Dec 10, 2013; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons power forward Tony Mitchell (9) grabs the rebound in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Pistons summer-league roster, ranked

The Pistons released their summer-league roster and schedule today:

  • July 5, Detroit vs. Houston, 3:00 p.m. ET
  • July 6, Detroit vs. Memphis, 3:00 p.m. ET
  • July 8, Detroit vs. Miami, 5:00 p.m. ET
  • July 9, Detroit vs. Boston, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • July 11*, TBD, TBD

All games will be aired on NBATV and can also be viewed live by signing up at www.nba.com/summerleaguelive.

Here are all 15 players, ranked by intrigue level:

15. Spencer Dinwiddie

Dinwiddie is actually listed as “Injured – Will Not Participate.” Is there some rule requiring the Pistons to include him on the roster I’m not aware of?

14. Tristan Spurlock

Spurlock, a 6-foot-8 forward who excels in no particular area, exhausted his collegiate eligibility this year after three years at Central Florida and one at Virginia. He’s 23. I’m not seeing it.

13. Damion James

James – a former first-round pick from Texas who has played for the Nets and Hawks – has name recognition. Unfortunately, I know just enough about him to know I’m already convinced he’s not an NBA-caliber player. I’d prefer a mystery.

12. Ian Miller

Miller battled academic issues and injury his first three seasons at Florida State, and he played pretty well as a senior last year. The 6-foot-3 guard is a fine shooter and good college player, but he doesn’t appear to be NBA caliber. Maybe his issues caused him to slip through the cracks, though.

11. David Lighty

Lighty played at Ohio State from approximately 1911-2011, wearing No. 23. This is not him.

10. Brian Cook

Unlike James, Cook was once a good NBA role player. That was seven years ago. At 33, he probably won’t make an NBA comeback, but I’m at least curious why Stan Van Gundy even bothered to invite him.

9. Jordan Heath

Heath is a stretch four from Canisius, which you might recognize as a team John Beilein once coached and Van Gundy once assistant-coached (not at the same time).

8. DeAndre Liggins

Van Gundy’s Magic drafted Liggins No. 53 in 2011, and he spent a year each with Orlando, Oklahoma City and Miami. I really liked the shooting guard’s defensive potential coming out of Kentucky, but he’s never really made a dent in the NBA. Ridiculous Upside considered him a possibility as the D-League’s most athletic player.

If it weren’t for these nasty allegations, he would rank much higher on this list. Though some of the charges were dropped, I’m not keen on supporting a woman-beater who may or may not have gotten off on a technicality. My standard’s are not the legal system’s standards. He doesn’t rank lower because I’m open to the idea he could have changed.

7. Chris Watford

Watford had a productive four-year career at Indiana, which culminated in 2013. He made 44 percent of his 3-pointers as a junior and 48 percent as a senior. Clearly, there are holes in the rest of his game.

6. Markel Starks

Starks is from PG County, Maryland, one my favorite places in the world. He also attended Georgetown Prep – a high school that, like with Starks, sent Roy Hibbert to Georgetown University. Though Georgetown Prep is very different than PG County, I’m also fond of the school. And I really like this quote from Starks when he finished his high school career:

“Growing up in Prince George’s County, predominantly black, there were really a lot of naysayers if I could make it here,” he said of the boarding school. “I’ve been on my own since I was 15, and you know, it’s a lot of sacrifice. I don’t want to say you give up your childhood, but maybe a lot of childhood memories, to do this. But I stuck with it, and not to brag about it at all but it’s like, look at me now.”

The only complaint is that Starks is a reluctant braggart.

5. Tim Ohlbrecht

I don’t know much about Ohlbrecht, but Daryl Morey signed him and Sam Hinkie claimed him off waivers. Those two are smart.

4. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Caldwell-Pope is, by far, the most likely summer-leaguer to make the Pistons’ regular-season roster. I’ll have an eye on him, but there’s only so much he can show at this level.

3. Tony Mitchell

Mitchell also has a guaranteed contract for next year, though his salary is low enough the Pistons could waive him if they need to open a roster spot. I liked his potential for a second-round pick, but he must start showing he’ll realize some of it. Summer league is as good a time as any.

2. Peyton Siva

Siva’s contract becomes guaranteed July 13 – just after the Orlando Summer League ends. He’s playing for his NBA career.

1. Justin Harper

I liked Harper in the 2011 draft, when he fell to No. 32 – one spot ahead of the Pistons drafting Kyle Singler. Detroit definitely came out ahead of Van Gundy’s Magic, who selected Harper. Harper lasted one year and 84 minutes in the NBA before going to the D-League and overseas. But Harper is still just 24, and of all the stretch fours on the summer-league roster, he intrigues me most. As Brady pointed out, stretch four seems to be an area Van Gundy believes he can pluck a gem. I’ll leave you with Patrick’s Draft Dreams for Harper:

The Pistons are in a good position holding the third pick in the second round. Every year, late first round talents fall into the early second, and with this draft heavy in bigs who are considered projects, the Pistons could nab someone who falls out of the first round, including Richmond’s Justin Harper.

Info

Measurables: 6-foot-10, 225 pounds,  senior F from Richmond

Key stats: 17.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 53 percent

Projected: Late First Round

How would he help the Pistons?

Most Pistons fans will look at Harper’s lack of bulk along with his pedestrian rebounding average and say, ‘next.’ But the best thing to like about Harper’s game is the leap he took between his junior and senior seasons.

I always like college players who show significant improvement. As a junior, Harper was a solid role player at Mid-Major school Richmond, averaging about 11 points and five boards per game. He’d never shot 50 percent in a season, never came close to 40 percent on 3-pointers and wasn’t considered a NBA prospect.

As a senior, he became a legitimate go-to player. His 53 percent shooting bested his previous career-best by 5 percent. His 45 percent 3-point shooting was 8 percent higher than his previous best.

Joe Dumars loves picking versatile, athletic, players in the second round who aren’t necessarily confined to a position. Harper’s shot-blocking ability would potentially help him find a niche with the Pistons and his versatile offensive skillset — he was effective in the paint and from the perimeter for Richmond — give him the appearance of a stronger version of Austin Daye. Harper’s skillset, along with his obvious work ethic that allowed him to make a dramatic leap in production, make him intriguing if he’s available in the second round.

How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?

The Pistons might be in the market for a more conventional big man. With picks like Daye and Jonas Jerebko in recent years, along with the signing of Charlie Villanueva, Dumars has seemed to show a preference for offense and positional indifference rather than for finding guys who strictly fit into traditional position roles. That strategy obviously hasn’t been a great success so far. This offseason is a big one for Dumars, and it will be interesting to see if he continues with whatever his vision was for a rebuilt Pistons team when he started desconstructing his title contender three years ago or if he makes some adjustments and puts more of a premium on defense and rebounding over offensive versatility. My hunch is he will look to make the team bigger and stronger, particularly up front, and if that’s the case, I don’t know that Harper would be a fit.

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Tags: Brian Cook Chris Watford Damion James David Lighty DeAndre Liggins Ian Miller John Beilein Jordan Heath Justin Harper Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Kyle Singler Markel Starks Peyton Siva Spencer Dinwiddie Stan Van Gundy Tim Ohlbrecht Tony Mitchell Tristan Spurlock

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