Austin Daye (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Position: Small forward/ power forward
Weight: 200 pounds
Years pro: Rookie
Jonas Jerebko beat Daye for the backup small forward spot. With Tayshaun Prince out with an injury, Jerebko has moved into the starting lineup. That has meant consistent minutes for Daye.
But he hasn’t done anything to pass Jerebko. When Prince returns, Daye is likely out of the rotation again.
Will: Jack up 3-pointers.
Daye’s skills are limited at this point. He knows how to get his shot off (see Matt Santangelo’s last question below for more info). And he has a sweet shooting stroke.
So, when Daye gets in the game, expect him to try to contribute how he can. For now, that means a lot of jumpers.
Won’t: Jump out of the gym.
Daye’s pre-draft combine numbers were embarrassing. His rankings out of fifty players:
- No-step vertical: 49th
- Max vertical: Tie for 49th
- Bench Press: 49th (Of 49 because Sam Young didn’t lift)
- Agility: 49th
- Sprint: 50th
Kevin Durant couldn’t lift the bench press once either, and I’d say his career has turned out OK. But he’s playing small forward and shooting guard. Daye projects to be a 3/4.
These numbers don’t put a kibosh on his NBA potential. But make no mistake, they’re an issue.
Must improve: His toughness
In the limited minutes he’s played so far, I haven’t really seen a mean streak from Daye.
He can create a lot of mismatches as a power forward. But he’ll also have learn to take an elbow from stronger players – and dish it out, too.
I think if Daye was given steady minutes, he’d just get pushed around on a nightly basis.
In the summer league and preseason, Daye seemed like he had worked himself into the rotation. The initial assessment that he wouldn’t be ready to do much this year looks true again.
1. The more Daye plays, the fewer Tayshaun Prince comparisons you’ll see.
They’re both thin. We get it. That doesn’t make them the same player.
Daye is a better outside shooter than Prince. Prince is a better ball handler, defender and rebounder. In time, that will show.
2. Daye will get stronger.
Dumars consulted with strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander before selecting Daye.
"We met several times on Daye, just about his body and his ability to get stronger at that size," Dumars said. "If Arnie looks at me and says, ‘I don’t think I can put weight on this or get him stronger,’ I don’t know if I back away, but it would have given me more pause."
Clearly, Kander sees an NBA body lurking within Daye.
"Remember, he’s younger than Tay was and it’s really just a matter of taking care of his body," Curry said. "He will get stronger as he gets older. It’s not a matter of putting a certain number of pounds, it’s just about continuing to get his core stronger, get a routine and he should be fine."
Kander is the best in the business, so I trust Daye can add weight. But I’m not sure if Kander can project how added weight will affect Daye’s play.
3. Jerebko will have a better career than Daye.
Someone asked in one of the ESPN chats which of the two players I thought would have a better career. To me, it’s basically a toss up.
Daye has more upside, but I’ll take Jerebko because he’s better right now.
For each of the Pistons’ new players, I want get another voice (or more) besides my own into the previews – someone who has seen these players up close more than I have. I call this feature “in other words.”
In other words: The Slipper Still Fits
Zach Bell and Max Mandel of The Slipper Still Fits were a big help and sent over their evaluation of Daye.
Austin Daye’s legacy at Gonzaga University will always be a point of contention.
The main reason for this intense scrutiny is because Gonzaga has typically been a place where stars have stood out. Adam Morrison, Dan Dickau, Ronny Turiaf all put teams on their backs at varoius points in their careers.
With Daye, this was never the case. Austin’s impact at GU and numbers were impacted by two things that many people tend to forget.
First, he was a prototypical guard in high school before hitting a major growth spurt which launched him to 6-feet-11. Because of this, he was still growing into his body at
Gonzaga and many would argue that he was forced to play out of his comfort zone in Spokane.
Austin’s biggest strength is his ability to play from the outside and use his above average handles to create plays and get into the lane. At Gonzaga, he was forced to play mainly
as a power forward which forced him to spend a great deal of time in the paint rather than on the perimeter.
Secondly, Gonzaga was extremely deep last season. This was not the Gonzaga of old where Austin could take an Adam Morrison type role and score 25 points in a half. Six players from last year’s team averaged nine points or more a season ago so obviously, the ball was in great demand.
If Austin had stayed another year at Gonzaga, he would have had the chance to be the guy but unfortunately for Gonzaga fans and luckily for Pistons fans he decided to go pro.
