Orlando Summer League kicks off today with the Detroit Pistons in action from 5pm EST to play the newly minted Oklahoma City Thunder, fresh off their acquisition of Paul George for relative peanuts. However, that means nothing today, as it’s a battle of scrappers and fighters looking to force their way onto an NBA roster.
If you’ve somehow missed who the Pistons will be fielding, Rod Beard of the Detroit News has the roster here.
There’s some interesting names there, so the purpose of today’s article is to give a power ranking of sorts of the guys on the roster, in terms of their chances at earning a roster spot, or, at least, a training camp invitation.
PLAYING FOR AN OVERSEAS/G-LEAGUE SHOT
The brutally honest nature of Summer League is that a lot of these guys are playing for deals in other leagues and, hence, are really just making up the numbers. That’s not to say they don’t have any shot at an NBA roster, but I’d view it as highly unlikely the Pistons would carry them through after this week.
Will Davis II
Davis was a four-year man at UC Irvine before going undrafted in 2015. He spent a year overseas in Europe with Kolossos Rodou BC in Greece, before returning stateside to play for the Reno Bighorns in the D-League. 25 when the season starts, the 6-foot-8 forward is a non-shooter, not hitting a single three for Reno, averaging just under 10 points with 4 rebounds.
Yes, he is the older brother of Rondae, Brooklyn Nets swingman, but is less likely to land himself an NBA deal. At 26 already, he was undrafted in 2013 coming out of Temple, before playing in Luxembourg and Canada, as well as the D-League with Delaware. Last season for the Orangeville A’s in Canada’s NBL, he averaged a hair under 18 points a game, but, like his sibling, isn’t a great shooter, hitting just over 32% from 3. Rebounds well for a 6’6” guy though, grabbing over 7 a game in Canada.
Undrafted in 2016 out of SMU, Kennedy is already 25, having redshirted a year after transferring from Villanova. One year removed, and after a season in the D-League for Rio Grande Valley, the 6-foot-9 forward is a big body at 245 pounds, but scored a measly 18 points in 14 appearances for the Vipers, grabbing 11 rebounds in 56 total minutes.
Simmons is the token veteran on the team, having turned 29 in January. A D-League lifer, he’s averaged 5.4 points per game in 115 appearances for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Grand Rapids Drive. He also has two games of NBA experience from a few seasons ago with the Bulls, but my guess would be this is more to get Simmons exposure to Europe or other D-League scouts.
Wells is 25 years old and has spent the last two years in the D-League with the OKC Blue, where he averaged 12.7 points per game in 47 games, hitting 33.5 percent of his triples in that span. Undrafted in 2015 out of Maryland, he has also played in Greece briefly, and even has one preseason appearance for the Thunder.
Willis, out of Kentucky, is the only undrafted rookie on the roster for this Summer League. In 105 appearances for the Kentucky Wildcats over four seasons, Willis averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 15.1 minutes. What likely got Willis onto the roster is that he was a 39.9 percent 3-point shooter over his Kentucky career, but the 22-year-old has a long road to get an invite.
COULD FILL A NEED
This next group of players are guys that play positions where the Pistons are a little thin on the depth chart, and hence there’s a clearer path for them to get a training camp invite. They may also be familiar names to you.
Freeman was on the Pistons roster right up until cut day last preseason, where he was assigned to the Grand Rapids Drive along with Nikola Jovanovic after being waived. Undrafted in 2016, the 6-foot-2 has some (very minimal exposure, but some) familiarity with the system, and with the Pistons looking for a third point guard, Freeman is in with a chance. He played 39 games for Grand Rapids (18 starts), averaging 5.7 points and 2.2 assists, shooting 32.5 percent from downtown. There are, however, better options ahead of him, hence his placement here and not in the next category.
