With the 2017 Orlando Pro Summer League tipping off this weekend (Saturday, July 1), Detroit Pistons basketball action is back! But pay close attention and don’t nap for too long, as just a few days later it will be over — all over. And then for nearly three months or so die-hard Pistons fans will have to feign interest in the Tigers to their friends or make themselves believe that this upcoming football season will finally be THE season for the Lions.
Okay, I admittedly actually care about the Tigers — but they’re just about the worst team in the American League right now, so it’s going to be a long summer. And talking myself all summer into believing the Lions will win a playoff game is exhausting. It becomes a mental disorder after a while because usually after the Lions’ second or third preseason game at least half of their top players are hurt or seriously banged up. It’s Lions luck. So no thanks anymore.
What needs to be said is that this Pistons Summer League stuff is a huge deal, so do enjoy every second of it (watch on NBATV or stream it here). Though, I assume if you are reading this then you are already quite invested. Just whatever you do, don’t fake being a Tigers fan when they stink. Instead, be a fair-weather fan of them from now on. It’s much easier, and besides, you’ll feel better about yourself.
Quickly, the two-way contract
As Steve Hinson helped bring to light earlier, there are 16 players on Detroit’s summer league squad vying to impress Detroit (and other teams). Because of the new two-way contract, it’s not as huge of an obstacle to make an NBA team as it was before. Still pretty tough, mind you, but 60 new jobs league wide are available:
Two-way contracts will allow a team to essentially carry two more roster spots that won’t count against the salary cap. These players, who must have less than four years of NBA experience, can be swapped between the professional level and the G-League for up to 45 days in a season.
Teams like the Golden State Warriors are already acting and making use of the two-way contract as they signed talented shot blocker Chris Boucher to go along with their second round pick (which they purchased), fellow Oregon Duck shot blocker, Jordan Bell. Meanwhile, the Pistons have done essentially nothing yet.
Pierre Jackson time
You should know that even without the two-way contract option, shooting guard stuck-in-a-point-guards’-body Pierre Jackson would still have been a real threat to make the regular roster of 15. If Pierre makes the Pistons — of course as the third-string point guard — he’ll likely not have needed any two-way contract boost, shall we say.
Again Steve Hinson brings it. To Pistons fans, soon to be 26-year-old Pierre Jackson is indeed the player during this Orlando summer league that they will “enjoy watching most.” In fact, Pierre Jackson has a good story to this point.
In the summer of 2014 Pierre ruptured his Achilles in a summer league game for the Philadelphia 76ers. It was assumed he would be the backup point guard for the 76ers for the 2014-15 season. Pierre, drafted in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft (traded to New Orleans by Philadelphia), spent much of the 2013-14 season in the D-League scoring up a storm with 29 points per game.
However, he did not receive a call-up or a deal from New Orleans. The story started to take to greener pastures you would have thought, as Pierre was traded back to Philadelphia in the summer of 2014 — which was in the heat of their “process” journey. Philadelphia lacked many veterans or even decent players, so it was a prime chance for the young Jackson to get his NBA feet wet.
The Achilles rupture then happened, as told above, and Pierre faced a long road. Yet he managed it well. He came close in the fall of 2015 as one of the final cuts in Philadelphia's training camp. Pierre returned to the D-League in early 2016 and also had a stint in Croatia. Then his 2016 fall and winter D-League showing (averaging another 29 points per game) finally cemented the fact that he should get a shot with an NBA team. The ailing Dallas Mavericks gave Pierre that shot in late December, and all told he played eight games for them last season, including one start (which he had to exit in the first half because of injury). The Mavericks eventually decided to go with Yogi Ferrell as their young point guard, and it turned out nicely for them.
While Pierre’s shooting stats in those eight games — 33 percent from the floor and 27 percent from long range — aren’t impressive, he did have some strong moments, one of which was a 12-minute showing against the Warriors in just his second NBA game action; he dished out five assists and a steal with no turnovers (although 1-6 from the field). He’s always probing and difficult to stay in front of. Still has elite athleticism.
All Pierre needs is an opening and he’s through it. His ability to shoot the three (35 percent in 67 D-League games) and attack defenses should bode well playing against second unit in the NBA (and against many non-NBA talents in summer league).
The last two clips including the Lakers might not qualify as NBA caliber competition, but it’s at least a step up from D/G League ball. There’s lots of D-League footage out there of Pierre going off for 30 or 40 points, stopping on a dime and splashing threes while on fast breaks, dunking and kissing babies. While that’s exciting and all, Pierre’s time with Dallas shows some indication that he can run an NBA team and get the ball to where it needs to go. Stan Van Gundy and company don’t need a whole lot more than that from Pierre.
If Pierre can manage the summer league team and score efficiently when needed, it should be enough for the Pistons to continue considering him as a viable third point guard option for 2017-18. The Orlando Summer League is an all-important first step.