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Previewing the Detroit Pistons 2021 Summer League Roster: John Petty Jr.

Petty Jr. can hit a three and finish at the rim. But he needs to clean up parts of his game if he wants to stick in the NBA

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Maryland at Alabama IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

John Petty Jr. is a 6-foot-5.75, 186-pound guard coming out of the University of Alabama. He posted the following per game stats in his final collegiate season:

  • 12.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks
  • 50.4% from two-point range, 37.0% from three, 73.4% from the Free Throw Line
  • 55.6% True Shooting percentage, 10.9% Assist percentage, 14.6% Turnover Rate, 19.5% Usage

What He Projects to Do Well

Like Spencer Littleson, Petty Jr. is a shooter first and foremost. He is a career 38.2% three-point shooter over his four-year career at Alabama. In those four years, 66.1% of his shots came from long range. Petty will put up a lot of shots from downtown and knock them down at a good rate. This past season, he took the most three-point shots on a three-point happy Alabama team with 208 attempts.

He is also a major heat check player who is tough to deter when he starts feeling it. Just take a look at this film against LSU last season and see how unaffected Petty Jr. is by LSU’s defense no matter what is thrown at him.

Petty Jr. is also an underrated athlete who can get up and finish on cuts and in transitions. Per hoop-math he shot 58.8% at the rim. While that might seem like a low percentage, Alabama did not play with a traditional center and Petty Jr. also slotted into a role where he had to play a power forward-like role at times.

You can see this in his stats as he pulled down the second most rebounds on the team with 165. And at 184 pounds, 58.8% is really good considering Herb Jones really was the only consistent threat at the hoop. Just pull up the highlights and you will see plenty of dunks where Petty Jr. exhibits no fear and finds a way to finish.

Aspects of His Game That Need Work

Petty Jr. needs to cut down on his freelancing ways, fit into a role spotting up on the perimeter, and keeping his positioning on defense. At Alabama, Petty Jr. was given a lot of free rein to run isos on offense and allowed to chase steals and disrupt ball handlers on defense.

In the film I watched, Petty consistently made one errant pass or lost control of the ball over-dribbling at least once per game. His ball-handling is below average, and I will show you some evidence as to why I feel that way.

Yes, I realize he scores 20 points in this game, but pay attention to when Petty Jr. handles the ball. Quite frankly, he lucks out on more than one occasion putting up contested twos or losing his handle in transition. As I stated before, these types of plays happened at least once per game in the film I watched—and more importantly, we are not seeing him use his dribble to operate out of the pick-and-roll.

Alabama and coach Nate Oats spread all five players on the court out a lot of times and then just asked the ball handler to go get theirs (as we see in this clip) through isolations. That does not and cannot happen in the NBA. Even when there are iso-type plays run, it is only reserved for guys with a top-notch handle who use that to get themselves out of trouble should they encounter it. Even if Petty Jr. only develops his handle to use a screen to get defenders to go under the screen so he can shoot threes, that will open up more opportunities for him to space the floor.

He also jumps a ton of passing lanes on films which completely disintegrate the integrity of his defense. For those out there that might come with the “well Matisse Thybulle does this and he is a high impact defender” argument, I want to remind you that Thybulle is the exception and not the rule. He does not GAMBLE jumping passing lanes, but determines when and how to make them based off constantly studying film and then applying that knowledge to the games.

Petty Jr. on the other hand, will jump at a lot of ball handlers and post players whenever he thinks he has an opportunity to make a play. Rather than keeping the defense intact and not leaving his teammates to cover for the gap in coverage he is creating, he will chase steals. I say this because I do not think he is a bas defender—I actually think he can be a positive man-to-man player, but he has to stop freelancing like this to keep his team’s defense intact.

NBA Comp and Chances of Making It Onto A Roster

An athletic shooter with questionable ball skills who will go off script every now and then, Petty Jr. profiles very similar to Swaggy P himself Nick Young. I don’t know that Petty Jr. will ever score close to 18 ppg in a season like Nick Young did, but I could definitely see him consistently make NBA rotations due to his shooting and athleticism which are hard to find.

While it may take Petty Jr. a few seasons to make a roster, he will need to stay disciplined on D, tighten up his handle, and focus in his efforts on being the best role player he can be utilizing his above average athleticism—like Swaggy P. Because, even if he doesn’t become a better defender then, like Young, his heat checks will keep him around because he is hard to stop once he gets going.

What should we expect from Petty Jr. in Summer League? He will bust as many threes as he possibly can, get out in transition to throw down the hammer, and hopefully lock in on defense to play good man-to-man coverage. I also imagine he will occasionally bust out an isolation play every now and then so brace yourself for a little bit of hero ball. Honestly, though, other than Cade he is really the only other guy on this Summer League roster to just say, “I got this” when the team can’t buy a bucket.

What are his chances of making this squad or any NBA squad this season? I’d say he has the highest odds of making someone’s squad this upcoming season because of all the factors I’ve listed thus far. I’d say something like 70%. He is a consistent threat from deep, he can get up and finish at the rim, he has defensive potential and size to guard two positions, and those heat check moments on film all are things that NBA teams want out of their role players.

Until Frank Jackson and Hamidou Diallo’s futures are decided, however, I am uncertain Petty Jr. will be on the Pistons roster this upcoming season. If one of Jackson or Diallo end up not coming back then I think his chances increase greatly, otherwise he will be looking at playing for the Cruise or catching on elsewhere as there are not going to be enough minutes to go around.

With one of the two-way contracts already going to Chris Smith, it’s even less likely Petty ends up having that option for the Pistons. I think his chance are much greater than Spencer Littleson, but still an uphill battle as long as Frank Jackson, Josh Jackson, Hamidou Diallo, and Chris Smith remain on this team.

Let us know what you think of John Petty Jr. in the comment section below! Next time, I will preview who is quite possibly the biggest mystery of all the Pistons 2021 Summer League players, Anthony Tarke.