For the first time in several seasons, the Pistons will likely rely on rookies to provide extensive minutes off the bench. Of the 17 players on the team’s training camp roster (which will be cut down to 15 at the start of the season), five will be rookies.
Unlike the last two seasons in which Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight both started games as rookies, however, none of this year’s freshmen are projected to start. Which ones will contribute, though?
If the team’s coaches are to be believed, it would seem that Kravtsov will be a contributing player this season. Despite coming to the team with few expectations, and even less known about his skills, the Ukrainian big man has shown he can actually play the NBA game.
He’s shown a better shooting touch than expected, making free throws and jumpers especially. Highlights of Kravtsov showed plenty of dunks and put-back moves, but not much actual shooting. While he can certainly improve, as most rookies can, his years playing professionally overseas as well as his experience in 2009 NBA training camps are showing. He has also shown he can set devastating screens, laying out Kim English in a recent practice.
In the end, Kravtsov will be looked to for his defense. He has showed that thus far in training camp, blocking and altering his teammates’ shots in practices. He can’t go for blocks on every single play, as offensive players will quickly learn to pump-fake and draw fouls, but if he can become a truly disciplined player, the 25-year old rookie should see minutes this year.
Few players came into the 2012 NBA draft with more uncertainty, and a more wide range on their ceiling, than Andre Drummond. The UConn one-and-done player was compared to players like Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, DeAndre Jordan and even Kwame Brown. With so much freakish athleticism in such a big frame (6’10”, 270 pounds) at just 19 years old, Drummond is considered an extremely raw center but with an immense amount of physical gifts.
His summer league performances and training camp practices have had varied results. In the highlight video above, they obviously highlighted his more promising moments on both the offensive and defensive end, especially an explosive jumping ability. He also has shown a developing face-up game, hitting jumpers either defended or not. He also effectively uses his height to alter and block opposing players’ shots.
Unlike Kravtsov, though, he is extremely inexperienced and shouldn’t be expected to shoulder the load for this Pistons squad, despite overzealous fans’ demands he play right away. The team has already preached patience for the big man; unless something changes drastically, fans should expect to see head coach Lawrence Frank play him in 5-10 minute increments throughout games this season. For someone who still hasn’t even turned 20, that could be just what he needs.
Despite his draft position (44th), many analysts considered English to be one of the more NBA-players, citing a four-year playing career, high basketball IQ and his ability to shoot from most spots on the floor at a high rate.
Summer league competition and practicing alongside the rest of the team’s roster has helped English develop a lesser-known part of his game, the ability to thrive in an open-court offense. His shooting acumen would have been sufficient on kick-0ut three-pointers or transition jumpers, but he seems to be comfortable penetrating the lane as well. His ball-hawk defense and willingness to take charges could also remind fans of a former Pistons draft pick, Arron Afflalo.
He might not become an All-Star in the NBA, but he’ll surely help the Pistons next season. If he can become one of the top options off Frank’s bench, that would already be enough of a return on investment for Joe Dumars and company.
The former Duke star turned down the Pistons’ initial offer to join the team after the 2011 draft, but after seeing his play transform (for the better), that international experience might be just what he needed.
He didn’t really have much of a jumpshot or great athleticism coming out of Duke, relying more on height and weight to overpower smaller defenders. Those two attributes are extremely important in the NBA, and while he isn’t a complete player, he should find a way to squeeze into Frank’s rotation.
Being a classic “glue guy” in the mold of another former Dukie, Shane Battier, Singler likely won’t have a huge statistical impact every night, but his ability to defend and hit shots when called upon will determine how long and how much he plays.
Middleton is a classic case of a player staying in college one year too long. His sophomore year, his shooting numbers were extremely solid (36.1% from three, 45.2% total) and he averaged 14 points on about 10 shots.
His junior year, however, saw Middleton struggle with a knee injury all season long, and his scoring numbers went down across the board, including his efficiency. Despite all of that, he entered the draft and surprised plenty of basketball talking heads in the process.
In the 2012 offseason, the former Texas A&M Aggie has yet to make a real impact, although he is officially signed to the team’s roster. From a select few practices and scrimmages, it looks like he can still shoot the ball and drive to the basket, but the knee injury that hampered him may have lingering effects still.
He has shown flashes so far, but it would appear that Middleton is destined for a deep reserve role or designation to the NBDL. If he can keep playing and proving his junior year was a fluke, he’ll eventually come back to the Pistons.