It’s a habit I hope not to get into for long, but we’re in Summer League, so I can get away with it. I’m going to start off with an excuse — the Sacramento Kings’ Summer League roster is pretty loaded with arguably the second-best player in this year’s draft (DeMarcus Cousins), a second rounder with lottery talent (Hassan Whiteside was in the top 10 in some mocks before poor workouts/attitude questions), an All-Rookie performer (Omri Casspi) and another recent first round pick (Donte Greene).
The Detroit roster not only can’t compete with that pedigree, but the Pistons’ most accomplished player, Jonas Jerebko, didn’t play. Consequently, we saw an overmatched team get blown out. There was little to take away from the game, other than it was hopefully a learning experience for the young players, who faced some pretty good NBA rotation players.
The other night, I gave some notes on individual players. Today, I’ll talk a little about some of the matchups instead.
Austin Daye vs. Omri Casspi
Austin Daye, through two games, looked confident and ready to step into the rotation after having a short leash all of last season. But playing primarily against a rookie (Devin Ebanks) in game one and a guy who spent part of last season in the D-League (Reggie Williams) in game two, Daye had his first real test in Casspi, a strong wing player who gave Daye the business a bit last year. Here’s what Dan Feldman wrote before the game:
Like Sebastian Pruiti, I’m looking forward to the Austin Daye-Omri Casspi matchup. Daye has been much more aggressive in Las Vegas, but part of me thinks that’s only because he knows he should own this lesser competition.
Such a prophetic guy, that Feldman. Casspi was a step quicker all night, beating Daye on cuts to the basket, beating him down the floor and, on defense, forcing Daye consistently into spots on the floor where he’s not comfortable. Daye finished 0-for-7, had terrible body language and no energy. A hallmark of Daye’s season a year ago were momentary flashes followed by prolonged disappearances. How he rebounds in the Pistons next game should say a lot about whether he’s worked at the mental side of the game this offseason.
Greg Monroe vs. DeMarcus Cousins
Pistons fans didn’t hide the fact that Cousins was the guy they overwhelmingly wanted in the NBA Draft, and although Greg Monroe may very well prove to be a nice consolation prize, Cousins is clearly a top-three talent in this draft. Monroe wasn’t the only Piston to guard him, particularly early, but Cousins basically had his way with every Pistons big.
Like the others, Monroe struggled to prevent Cousins from establishing the position he wanted around the basket. He bit on Cousins’ post moves. Monroe committed a couple silly offensive fouls trying to push Cousins out of his way and clear space. He clearly was frustrated, and his energy level suffered as a result in the second half.
There was one sequence where Monroe displayed a little feistiness, which was a good sign. Cousins had just bullied his way inside for a bucket, then forced Monroe to commit one of his aforementioned offensive fouls. Cousins was giving it to Monroe a bit on the way back down the court, and it seemed to wake Monroe up for a second. Cousins immediately tried to post him up again and went about it a bit lazily. Monroe fought him for the position and showed nice quickness slipping around Cousins and intercepting the entry pass.
It’s really hard to gauge Monroe. When he plays within himself and doesn’t force things, he looks like a really nice player. But he’s pressed often this summer, inexplicably pushing the ball up-court when he should be finding his PG and instead running the floor himself. Summer League is not always conducive to passing, because it’s kind of a get-mine exhibition, but we haven’t really seen much of the court vision Monroe was known for at Georgetown. I’m not worried by any means, but I’m less sure that Monroe is going to be an immediate contributor this season. I think he’ll be in the rotation and get every chance to stay there, but he looks like he’s a bit shocked by the speed of the game compared to some other rookies, which is a little surprising considering he came from a really good basketball conference.
Everyone vs. Hassan Whiteside
Whiteside had five blocks in 27 minutes. He’s a good shot blocker, and I get that he’s a rookie, but that was basically the only elite skill he possessed heading into the draft. A few Pistons, apparently, didn’t get the scouting report. Whiteside got Monroe twice and Daye once early, and all three attempts were pretty weak considering a presence like Whiteside was lurking inside.
Non-roster guys vs. Non-roster guys
So far, there doesn’t appear to be a non-roster guy on the Pistons Summer League team that can help them, even in an end-of-the-bench role. I was intrigued by Jared Reiner, a guy with NBA experience who put up big numbers in the D-League. He got solid minutes in the first half, but got pushed around.
Mac Kowshwal has a NBA body and motor, and athletically, he looks like a rotation big. I just don’t know if he’s ready yet, despite some productive games. He’s a very good offensive rebounder and finishes well enough around the basket, but he frequently — even more so than Monroe — attempts to do things that are nowhere close to being in his skill-set. Of all the non-roster players, if any are going to make the team, I’d bet on him, but I still don’t think any will end up winning a job.
I like the pace Marquez Haynes plays at, but unless he can improbably and decisively out-play Terrico White this preseason, or unless the Pistons unload a couple guards in a trade, it’s just far-fetched to think he’ll make the roster.
Edgar Sosa is a true PG, but like a lot of solid college PGs (Mateen Cleaves, what?), doesn’t shoot the ball well enough to play the position in the NBA. Elijah Milsap got extended minutes and was aggressive, often to his own detriment — three of his drives were blocked at the rim.
Jordan Eglseder played a handful of minutes and despite his size, is not strong enough or athletic enough right now to compete against NBA bigs.
White had a couple for the Pistons, finishing an nice lob from Austin Daye with a dunk. He also showed something he has in each game, a nice ability to pull up off the dribble, have good balance and elevation and knock down a jumper. He’s not as good a player as Rodney Stuckey, but he’s a better shooter right now.
Kowshawl had a double-double, with 10 points and 12 rebounds (five offensive). He and White were easily the best Pistons on the court.