Detroit Pistons Summer League takeaways

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: Eric Moreland /

With yesterday’s 83-81 overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Detroit Pistons finished 3-2 in the 2017 Orlando Summer League. But that doesn’t matter. It’s all about the eye-test. Here are my top three takeaways from Orlando.

For the second straight year, the Detroit Pistons fell short in the Summer League championship game. That’s perfectly fine. Summer League isn’t about winning and losing. If it was, any NBA fan would be able to rattle off the last five champions.

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Summer League is about evaluating each player holistically. Simply put, it’s all the about the eye test. Wins are nice. Stats are nice. But if your first round pick looks lost on the court, nothing else matters. Because that’s what you’ll remember. Not the final score.

There are plenty of other takeaways from this year’s Orlando Summer League. I’ve narrowed down the top three regarding the Pistons.

1. Eric Moreland‘s emergence

Give yourself a pat on the back if you circled Eric Moreland’s name as a player to watch before Summer League. The 6’10” center raised eyebrows this past week at the Amway Center. Moreland led all players in Orlando with 8.4 rebounds per game. He also finished 14 of 20 from the floor, and averaged 2.8 blocks per game.

The Pistons liked what they saw and offered Moreland a multi-year contract, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. He is expected to be Detroit’s third-string center.

The 25-year-old has bounced around the NBA. He went undrafted in 2014 before signing with the Sacramento Kings that summer. However, a handful of injuries plagued him early on. Moreland would only play 11 games in two seasons with the Kings.

A stellar season with the G League’s Canton Charge would turn his career around. Moreland was an NBA D-League All Star and a member of the All-Defensive Team in 2016-17. The Pistons then invited him to participate in the Orlando Summer League.

Related Story: Eric Moreland has been signed to a multi-year deal

Moreland took care of the rest. The Houston native made an impact on both ends of the floor. He displayed a soft touch down low, finishing with baby hooks and lay-ups off the dribble. This ability also made him a scoring threat in the pick and roll. He didn’t need to receive the ball in the paint, which in turn opened up the lane for his teammates.

Future with the team

Again, it was only five Summer League games. But he was arguably Detroit’s best two-way player, something that the Pistons’ front court has been missing. Moreland was very agile when it came to his defensive rotations. Current centers Andre Drummond and Boban Marjanovic struggle in that department.

He’s not going to leapfrog either of those guys in the lineup. But he does give Stan Van Gundy some insurance as an athletic big man who can provide some quality minutes. Aron Baynes is all but gone. Detroit needed another center, and now they’ve got one.

2. An encouraging Ellenson

Power forward Henry Ellenson only played in 20 games as a rookie. But it’s clear that he learned quite a bit in his first season. The 20-year-old averaged 17.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in Orlando.

He looked as comfortable as ever offensively, knocking down spot-up triples with ease. There was no hesitation from Ellenson, as he stepped into his shot right after the catch. All of the parts moved in one motion. Swish. It was beautiful.

But in order to be an effective stretch-four in the NBA, you must be able to score in the post. Ellenson fulfilled that duty all week. He was able to shed his man by attacking from the wing. Once free, he blew by defenders with a spin move off his pivot foot.

Related Story: Henry Ellenson among most efficient players in Orlando

That’s the type of versatility he needed to show. Especially against lesser-talent. It’s an encouraging sign in his development.

Speaking of development, Ellenson’s defense remains a work in progress. His stance is too wide, and he struggles when it comes to moving laterally. Those are weaknesses that can be fixed. Hopefully.

There were times when he was slow to rotate to the weak side. That can’t happen. He doesn’t have to be a lock-down defender. But he has to make a consistent effort. Ellenson isn’t lazy. But like a lot of young players, he can let up on the defensive end. He’ll have to rid himself of that bad habit if he wants to play heavier minutes.

3. Kennard in the clutch

The story going into Summer League was Luke Kennard. Everybody raved about his shooting, an aspect of the game that Pistons really struggle with. His ability to score the basketball was highly anticipated coming into Orlando.

Needless to say, he lived up to the hype.

Kennard shot a torrid 47 percent from the floor throughout Summer League. He finished right behind Ellenson when it came to scoring, averaging 17.2 points per game. The lefty didn’t have any problem knocking down triples from NBA range. His quick release and consistency was a breath of fresh air for Pistons’ fans.

Related Story: Let's give Luke Kennard a chance to prove himself

He quickly dispelled any Kyle Singler comparisons with his ability to create from himself, and for others. Kennard is the prototypical shooting guard: a guy who can slash inside for easy buckets and burn you with his outside touch.

Defensive struggles

But he’s far from perfect. His defense needs a lot of work, and just like Ellenson, his effort isn’t always consistent. Kennard was able to stay in front of his man for the most part. However, his deficiencies quickly became apparent. Kennard’s close-outs were relatively weak, and he constantly made the mistake of going under screens.

Stan Van Gundy and his staff knew this when they drafted him. So it hasn’t caught anyone by surprise. His upside is his play-making, which was on display yesterday when he nailed a triple to tie the game. But for Kennard to become a key part of this team, his defense has to improve dramatically.

Now the off-season truly begins for these three players. The draft is over. Summer League is over. It’s time to prepare for the 2017-18 season.

Next: Pistons trade Marcus Morris for Avery Bradley

Talent may separate the bad players from the good ones. But preparation separates the good from the great. If the Detroit Pistons are ever going to take that next step, the work has to begin now.