The back-to-back Orlando Summer League runners-up debut in the desert did not go as planned, as the Pistons were blown out 90-63 by the Milwaukee Bucks. Detroit started off their summer campaign scoring eight points in the first quarter and it did not get much better from there.
While July basketball isn’t about wins and losses, you’d be hard pressed to find many positives from Friday night’s performance. The Pistons were without Luke Kennard, who’ll remain absent from Las Vegas hoops, with a left knee strain he suffered earlier this week during Monday’s practice. Instead it was Henry Ellenson and the two rookies, Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown Jr., who were tasked with carrying the offensive load - and who were being closely analyzed for their defensive performances.
This is Ellenson’s third year playing summer basketball. Ellenson averaged 18 points per game last year and appeared ready to take a major step up in production for the 2017-18 Pistons. It’s completely reasonable to expect a standout performance from Ellenson, knowing Dwane Casey will be reliant on the junior power forward next season.
Whether it was nerves or just an off night, Ellenson was almost unwatchable in the first half. He missed his first four three point attempts, turned the ball over, and seemed as raw as ever on the defensive side of the ball. He was bullied in the paint, roasted on pick and roll switches, and regularly lost his man when guards got penetration into the paint. Ellenson had a much more productive second half; he hit his lone three pointer (1-6 for the night), more aggressively drove to the hoop, and got to the line regularly (7-7 from the stripe). He finished the night scoring 16 points on 4-11 shooting, and nabbed five rebounds in the process. Expect a bounce back from Ellenson in his next outing.
Khyri Thomas also showed some nerves, missing his first look and having back-to-back turnovers in the first quarter. He was tenacious on defense and displayed an impressive lateral quickness on ball. That quickness coupled with his 6’10 wingspan should allow Thomas to hold his own against NBA competition.
He finished shooting 2-4 from three point land (and 0-4 from two), splashing a couple spot up threes, and displaying a quick release that’ll hopefully immediately transfer to the regular season. Thomas finished the night with six points and two steals in 27 minutes of action. Hopefully the Pistons will call Thomas’ number more regularly Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Bruce Brown Jr.
Last, but certainly not least, is Bruce Brown Jr. Brown jumped off the screen as an in-your-face defender, that possesses natural athleticism and a quick first step with the ball in his hands. He made solid decisions when he had the rock, regularly looking for guys either behind the arc or cutting towards the basket. He was a bully down low, grabbing boards, and going up strong in the paint, and while some of his shots didn’t find the bottom of the net, they never seemed ill advised.
Brown (to my knowledge) only brought the ball up once or twice after a made basket by the Bucks, but appeared to have a comfortable handle on the break. You’d hope that Detroit would allow Brown to play more point guard, as that was regularly his role his sophomore season at the University of Miami. He finished the night with seven points and five boards, shooting 2-7 from the floor and 1-2 from three. (QUESTIONABLE stats on the NBA stats page)
If you were able to catch the game, what were some of your takeaways?!