The mass COVID-19 outbreak has forced teams across the NBA to get a close look at various players on 10-day hardship deals. Some teams like the Detroit Pistons are using these hardship contracts to give G-League players an opportunity while other teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks are bringing in veterans, like former Pistons Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight.
All season, the Pistons have had Jamorko Picket and Chris Smith on two-way contracts. In the case of Chris Smith, it was an opportunity to bring in a player who was injured in college and was in consideration as a possible first-round pick before his injury. Even though he hasn’t played yet, it was an expectation that his two-way slot was essentially going to be “wasted,” as the Pistons had him under contract during his rehab hoping it would pay off at the end of the season and beyond.
Jamorko Pickett had a huge breakout during the Las Vegas Summer League and followed that up with a promising performance in training camp and earned a two-way deal from the Pistons, who created a two-way spot for him by converting Luka Garza’s two-way deal into a full-time NBA contract. In the G-League, Pickett has put together a decent season to justify the two-way deal. He is averaging 15.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists while shooting 38 percent from 3-point range.
However, over the last four games, the Pistons have seemingly gone in a different direction than giving Pickett a bunch of minutes to see what he can do. To top it all off, the minutes he has played have been rough. Against the Miami Heat on Dec. 23, he played 15 minutes and was 0-of-2 from the field, both of which were three-pointers. He didn’t do much of anything else to impact the game. He followed that up with 18 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 26 and was 0-of-7 from the field and 0-of-4 from 3-point range. He once again looked a bit lost and barely impacted the game. He didn’t exactly look the part of somebody on the fringes of being a full-time member of the NBA.
Even guys that got minimal playing time like Micah Potter found some way to look like they at least belonged out there.
Pickett’s value comes in his length defensively and ability to shoot, but when he isn’t really doing that, his issues with handling the ball are really glaring.
After struggling in both of the games he actually got minutes in, he got no playing time against the New York Knicks on Dec. 29 and only 5 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 1.
Jamorko Pickett was always going to be a project. But as somebody who played college for four years and is already 24 years old, you have to show some kind of promise in order to justify sticking around on a two-way deal. A 24-year-old who is this raw as a player has a very low likelihood of becoming a legit NBA player. The measurables and shooting potential leave some level of intrigue, but you have to be able to do more than he has shown at his age to justify sticking around. Teams use these contracts for different reasons, but if your two-way guys can’t even be trusted to play spot minutes when depth is challenged then you start to wonder if a change is needed. That is even more important when the team is already “wasting” one of their two-way spots, and is bad enough like the Pistons who can cycle players through auditions in spot and rotation minutes.
Guys like Cassius Stanley and Justin Robinson have at least shown a bit of promise in the minutes they have received and both are either younger or the same age as Pickett. Granted, both players have at least been around the NBA before this season. Stanley in particular has shown some promise defensively and is a high-level athlete that has shown the ability to knock down open shots. The Pistons do not have a ton of high-end athletes, so it could be worth giving Stanley a shot on a two-way. He has at least proven to be reliable when thrust into more minutes as he showed with his 19 point performance against the San Antonio Spurs.
Stanley has the benefit of having a season under his belt after spending last season with the Indiana Pacers on a two-way contract, so that has played a role in him being seemingly more ready than Pickett. However, given the fact he is still only 22, there is a bit more room for growth. Even somebody like Micah Potter at least showed something more in his limited minutes than Pickett ever did, and he has only been around the team for about a week.
Pickett was a good story coming into camp, but you have to prove you are ready when your number is called. Or at least show you are more ready than a player who has been with the organization for 48 hours. There was no better time to do that than when the Pistons have 11 players out with COVID or injuries. Pickett might have ruined his chance while other players showed some level of intrigue.
You don’t even necessarily have to move on from Jamorko Pickett just because he struggled during his first chance at playing time. Cutting Chris Smith from his two-way is also an option. At least Pickett is available this season even if he has been slightly disappointing. Two-way contracts do not have to stay the same the whole season. Chris Smith could be good down the line, but we are about a year from the day he tore his ACL in college and there still are not a ton of updates on what is going on.
The Pistons have a couple routes they could go. They can keep things how they are, or they could move around the players they have on two-ways to give a player that has stepped up in tough circumstances a chance to stick around. What do you think they should do?