Kyle Singler: 2013-14 Detroit Pistons Preview

USA TODAY Sports

Energy and a strong start shooting the ball earned Kyle Singler big minutes as a rookie. Will he find the same opportunities in a revamped roster?

2013-14 Projected Production

Kyle Singler’s rookie season was a perfect example of making an opportunity where none exists.

He entered the season as one of six small forwards, but his energy level stood out in the preseason and his year in Europe added a polish to his game unusual for rookies. This immediately cemented him in Lawrence Frank’s rotation.

Awful starts out of Brandon Knight, Will Bynum, and Rodney Stuckey created a need to get creative in the backcourt. After ringing up eight straight losses, Singler’s strong shooting led to Stuckey suggesting that he move to the bench with Singler taking the starting shooting guard job. The result? An 18 point blowout win against Philadelphia, thanks in large part to 16 points in 40 minutes out of the rookie.

The Pistons managed nearly a month of .500 ball before the bottom fell out from both Singler and the team. A six game losing streak coincided with a shooting slump that ended the honeymoon. Though he continued to bring the energy and was better than expected defensively, he battled inconsistency from the outside for the rest of the season. And if his shot wasn’t falling, he was mostly invisible.

Singler remained a fixture in the starting lineup, shifting to small forward after the Tayshaun Prince trade brought Jose Calderon to Detroit. He ended the year with respectable figures compared to his rookie class: second in minutes, sixth in scoring, fourth in three pointers, eighth in rebounds, and eighth in steals. Nice for a second round pick, and good enough to make the NBA All-Rookie second team.

But numbers such as .050 wins produced per 48 (compared to .099 league average) and 51.7% true shooting (54% league average for small forwards) inspired questions for the 24-year-old’s upside.

Areas to Improve in 2013-14

Singler’s rookie year came as a nice surprise. He was fine as a warm body for a 29 win team. But he’ll be faced with rising expectations as a sophomore along with a competition for minutes. With the team looking for a dramatically increased win total and turning 25 years old, he’ll need to define his role and take steps forward in what he offers to the team.

Is he a three point specialist? Then he’ll need to push to crack the top 25 or so, which would take a jump from a percentage in the mid 30s to the low 40s. It’s doable, but it is a considerable leap. He has only surpassed 40% in his stint in Europe, though he knocked on the door as junior at Duke when he shot 39.9%. Last year, he posted two months with his three point percentage in the 40s, two in the 30s, and two in the 20s. Ironing these splits out would be a big step in the right direction. He'll also need to put up more shots as one three per game just isn't enough production, even if it does come at a nice percentage.

Or is he a three and D guy? In this case an incremental jump to the high 30s would be acceptable, but he’d need to be able to take advantage of the shot blockers behind him and tighten up his defense a bit more. He was surprisingly solid defensively last year, particularly when he was able to take advantage of his length in the post and challenging shots. This might be the more attainable route for him this year – and it’d be great if he were able to take a step toward becoming a Shane Battier clone, something Garrett Elliott suggested last year.

2013-14 Projected Production

In what will become a recurring theme with wing players this year, Kyle Singler’s season could go a number of different directions. There's a crowded depth chart at shooting guard and small forward with no real idea on how the rotation will shake out. And with the signing of Luigi Datome, Singler faces competition from a player who offers many of the same skills but is likely a superior talent. He has his work cut out for him and once again it’ll take a combination of luck and effort to find consistent minutes.

Almost certainly, he’s looking at a decrease in minutes from last year. But right now Singler has three things going for him:

1. The incumbency at starting shooting guard. The position looks to be wide open going into the preseason, both for starter and backup minutes. As Stuckey may have a claim for the de facto starter at the position, Singler held the spot most recently – and most successfully. He has the opportunity to once again impress early and cling on.

2. The need for outside shooting, especially in the starting lineup. If it’s Stuckey and Singler with the inside track at starting shooting guard, this puts Singler at the increased advantage.

3. The lack of commitment to Smith at small forward. Bad news for big men trying to crack the rotation, good news for those fighting for backup minutes at the 3.

Singler has flown under the radar once again this off-season, but he could once again have a sneakily interesting season. Even if he doesn't manage to take the next step with a defined role, his knack for keeping himself relevant will continue to make him a tremendous bargain and should help him carve out a nice long career.

Prediction:

17 minutes per game, 6 points per game, 2.5 rebounds, 38 3pt%

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