit. The Pistons ranked 29th in three-point shooting percentage this past season. Boeheim could help alleviate the team’s shooting woes in the games he does play while called up from the G-League. The Summer League is a great opportunity for Boeheim to showcase his shooting. If he struggles, Detroit could look to someone else to fill in Boeheim’s two-way roster spot.
Braxton Key played pretty well in nine games with the Pistons this past season. The 25-year-old scored 8.6 points and collected 5.3 rebounds while playing 21.2 minutes per game. Not great numbers, but solid for a guy who spent most of the season in the G-League. Key is Detroit’s other two-way player heading into next season.
Like Boeheim, Key will need to play well in the Summer League to retain his two-way contract status.
Balša Koprivica was one of Detroit’s three second-round picks in the 2021 NBA Draft. The Florida State product spent all of last season playing overseas with the Pistons retaining his draft rights. Last offseason, Koprivica did not get much opportunity to practice with the Pistons before Summer League, as he was acquired via trade. While the trade was being processed, Koprivica missed out on acclimating to a new team.
This year, the 22-year-old was able to join the Pistons Summer League team right away. Unfortunately for Koprivica, the Pistons have that aforementioned logjam at the center position. Even if he shines during Summer League play, the Pistons are unlikely to find a roster spot for him. Maybe a two-way deal if Boeheim or Key really struggle. Ultimately, Koprivica could find himself moved in a trade, playing next season overseas again or with the Motor City Cruise in the G-League.
Pistons Summer League expectations
How far the Pistons go in the Summer League is entirely dependent on how many games the likes of Cunningham, Bey, Stewart and Hayes play. With this quartet joining the rest of the team, the Pistons have quite possibly the best Summer League roster of all 30 NBA teams. Without them, the team is probably more middle of the pack.
The team’s record is not an important gauge of success in the Summer League. No matter what, every team is playing five games. Summer League is an opportunity to develop young players and acclimate them to their teams. A team that loses all five games can achieve that just as well as a team that wins all five games does. The Sacramento Kings have a knack for being top performers in the Summer League, and we have all seen how far that gets the team during the regular season.
(Featured Image Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)
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