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John Hammonds watches Alex Acker and Cheick Samb

Keith Langlois has an excellent piece on Alex Acker and Cheick Samb on John Hammonds, Pistons VP of basketball operations, just got back from Europe to watch those two play and he came back impressed.

Acker is currently playing at the highest level of European basketball and making a surprising impact for Olympiakos of Athens, which improved to 6-1 with a Wednesday win over Cologne to stay in first place in Group A.

Acker, a 6-foot-5 guard who left Pepperdine after his junior year, is seventh in Euroleague scoring at 16 points a game and he’s also in the top 10 in steals (2.6) and rebounds (7.3) and averaging 2.7 assists. They’ve devised a composite statistical ranking of Euroleague players and Acker comes in fifth in that category.

"He’s playing extremely well," Hammond said. "I can’t think of Alex being in a better situation for himself and for us, selfishly, as a team. You’re talking about an extremely high level of basketball against veteran players in heated competition and before extremely loud crowds and tough places to play.

Acker was moved to point guard in training camp last year because of Lindsey Hunter's injury, but he's moved back to shooting guard in Europe, much to the delight of Hammonds.

"It’s his natural position," Hammond said. "But when we say he’s playing the wing, don’t think he’s not handling the ball. That’s a guard-loaded team. If he were over there playing the point guard position, we would actually be disappointed."

Acker signed a two-year deal with Olympiakos but has the option to opt-out should the Pistons open up a roster spot for him next year. Either way, as long as he's over there the Pistons retain his rights.

Dumars and Hammond had plenty to say about Samb, too:

Samb was something of a mystery man on draft night when the Pistons swapped Evans to the Lakers for his rights, ostensibly to clear playing time for Carlos Delfino but also because the Pistons had become intrigued with Samb, a 7-foot-1 "freak," as Dumars admiringly refers to him.

"That’s what he is – a freak," Dumars said. "You have to see him play. Seven-foot and the ability to block everything around the basket. A nice jump shot. He can really shoot the ball. Kind of a Jack Sikma. Shoots it from up high, kind of like Rasheed (Wallace). People will like him."

NBA personnel people sure did this summer when he played with the Pistons’ summer team in Las Vegas. One Western Conference GM asked Dumars if he wanted to talk trade. One Eastern GM was dumbfounded that the Pistons got him with what amounted to a late second-round pick. And another Eastern GM offered a player currently in his starting five for the rights to Samb.

"He is extremely – extremely – long," Hammond said. "He has great, natural, God-given timing as a shot-blocker and he’s legitimately 7 feet tall with an extremely nice shooting touch. It’s fun when you have a big guy who can pop out and make the 10-, 12-foot jump shot. And he makes his free throws."

Honestly, I'm shocked. I don't know if Dumars is exaggerating, but someone offered a starter? I questioned whether Samb would even become a legitimate rotation player, but it sounds like the front office likes his ceiling. He's playing second division ball in Spain (which Hammonds rates as the equivalent of NBDL over here) where he's getting serious playing time:

He’s averaging 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes a game. As a testament to Samb’s touch, he’s even made 3 of 5 3-point shots.

Samb is under contract with his current club (WTC Cornella) for this year and next, and it's probably the best thing for him -- he's not going to get anywhere near that type of playing time here, and he's still a young player. Also, Hammonds said that he's now about 230 pounds, which is still rail-thin for a seven-footer, but added that he has the frame to hopefully get to about 250 before crossing the lake.

Euro Ballers []