Summer Stock

Vegas roster makeup a chance to gauge Daye at shooting guard

The Pistons could experiment with Austin Daye at shooting guard at the Vegas Summer League.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
If Austin Daye has a future at shooting guard, the Pistons might go a long way toward determining the answer in Las Vegas about seven weeks from now when NBA Summer League play is winding down.

All three of their 2009 draft choices – Daye, Jonas Jerebko and DaJuan Summers – are scheduled to participate with their Summer League entrant, as are their two draft choices. It’s highly likely at least one of those draftees will be a big man with decent odds both will be power forwards or centers.

And because those five will be the most important players on the roster, the Pistons are going to want to give significant playing time to all of them. Maybe they’ll cut back some of Jerebko’s playing time, given that he started 73 games for them last season, but they’re going to want to see more from him, too – the development of a go-to move, foremost – to help inform the roster moves possible for Joe Dumars. If Jerebko can show a little more scoring ability on top of the smorgasbord of intangibles he offers, then maybe Joe D can be more daring in dangling his veterans for trade.

So with Jerebko and Summers, another who could embolden Dumars to deal, logging minutes at both forward spots and at least one rookie – very likely their lottery pick at No. 7 – crowding the frontcourt, why not take the opportunity to further experiment with Daye at shooting guard?

Daye had his ups and downs as a rookie, but he did hold up surprisingly well defensively when John Kuester – usually necessitated by the short roster left to him due to injury – gave him minutes at shooting guard. That’s what will really determine whether he has a future at that position – can he guard players a half-foot shorter and appreciably quicker? He didn’t look out of place doing it last season, playing off opponents capable of taking him off the dribble yet still managing to contest shots with his extraordinary reach.

If he shows in Las Vegas that he can hold up there, then his unique skill set for a 6-foot-11 player – passing, ballhandling and ability to shoot on the move as well as from distance – would afford Kuester a tremendous size luxury that would give the Pistons consistent mismatch advantages. Daye probably won’t ever be considered a full-time shooting guard, but right now he’s probably better suited to swing to that spot from small forward than to power forward.

The Pistons aren’t locking themselves in to taking a big man with either No. 7 or No. 36, of course, but the draft sets up in such a way that quality big men figure to be in play for them at both spots.

Ed Davis, Greg Monroe, Cole Aldrich, Ekpe Udoh and Hassan Whiteside are among the power forwards/centers who will be considerations at No. 7 – it’s possible all five of them will be there – as well as hybrid forward Al Farouq-Aminu. At No. 36, the possibilities are many, including Tiny Gallon, Dexter Pittman, Jarvis Varnado, Gani Lawal, Jerome Jordan and international big men Miroslav Raduljica, Ryan Richards and Tibor Pleiss, and you can probably throw another half-dozen names onto the pile.

Bottom line: Their Summer League frontcourt is going to be crowded, and one way to distribute the minutes, with the added bonus of seeing what last year’s top pick is capable of doing, is to move Austin Daye to shooting guard for a few weeks in July.

How is news that Zach Randolph is linked to an Indianapolis drug bust related to the draft status of DeMarcus Cousins? It’s not, not in any real or tangible way, at least. But talk to scouts about Cousins for any length of time and Randolph’s name comes up – partly for his soft hands and scoring touch on a massive frame, but partly for the potential personality pitfalls.

Is that unfair to Cousins? Certainly. Randolph arrived at Michigan State with a history of three bouts of criminal transgressions that resulted in juvenile detention or incarceration and he’s been virtually given away by three NBA teams eager to be rid of him before enjoying a relatively controversy-free and productive season with Memphis last year.

Cousins merely rubs many the wrong way. His body language, facial expressions and apparent issues with authority are concerns the six teams picking ahead of the Pistons will weigh heavily. He was combative in media interviews at last week’s NBA draft combine in Chicago and, according to various reports, didn’t do much to help himself in individual meetings with NBA teams. (Cousins did not meet with the Pistons in Chicago and there is no indication he’ll come to Auburn Hills for a workout, telling me in Chicago he’s not inclined to work out for more than the top “four or five” lottery teams.)

But today’s news that a car owned by Randolph was stopped in Indianapolis and found to contain 3 ounces of marijuana, with allegations that the driver is part of a drug operation, can’t be good for Randolph, whatever the outcome, and, by extension, can’t be good for Cousins, either.

I still give it about 5 percent odds that Cousins slides all the way to the Pistons at No. 7, but the reality is that at some point in the draft the risk-reward ratio beings to tilt in Cousins’ favor. At No. 2 or 3, with Derrick Favors still on the board, the ratio is heavily against Cousins. But at No. 7, where the Pistons are picking? If he’s still there, that’s probably pretty close to the place where the reward begins to pull ahead of the risk.