When the Pistons signed Tyler Cook to a 10-day contract, I had no reaction to it. I knew nothing about him and wasn’t going to pretend that I did. He was an athletic four who couldn’t shoot — generally a non-starter in the modern NBA. However, his thunderous left-handed dunks became fun to watch as the season went on.
As “injuries” piled up for the Pistons down the stretch, Cook became a regular rotation member and became fun for me to watch even though he doesn’t do much else on a basketball court except for dunk.
There was a lot of frustration with Tyler Cook early on because he was taking minutes away from Sekou Doumbouya. Neither player can shoot reliably yet and did a lot of the same things on the court, Tyler Cook just did them better, which is to be expected from a 23-year-old who spent four years in college.
The Pistons were also trying to evaluate him while he was on a 10-day contract. Dwane Casey said he loved Cook’s defensive communication, and he was a low-maintenance player on offense.
Cook showed enough flashes to not only earn a 2nd 10-day contract, but eventually a multi-year contract that is non-guaranteed for next season.
Who doesn’t love dunks? That’s basically all Tyler Cook does, but he does it really well. He is a right-handed player, but had a tendency to throw down a lot of left-handed dunks. He would dunk off of lobs, dunk on the fastbreak, and dunk out of cuts. A one-dimensional offensive player who only dunks is not a future cornerstone player, but they can have a role on a good team, especially when they do it well. He showed flashes of a post game/hook shot, but nothing that you are going to build an offense around.
Dwane Casey praised Tyler Cook for his defensive communication shortly after he was signed. He is a decent team defender that can move pretty well for somebody of his size. He rebounds pretty well, and actually averaged 1 offensive rebound per game. That is pretty decent for somebody who averaged 3.3 rebounds per game.
It is hard to pick out anything that Tyler Cook is “good” at outside of dunking. He does a lot of things decently, but doesn’t really have any standout skills. He knows his role and sticks to it, which is valuable because every team needs players that know their role.
Tyler Cook cannot shoot at all. He did make one corner three but outside of that all of his offense came from in the paint. It is not a terrible thing, especially for a guy who knows this and doesn’t try to do anything else. But it makes it tough to find a position for him. He has the size of a four, but doesn’t have the offensive game for it. He can play the five in a pinch, as he did many times, but it is not the best position for him.
This is the reason why he was available and has been on four different teams in only two seasons since going undrafted out of Iowa.
For a rebuilding team like the Pistons, you are generally looking for players with a high ceiling. That player is not Tyler Cook. He pretty much is what he is at this point. He might develop a corner 3, but he is never going to be a player that shoots the ball outside of the paint consistently. He is pretty athletic and plays team defense, but there isn’t much more room for growth on that end either.
All teams need role players, and that is what Cook is. He might stick around because he is still young and did some things this year. But he is likely the first player who gets let go if the Pistons need a roster spot for a player with a perceived higher ceiling.
Should He Stay or Should He Go?
There really isn’t anything that Tyler Cook does great, but he is decent at some things, like defense and passing for his size, but his only real standout skill is his dunking ability. I think the fact that he was on a 10-day contract helps him a bit because the expectations weren’t as high for him. A one-dimensional offensive player who is a decent defender isn’t some crazy find by the franchise. But Cook knows his role and doesn’t try to deviate off that, and players like that can have a place on any team.
As the roster currently stands, he might be worth keeping around next year. However, that could quickly change if the Pistons end up making all of their four draft picks or sign a free agent or two.
He showed some things that might allow him to stick around next season depending on who the team brings in. And if that team is not the Pistons, he can probably find another team that can use him as a role player off the bench.