Ray McCallum and I go back. Well, he doesn't know me, but we still go back.
During my junior year at Central Michigan University; the talk of the town regarding local college hoops was focused on two of Michigan's premier high school players, Trey Zeigler and Ray McCallum. Both of these players decided to skip the major conferences to play for their fathers; Zeigler at CMU (In Trey We Trust!) and McCallum at the University of Detroit Mercy.
While this was an honorable gesture, it only proved to be successful for the latter of those two players, seeing that McCallum was able to realize his dream of making an NBA roster, while Zeigler has struggled to make it past Summer League ball. Since then, it's been an uphill battle for the former college hoops star out of Detroit.
McCallum has hopped around the league after being drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2013. Since the Kings are an awfully ran organization, it made sense when it didn't work out for him in Sacramento. Wrong organization, wrong fit, too many guards. After R.C. Buford of the San Antonio Spurs traded for McCallum following the 2015 season, I thought his fortunes would change, seeing how the Spurs have a knack for turning fringe NBA players into borderline All-stars. I was wrong.
2015-2016 Season Review
McCallum played in a total of 31 games with the Spurs. He struggled to get playing time (averaging 8.3 minutes per game) behind the likes of starter Tony Parker, Patrick Mills, Kyle Anderson (who plays a little PG every now and then even though he's listed as a SF) and even Andre Miller, who was playing in his 16th NBA season.
He barely sniffed the floor, which makes it hard to get an adequate read on his season with a sample size so small. But Greg Popovich does not take kindly to unproductive players. McCallum's numbers were not impressive to say the least. He shot 40% overall, and 31% from three. He put up 2.2 PPG, 1.0 RPG, and 1.1 APG and he didn't finish the season with the Spurs after being waived shortly after the All-star break.
When it didn't work out in San Antonio, the legitimate questions on whether or not McCallum would stick around the league began to surface. If Pop couldn't get the most out of him, who could?
Following his time with the Spurs, he was signed to a couple of 10-day contracts by the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizz, to put it lightly, had a tumultuous season last year. They signed a preposterous 28 players during the 2015-16 season. So many in fact, that the guys at The Starters had a game they called "Did this guy play for the Memphis Grizzlies?" where they'd say random names, and ask that very question (it was one of my favorite bits of last season, love those guys). McCallum was not signed following his second 10-day contract.
First things first: McCallum has to make this team. He signed a one year deal and will have to outplay Lorenzo Brown for the final back up point guard spot. If he's able to make the squad, he'll then have to battle for playing time behind Ish Smith, who will be the premier backup going into next season.
Looking at last season as a referent point, Stan Van Gundy rarely used three point guards in a singular game (with each guard playing significant minutes). When Jennings was healthy, Blake sat. Post $WAG; Blake played, Dinwiddie sat. McCallum will have to capitalize on his playing time if he wants to make a mark on this Pistons team, and not spend the majority of his tenure in Grand Rapids.
So what does that mean? McCallum will have to do all of the little things at a high level. He will not be seen as a primary scorer on the second unit and while he has the ability to knock down the three (career average of 33%), that is not the bulk of what Stan will ask from him.
It should be noted that McCallum is at his best when he's off the dribble and in the open floor, either finishing himself in the paint, or getting teammates involved in transition. The fast break is where he'll be best showcase his skill set. We all remember last season, when the Pistons' second team were forced to play in a half-court offense, they struggled mightily. So expect a quicker tempo when McCallum's in the game.
As soon as you see Stan Van Gundy's hands in the air more than three times during an Ish Smith-dribble-dribble-dribble-possession, you'll know it'll be McCallum's time to prove himself.
12 minutes, 5 points, 3 assists, .05 turnovers, and a very low-key LeBron James style "coming home" narrative within the Detroit area.