Detroit Pistons: 3 takeaways from the first two Summer League games

Ausar Thompson #9 of Detroit Pistons (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)
Ausar Thompson #9 of Detroit Pistons (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Pistons, James Wiseman
James Wiseman #13 of Detroit Pistons (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images) /

Unlike most teams, the Detroit Pistons have a great deal riding on Summer League play. Key players are suiting up, giving the new coaching staff it’s first look at some of the promising young talent on this roster. Both Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, who all but solidified their role in the starting unit after strong rookie seasons last year, have played in the summer league contests, while other players like Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser look to find their footing with their new team.

After two games there’s plenty to discuss about the Pistons, who currently have a 1-1 record in the NBA’s annual Las Vegas event. They handled the Orlando Magic with a strong defensive effort, in which they held them to fewer than 80 points winning 89-78 in their debut. The Houston Rockets proved to be a a more formidable opponent, led by  second year forward Jabari Smith Jr’s brilliance ending in a 101-113 loss.

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The NBA Summer League can be up and down for teams as young players get acclimated and fan overreactions are common. Making evaluations on players during Summer League or assessing their impact once the regular season roster is established isn’t as easy as it seems. However we’ve identified three things early on, some could translate over from these games, others should be eliminated all together.

Detroit Pistons: Is James Wiseman going to start?

James Wiseman is now going into his fourth NBA season, and is getting the opportunity to lead his team as veteran presence in Summer League. He’s preparing for his first full season with the Detroit Pistons, who envisioned a “two big” lineup pairing him with Duren after acquiring him in a mid-season trade last year. He’s shown some positive signs in his development leaving some fans optimistic.

Can the “two big” starting unit be here to stay?

James Wiseman’s rebounding and scoring around the basket has been solid in the summer exhibitions, currently averaging 16.5 points 11.5 rebounds and a block. He’s growing as a player, but I’m not so sure the “two big” lineup is growing on weary fans. There are some areas he needs to be more assertive in if he wants to be in the Pistons long term future as a starter.

Shooting from the outside is key to making this pairing work out, Wiseman seems reluctant to add this to his offensive game. He’s shot only four attempts from long range so far in Summer League, when he should be utilizing this opportunity to expand his game building confidence along the way. Stepping outside and getting some quality looks could help ease the pressure as the two young bigs find ways to play off each other.

Defensively Wiseman has all the tools to be an effective rim protector, unfortunately we haven’t seen that in Summer League. He was embarrassed against second year wing Jabari Smith Jr, allowing him to score 38  points on 13/25 (over 50%) shooting. His +/- hasn’t been what you’ll expect from a second overall pick entering his fourth season either. He’s a plus two in that category going into the Toronto Raptors game, which will be followed up with a big game against number one draft pick Victor Wembenyama (he’ll probably be shutdown prior to the game) in the team’s finale.

Without shooting it’ll be hard to see this tandem working, so expect Wiseman to come off the bench. Duren has shown a unique passing ability for his size that fits well with Monty Williams’ coaching style. Although he’s still the youngest player on the roster he’s the best option at center. It’s all about fit more so than skill set, Wiseman can be featured off the bench adding some much needed interior scoring. While a more modern day forward in the starting unit can provide quality spacing. It’s time to end the concept of a “two big” lineup for the betterment of all.