The Detroit Pistons got down to their 15-man roster by releasing three players right after the last preseason game, a 112-108 win over the 76ers. None of the three, Derrick Walton Jr., Cassius Stanley or Jared Cunningham, played a single second in any of the exhibition games.
So how did they get evaluated, if none of them saw any action?
The exhibition season is a time to look at players you normally would not have the chance to, in an NBA setting. The games are meaningless, who wins really does not matter. The Milwaukee Bucks went 1-4 last year in the preseason, they survived pretty well.
During training camp, an NBA team is allowed to carry 20 players. The Pistons have 15 players on NBA contracts and two (Chris Smith, Jamorko Pickett) on two-way deals. That left room for three players with non-guaranteed contracts, to try out for the team.
After a little administration juggling, those three players for most of training camp and the exhibition season were Jared Cunningham, Cassius Stanley and Detroit native Derrick Walton Jr. All three of them had some NBA playing experience. These were not 19-year-olds who did not get drafted, they know their way around an NBA team.
With the Pistons suffering a lot of minor injuries this preseason – it seemed like half the team had a sprained ankle at some point – plus two players still rehabbing injuries they suffered in college, there seemed to be ample opportunity to get a look at the trio. After all, you never know what you have until you can see them in some real action.
As an example, Pickett sat on the bench the first two games of summer league. When Sekou Doumbouya had to leave on a personal matter, Pickett got the starting nod at forward and he took that opportunity and ran with it. He scored 11 points in the first quarter against the Knicks and went on to earn himself a two-way contract.
So, a short-handed team in the preseason, when the results don’t matter, would seem the perfect setting to look at some players who are new to the team, and whom decisions must be made quickly on.
Right? No-o-o-o-o … apparently.
The total amount of playing time Stanley, Walton and Cunningham received in Pistons exhibition games: 0
That is zip, as in not a single second did any of them see the court. On the surface, that does not seem to make sense,
You can argue they were going to end up on the Pistons’ G-League team, the Motor City Cruise no matter what, so what’s the point? OK, but In training camp, the Red Wings and Tigers let players who are ticketed to the minors see some action in the preseason. Can only help their development.
As an example, the Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers ended their respective preseason’s going against each other.
The Sixers played Shaq Harrison, their only non-guaranteed player, 23 minutes in that game. He had eight points, three steals and two assists as he helped the Sixers fourth-string rally and tie the score late against a Detroit team that was playing four of its five game starters.
Harrison was waived the next day, and will probably end up on the Sixers’ G-League team. But he got a chance to show what he could do on the big stage. Playing well in that moment will only help his confidence for the future, and help the 76ers have more confidence in him, if he needs to be called upon.