Summer League, free agency kicks off SVG’s first Pistons summer

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope participated in last year's summer league tournament and will again this year.
Fernando Medina (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Not having any 2014 draft picks fit to participate takes a little of the sizzle out of Summer League for Pistons fans. But here’s guessing Stan Van Gundy is going to view it a little differently.

Even though he’ll turn coaching duties over to the three assistants hired so far, it’s his first chance at group interaction with players since being hired in mid-May. He’ll want to use it to begin the process of delivering a clear and consistent message about commitment and expectations.

Van Gundy told Pistons radio team Mark Champion and Rick Mahorn Saturday, when they debuted their 11 a.m.-noon show on new Pistons flagship station 105.1 FM, that Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler will join the team in Orlando for the seven practices scheduled before Saturday’s Summer League opener. The team travels to Orlando today and has two-a-day practices scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday.

Convincing Drummond and Singler, incumbent starters, to voluntarily come to Summer League practices will go a long way toward helping Van Gundy sell his message. Bob Beyer will coach the Summer League team, assisted by Brendan Malone and Charles Klask, but Van Gundy’s presence will be felt and his voice figures to be heard throughout the week leading to the start of the five-game schedule.

He’ll be keeping a few balls in the air this week, of course. The curtain opens on free agency at midnight and Van Gundy also told Champion and Mahorn, “We know exactly who we want to talk to on July 1.”

He reiterated what he told the media last week before the draft – that the wing positions would take priority, but added that small forward and shooting guard are also the two “thinnest” positions in free agency.

It was noteworthy that he said it was the intention to sign a veteran point guard in free agency given the depth chart. The Pistons have Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum under contract for next season, hold team options on Chauncey Billups and Peyton Siva and just drafted Spencer Dinwiddie, though Van Gundy said he had no expectations for Dinwiddie – coming off a January left ACL tear – to play in 2014-15.

One more target with the projected $13.5 million in cap space the Pistons hold: a No. 3 center, Van Gundy said.

The focus of the Summer League team will be the three second-year players: Siva, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tony Mitchell. Dinwiddie, though he will not play, will be in Orlando, as well.

Siva has the biggest personal stake given that the Pistons must decide after Summer League whether to pick up his option for next season. He closed his rookie season with a rush, improving markedly as a perimeter shooter, and left a strong impression on the previous coaching staff and front office for work ethic and selflessness. Those are qualities Van Gundy has emphasized. Given Siva’s minimum contract, signs point to his return.

But the intent to sign a veteran at the position might indicate Van Gundy wants to bring in a point guard with more size than Jennings, Bynum or Siva offer.

Mitchell also must use Summer League as a launching point for his sophomore season. Van Gundy said last week that Mitchell needed to be more consistently diligent about working on his game. He’ll get all the minutes he can handle in Orlando.

The Pistons are going to watch for evidence Caldwell-Pope is consistently the best player on the floor in Summer League. His rookie season was up and down, but he finished with a flourish in a 30-point explosion at Oklahoma City that filled him with confidence. Whom Van Gundy sways in free agency will dictate some of Caldwell-Pope’s 2014-15 role, but the 21-year-old will determine the bulk of it.

There will be one new and slightly different aspect to this Summer League for the Pistons. The presence of their exclusive D-League affiliate, the new Grand Rapids Drive, means they’ll be looking at some of the free agents added to fill out the Summer League roster as potential candidates to play for the Drive. Even though they won’t have NBA rights to those players, they’ll want to identify candidates who will be good soldiers and role models for the young players they’ll send to the Drive from their roster as needed.