As far as his skill set, I’m sure you all have noticed that he really can do it all. He’s got a beautiful perimeter shot. I’ve always been a little upset with the Tayshaun Prince comparison because Austin’s shot is so much more pure than Tay’s hitch n’ go.
He can rebound well in traffic thanks to his length and it already looks like he has put
on some strength over the summer. That will continue as his body is still developing.
He’ll be a great locker room guy for the franchise as well. He sometimes lets his passion get the best of him on the court but that is just the kind of player he is.
I honestly feel like the Pistons are getting a real gem that can contribute now and has
star potential down the line.
In other words: Matt Santangelo
Matt Santangelo played point guard for Gonzaga’s 1999 Elite Eight team. He blogs for Lost Lettermen and was kind enough to answer a few questions.
What do you think of Austin Daye?
“I think Austin’s going to be a great pro. I think because of the situation at Gonzaga, it was good for him to go to the NBA because I think he needs to be around grown that are examples of how to be professional, how to carry yourself on and off the floor. And, hopefully in Detroit, my understanding is that the type of team Detroit has, he’ll get that from day one — good examples. This is how you act. This how you interact with the media. This is how you treat your teammates, the coaches. …
I think he’s a tremendous talent. I think he’s going to be a very good NBA player because of his versatility, his length and his skill set. I think being in that league with the better examples, they’re going to toughen him up quicker, which is one of the things he needs to work on.
Obviously, his body needs to get stronger, which he’ll get that at the NBA level because they’re investing a lot of money in that body. So, they’re going to take the time to develop it and work with it if he’s committed to making those improvement – which I think he is.
I think as far as how The Gonzaga team is, I think they’re a better, more cohesive unit now than they would’ve been had Austin come back.”
Looking at his stats compared to other players picked in that range, they’re not overwhelming. Did Gonzaga just have a balanced offense?
“I think some of that was toughness. Some of that is you have five seniors on that team. So, he was kind of battling that, too. By all means, if he would’ve come back this year, I think expectations around Gonzaga would be a lot higher. I think their talent level, you just can’t replace a guy like that because there’s just not that many Austin Daye-type players. …
Once he got into the workouts for the NBA and obviously summer league and everything else, when he really got to show off his skill set, he shined. And there’s no question about his talent, and like I said, his versatility.
I think if he had come back to Gonzaga this year, his whole mindset would’ve been playing for the lottery for the draft. I think that would’ve thrown off the whole cohesive unit, and Gonzaga would’ve struggled, battled with that all year long.”
When he went to the combine, his strength and speed numbers weren’t very impressive. Is he just not that athletic or could that have just been a bad day? Does that show up on the court?
“Obviously, Kevin Durant had a huge amount of publicity for his combine scores as well, the weight lifting and that kind of thing. And he’s Kevin Durant. He’s one of the premier players in the league.
Austin’s not real explosive. He doesn’t jump out of the gym. Some of the dunks he had barely got over the front of the rim.
But what he does is he’s a tremendously skilled basketball player. He handles that he’s 6-11 and 7-foot-whatever wingspan. He has tremendous timing defensively.
Like I said, there’s going to have to be a lot of development, and it’s going to have to happen pretty quick. He’s going to have to get a lot stronger or people are just going to put him on the block and go to work.
But at the same time, they’re going to put him on the block because they’re stronger than him, but he’s going to be longer than a lot of guys he’s going with. That’s going to affect them. That’s what we saw during the good games at Gonzaga.
And I like I said, hopefully the examples around him with Tayshaun Prince and Rip and Stuckey and the rest of the guys, hopefully, he learns pretty quick about being tough and competing ever play, every possession – offense and defense.
I think if he can figure that out, coupled with his skill set, he’s going to be a tremendous NBA player. And I think he’ll learn that quicker at the NBA level than he would have had he come back for his junior year at Gonzaga.”
When he was drafted, the buzz was that he wouldn’t contribute much this year or maybe even next year. From what you saw at Gonzaga, does he have some NBA-ready skills?
“Oh, yeah. He really shoots the ball well. He can get to it. Like I said, he’s so long, he creates his own shot.
Defensively, there’s a couple question marks there: his lateral quickness and his physical strength. But he’s long enough that he’s still going to make an impact on the defensive end. …
His ball handling for his size is amazing. His footwork for his size – that’s such a skill that not too many people talk about it, but he has great footwork. And that’s what allows him to get his shot off a lot.
Where some guys might rely on their speed or maybe jumping ability to get a shot off, he has to rely on his footwork and ball handling to get his shot off because he’s just not that explosive athletically.
So, he’s really skilled. I think, yeah, he definitely has some NBA-ready (skills).”
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