A big body at 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds, the Cameroonian native was undrafted in 2016 after 128 games for the Clemson Tigers, where he averaged 5.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Spending last season in Italy with Consultinvest VL Pesaro, Nnoko averaged 6.4 points and 7.1 rebounds, but struggled with a 51 percent success rate. Like Freeman, Nnoko plays a position of need, but there may be better options ahead of him, but at 23, has time. Also, his middle name is Christ, which is cool.
Once the NBA league leader in PER, Moreland has had a rocky career due to injuries. Undrafted in 2014 out of Oregon State and being signed by the Kings, Moreland appeared in 11 NBA games for the Kings between 2014-16, not breaking the point per game barrier. As I said before, Moreland has been hampered by injuries, namely a torn labrum in his shoulder, and a fractured foot, but showed promise in the D-League last season for Canton, averaging 12.8 points and 12.2 rebounds. He is 25, and his chance to play in the NBA may have gone, but Moreland is definitely a very intriguing option, and I would not be surprised if he at least got a training camp invite from Detroit.
REAL SHOT AT A ROSTER SPOT
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Lorenzo Brown has a real chance at earning a roster spot this season, especially with the introduction of two way contracts. He’s been around the Pistons since the 2015-16 season, even being signed to the roster late in the season and not dressing during the #CompetitiveSweep against the Cavs. With 63 NBA games under his belt (none for the Pistons), he has starred in Grand Rapids the last couple of years, especially last year, averaging 23.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4 assists. He also hit 35 percent of his triples, which is big considering he isn’t known as a shooter, but will be 27 when the NBA season starts.
Jackson is only 5-foot-10 (generously), but is an excellent scorer for his size. Drafted 42nd overall in 2013, he has only 9 games in the NBA to his name, last season for Dallas before injuring his hamstring. Injuries have been a common theme for Pierre, having missed large chunks of his first few years with both Philadelphia and New Orleans due to complaints, but he is a D-League star, averaging 22.5 points, 7.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds last season for the Texas Legends. He also attempted 6.7 threes per game, hitting over 37 percent of them, and is an electric option off the bench if the team goes this way.
By far possessing the most NBA experience on the roster, Thompson has 265 games in the big time under his belt, largely with the processing Sixers from 2013-17, where he was waived and subsequently signed by the Pelicans. Thompson is a 6-foot-8 swingman who was undrafted in 2012 out of Georgetown. A known marksman, Thompson has a 3P% of 38.6 percent, firing over 3.5 a game. With career averages of 7.7 points and 3.1 assists, he could be cheap and versatile wing depth to replace Reggie Bullock, as Thompson, despite his height, is more versed to playing SG/SF rather than SF/PF. He has also been durable in his career, never playing less than 70 games in a season until last year’s circumstances.
Tobey is a big man at 7 feet tall and weighing 260 pounds. Undrafted in 2016 out of Virginia, he played two games last season for the Charlotte Hornets (one of which was against the Pistons). During his Cavaliers career, Tobey averaged 6.8 points and 4 rebounds in 138 games, largely coming off the bench. While they’re not tremendous numbers, he was super productive in the D-League for the Greensboro Swarm, averaging 12 points and 9 rebounds per game in 26.7 minutes. He’s also theoretically a stretch 5, but his percentages both in college and the D-League don’t echo that sentiment, but he can be a nice young big to throw behind Boban, as Tobey is still only 22.
I don’t need to say too much about Ellenson, Gbinije or Kennard do I? They’re known quantities, and although Gbinije may find himself waived, and Kennard is a rookie, we somewhat expect them to be on the roster.
The very real possibility is none of these guys will find themselves on the Pistons come October, but with two way contracts now a thing, the avenue is there. The Pistons may be looking for more veteran guys to fill holes on the roster, but there is certainly some talent in their Summer League offering this season.
- Hollis Thompson
- Pierre Jackson
- Mike Tobey
- Lorenzo Brown
- Eric Moreland
- Trey Freeman
- Landry Nnoko
Who do you think has the best shot at making the Pistons roster? Comment below.