The NBA is a league of trends and copycats, and right now one of the hottest trends inspiring the most copycatting is the quest for players big enough to guard the post yet with the perimeter shooting ability to stretch defenses and open the floor for slashing teammates.
The Pistons think they drafted exactly that type of player for the future with their first-round draft pick, Austin Daye, and they think they could very well have a second such player in DaJuan Summers.
That Summers was available to the Pistons with the 35th pick overall was a draft-night shocker to them. They had him projected as a first-round pick all the way and, in fact, Summers was initially on their list of players being considered with the 15th pick. A strong start to his junior season at Georgetown was followed by a second half that saw the Hoyas, once a top-10 team, fall to the bottom half of the Big East and out of the NCAA tournament field. And Summers’ play suffered accordingly. But the Pistons have high regard for Georgetown players and believe that you have to look beyond the numbers when evaluating them.
“He came from a very system-oriented program,” said Scott Perry, Pistons vice president. “Space the floor, really share the basketball. Individual numbers of players coming out of that program tend to be on the lower end, but with that brings a fundamental basis.”
Summers showed in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League, where he averaged 18 points and 5.4 rebounds a game, that he could be ready to challenge for minutes at either forward position for the Pistons as soon as this season.
Most notable was Summers’ ability to score in a variety of ways. When guarded by power forwards, where Summers spent more of his time, he looked comfortable shooting the ball from the perimeter or putting it on the floor to blow past them on the way to the rim. When he found himself matched against small forwards, Summers showed the ability to go into the mid-post area and play with his back to the basket.
“He’s strong enough to catch the ball and face up if he’s playing against fours and he’s quick enough to get around them and get to the rim and still strong enough to finish against them,” Perry said. “Or against the threes, take them to the block and use your strength, because he’s a real strong three.”
Summers certainly looks the part of an NBA forward, measuring in at 6-foot-8 ½ and 243 pounds at the Chicago predraft camp and showing up in Las Vegas with a well-defined upper body.
Pistons personnel director George David said one of the things that left an early impression on him in the evaluation process grew out of Summers’ experience as a counselor at the LeBron James Skills Camp. In after-hours scrimmaging, Summers held up reasonably well against James.
“One of the things that stood out was he was one of the few guys that physically seemed at least comfortable with attempting to stop him,” David said. “None of the college counselors were going to stop LeBron – we have a hard time stopping him on our level. But he at least seemed comfortable.”
The Pistons could see from Summers’ Georgetown tape that he was a more than capable perimeter shooter. What encouraged them in Las Vegas was his seamless adaptation to an NBA-style offense, particularly his decisiveness and aggression.
“At this level, guys have to attack more often and attack quicker because you’ve got a shorter shot clock,” Perry said. “We liked his assertiveness in trying to score the basketball. He really took the ball strong to the rim.”
“We knew he could shoot the ball,” David said. “Going into the draft, if we said what this guy’s strength is, it would be his ability to shoot the basketball. In Las Vegas, he showed a level of aggressiveness and a level of physicality we hadn’t really seen a lot.
“The most impressive thing he did in Las Vegas is he really did a great job of showing how well he could stretch the defense in terms of creating shots for himself from the perimeter going to the basket. If a team throws a four at him, he’s usually quick and strong enough to get by and get to the basket. If you don’t crowd him, he can knock down that 18- to 20-foot jump shot.”
The Pistons feel Summers could have the same versatility on the defensive end, as well.
“I think he can handle both (power and small forwards),” Perry said. “Some of the taller fours could pose a problem for him. There are going to be matchups where he guards either position. He’s got a very strong core and a strong base. He’s got enough quickness to move his feet against a lot of the threes. There’s a learning curve, but does he have the physical wherewithal? Yes, he has the physical wherewithal to guard both of those positions.”
The Pistons have no obvious backup to Tayshaun Prince on the roster, though it’s likely that Rip Hamilton will spend perhaps 25 percent of his minutes playing small forward as the Pistons find suitable playing time for both him and Ben Gordon. Yet Summers and Daye could very well force themselves into the equation with their size and scoring potential.
“(Summers) has the strength to guard a lot of fours and the quickness to guard a lot of threes,” David said. “Austin is more in the Rashard Lewis mold. With DaJaun, I think his body and quickness now are going to allow him to guard multiple positions. That’s going to be really good for us.”