I don’t know if you heard, but Pistons’ 37th pick in the last draft, the Lithuanian Deividas Sirvydis, will be stashed in Europe in the coming season. Per Keith Langlois: "Sirvydis will spend the season in his native Lithuania". Since his Lithuanian club, Rytas Vilnius, starts the season in less than a week, Pistons fans' season starts a little bit earlier this year.
The trade for the rights to Deividas was a real head scratch for me. In other moves this offseason, Detroit’s FO did a pretty decent job. As was pointed by Sean, they’ve purged the roster of players with "truly horrendous" on-off splits. They’ve added significant ammo to our bench which was at most pedestrian last year, despite Ish’s efforts to wreak havoc in ranks of enemy (see this from this post). They’ve also addressed our lack of reliable three point shooting. They’ve finally solved the PG depth problem, which had haunted us at least since the other Pistons Blake (that is Steve Blake), as well as turned Jon Leuer into much needed good 3 and D SF and get us a FRP (turned later into 4 SRP) in that process. Yes, they haven’t brought any new superstars but the stars this team has, as Laz meticulously calculated, are on par with other big threes in Eastern Conference. So they strengthen the supporting crew, while also making the team better equipped to make a move for a top player when the opportunity arrives.
They did all this by using scarce resources prudently. Yet, on the draft night, they gave 3 SRP for one European SRP. I understand the roster flexibility this provides and stuff, but still…
On the other hand, even if we can rise objections about this move, we can’t be sure that it wasn’t worth it. Only the future will tell whether or not it was. So instead of picking a fight we can’t resolve at the moment, I want to propose something else. To understand the judgment of the future, we need to have a measuring point in the present. Thus I want to present some breakdowns of Deividas’ last season efforts which will allow us to measure his progress (or lack of thereof) on the path to becoming a rotational piece for our franchise. (In the clips, he’s number 0 in white or black.)
The first clip isn’t pretty. Who am I kidding – it’s ugly, plain and simple. But we need to go through it. OK, I know we are dealing here with some scary matters, but we can’t run or hide from it. And when we look a little closer, we can find some daylight, too. This is the whole sequence. At the beginning, Deividas is ball-watching and reacts too late when his man starts to run. Consequently, he trails the play and can easily has his ankles broken even without a real ankle-breaker. This can be eliminated with proper training. So the first thing to watch in the coming season will be the progress in his awareness. In addition, he recovers quite quickly. So all this is good or, at least, not bad or, at least, not that bad.
However, we still have the bad here. Namely, his footwork. As can be seen more clearly here, his stance is a little too high, he’s a little too inflexible and fidgety in his motion. But this problem can be disarmed with the following formula. Henry Ellenson was worse in those regards when he came to the NBA. After one year he made some progress in them. Since Deividas’ lateral and overall movement is better than Henry’s, and he’s quicker, too – he’s generally pretty quick: here’s a sample of his chase downs (we’ll see the ending of the second chase down soon) – so, though Elleson’s progress wasn’t enough to stay in Detroit, if Sirvydis’ will make a similar progress he should be fine. And this is the next thing to watch in his stashed development in Europe.
Turning now to the ending of second chase down play we just saw. Deividas is so quick that he can make up for the distance that, at the beginning, separates him from the opponent and face him on his side under the basket. But there isn’t a Tayshaun-esque ending to this chase down block attempt. We can name two reasons for this state of affairs. First, Deividas’ lack of length. He has negative wingspan (6’7.5 height w/o shoes with 6’7.25 wingspan). Second, his thin frame. He rather won’t get any longer. But he could become a little bit stronger. And, it seems, he already has. The chase down play comes from a game played in January. On this film, which comes from a game played in late May, we see him giving some resistance to 40lbs heavier and taller Aaron White (though, in the second play, Deivids’ lack of length strikes again). So becoming stronger and learning how to overcome lack of length using his quickness and BBIQ become another measures of Lithuanian development in coming season.
Speaking about BBIQ, Deividas needs the game to slowdown for him. We’ve already seen the ugly results of his ball-watching. Here we can see not pretty results of his bad positioning. With his youthful eagerness for hustle, he sometimes recovers. But he should show more awareness. Sometimes the problem is that he tries to do too much and, in switch heavy schemes of Rytas, gets lost. Thus, awareness, BBIQ become yet another, maybe the biggest, thing we can use to measure Sirvydis defensive development. When he’ll make progress with them, he should be able to turn his hyper activity, eagerness to hustle and to do it all, we so in the latest clip, into this kind of plays, which already show flashes of versatile perimeter defender who with proper development can gain recognition in the eyes of our defensive oriented coach.
As regards Deividas’ offense, he mostly stay in the corner and shoots threes when he gets the ball, which doesn’t occur too often. He actively position himself there and doesn’t force the issue. With his quickness and (hyper) active involvement in perimeter defense, he’s able to run fast and find a right place for himself in the corner in transition. Last year, he had a 36,4 3P% combined on 3,25 attempts per game (the stats include his brief stint in second tier Lithuanian league, where he made 40,5% of his triples on more than 12 attempts per game; if we exclude it, he had a 35,4 3P% overall, but he had a 46,3 3P% against better competition in Eurocap). We need him to be better. And this will be a first thing to watch in his offense in the coming season.
However, corner threes don’t exhaust Deividas’ offensive potential. As we can see in these clips, he could be a force as a pull up shooter or driver/playmaker coming off pin-downs, DHOs and P&R. He doesn’t play them often. The reason is Rytas’ offensive schemes which put him in the corner. We can understand this. Last season, Deividas was eighteen year old kid playing grown men’s game. But, beside this, there is something on his side that makes Rytas coach, Dainius Adomaitis, confining his offensive role. This is what I mean. In the film we can see that Sirvydis doesn’t trust too much his dribble while facing the opponent, and resorts to dribbling with his back to opponent. As we can observe in the first play, he sometimes can uphold quite good court vision in these situations. Nevertheless, as we can observe in the second play, he limits his ability to attack and doesn’t see everything (he instinctively passes to the roller unaware that the passing lane is closed by helping defender who deflect the ball, auspiciously this time, to Deividas’ teammate). It’s not like the Lithuanian can’t dribble facing the defender: we’ve already seen some examples and, in the last film that’ll show his play against his peers, we’ll find many other examples. He just needs to start doing this confidently while playing with pros. And this is another thing I want to point as something to measure Deividas’ offensive development.
OK, we went through some film on our European SRP and we indicate quite a few things he has to work on. However, we need to keep in mind that those were the clips of eighteen year old kid playing with grown men. While he needs to do some work to match their play, when he plays with his peers (here’s some film) he can be quite dominant. He was MVP of Euroleague Basketball Next Generation Tournament (known as Adidas Next Generation Tournament) in 2018. And that puts him in the ranks of such European players like Donatas Motiejūnas, Dario Šarić and Luka Dončić. If, in his upcoming season, he’ll make enough progress in things we’ve just discussed, the path should be open for him to follow the NBA success of at least the first two.
And... this just might be all it takes for me to stop wondering why we gave up three SRP to select him this year.