Did the Pistons let DaJuan Summers go too soon?


During his unremarkable two year run as a member of the Pistons, DaJuan Summers had a reputation as a professional, hard-working player in a locker room that, to put it diplomatically, didn’t always exhibit those same traits. Unfortunately for Summers, that good reputation never earned him a shot at consistent minutes. Now, as a member of the New Orleans Hornets, his work ethic has materialized into minutes. From John Reid of the Times Picayune:

Desiring to shake up his lineup until injured starter Trevor Ariza returns, New Orleans Hornets Coach Monty Williams gave forward DaJuan Summers his first start Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves in place of Al-Farouq Aminu. Summers, 6 feet 8, 240 pounds, has been efficient since returning after missing the first eight games with a hyperextended right knee.

Summers played well in that start, scoring 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting. It was his second straight game in double figures for the Hornets. Summers isn’t exactly turning into a Arron Afflalo-like ghost out there haunting the Pistons for giving up on him too soon. Summers followed up those two strong performances with an 0-for-5 shooting night in his second start and, like he showed with the Pistons, he doesn’t do much else other than shoot. He’s averaging just 2 rebounds and 1 assist per game in those four games. And it is only four games anyway, so who knows if Summers even shows he’s able to stay in that NOLA rotation all season.

But he does bring up a common criticism of the team: too often over the past decade, young players have played little with the Pistons, shown little in those inconsistent minutes, left the team and turned into competent or better players elsewhere. Afflalo has turned into one of the best defensive guards in the league and has a rapidly evolving offensive game for Denver. Amir Johnson has been a defending, rebounding, shot blocking ball of energy for Toronto. Carlos Delfino is a useful and versatile rotation player in Milwaukee. Darko Milicic …. well, he still sucks, but he sucks less than we thought he did at one time.

I don’t know that Summers will develop into anything close to what those other players mentioned above have. But that’s the point. When last season ended, Feldman wrote this:

Does Detroit have a reliable idea what it has in Summers? He enters free agency this summer without many NBA minutes under his belt and the Pistons unlikely to retain him.

With a renewed emphasis on high-character players, shouldn’t Summer get an extended look?

I don’t believe Summers is a complete unknown to the Pistons. They saw him in practice, and there must have been a reason he didn’t play ahead of Prince, Austin Daye and the other Pistons who saw time at small forward (Tracy McGrady and Richard Hamilton). It’s not like Detroit just randomly kept Summers on the bench.

But without seeing him play more meaningful minutes, the Pistons can’t completely evaluate Summers.

The Pistons went nowhere the last two seasons, and they did so while playing veteran players with no future here like Hamilton and McGrady (and this year, Damien Wilkins) extended minutes at the expense of unknowns like Daye and Summers. We’re seeing the painful results of Daye’s lack of development right now — the Pistons still have no clue what they have in him. If Summers continues to at least contribute, even on a bad NBA bench, it will show the Pistons had no idea what they had in him either. It’s not like he’s going to develop into some All-Star caliber player, but it will just be one more low cost, young player that could be stocked on the Pistons roster as they rebuild who will experience his best days as a pro elsewhere.

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