ORLANDO – Dwight Buycks bet on himself over the summer when NBA teams came to him offering two-way contracts. He could have landed one for two years – as Luis Montero did with the Pistons. But he didn’t want to tie himself down for that long, believing wherever he played in 2017-18 he’d do it well enough to earn a standard NBA contract.
Well, here’s his chance.
“This is my dream, to be here and be here permanently,” he said Wednesday after the Pistons tailored much of their practice to getting him up to speed in case he’s called on when Ish Smith needs to sit. “It’s up to me to put the work in and be successful out here. I’m just happy to be here.”
With Reggie Jackson’s sprained right ankle sidelining him likely two months – he’ll be re-evaluated in six to eight weeks – Buycks has perhaps his best shot yet at carving out an NBA niche.
Buycks, 28, has dipped his toe in the water before, making his NBA debut with Toronto in 2013-14, playing 14 games, and appearing in six the next season with the Lakers. Around those stints after going undrafted out of Marquette in 2011, Buycks has played in Belgium, France, Spain and China. He’s seen pretty much everything there is to see in basketball.
“The thing that people forget about Dwight, he’s a little bit older,” Pistons associate head coach Bob Beyer said. “It’s not like he’s just coming out of college. He’s played a lot of professional basketball and he had a really good training camp for us. I think it’s really going to be a seamless transition as far as him learning some of the nuances we have in our offense with this group here.”
Buycks has dealt with his own hip injury this season dating to training camp. In 10 games with the Grand Rapids Drive, the Pistons G League affiliate, Buycks averaged 22.1 points and 3.8 assists in 36 minutes a game, shooting .435 overall and .357 from the 3-point arc while taking about a third of his shots from three.
“He’s a real shifty point guard,” Langston Galloway said. “Just real crafty when he’s trying to get in the lane and can really knock down the 3-pointers when he’s wide open. He’s another one that can facilitate for his teammates. I can’t wait for him to go on the court and show what he can do.”
Smith will likely assume Jackson’s role and minutes, which means Stan Van Gundy will have to plug 18 to 20 minutes a game at point guard. If Galloway is option 1, Buycks might be 1A. It could be both get used here and there, depending on matchups and game situation. Galloway’s strength is his 3-point shooting – he averages 9.7 3-point attempts per 36 minutes, highest on the team ahead of Anthony Tolliver’s 8.1 – and the Pistons figure to lose some of that weapon if Galloway gets most of his minutes at point guard.
If there was any temptation to start Galloway and keep Smith with the second unit, Beyer’s response suggests it was overcome.
“It’s always open for conversation and I think you go game by game, but I think you look at both Ish and Langston and see where those guys play their best,” he said. “I think it’s just a little bit more natural for Ish to be the starter and Langston, with his versatility, where he can come in and play the backup point or off the ball. It’s good to bring a guy off the bench that can score and is capable of playing both the point and the off-guard spots.”
And Galloway spending more time at shooting guard opens the possibility – again, at least on a game-by-game basis – for Buycks to work his way into the mix. As a two-way player, Buycks is limited to 45 days with the Pistons and he has a handful of those days already scratched off. Jackson’s recovery timeline means Buycks is almost certain to exhaust his 45-day supply before the Pistons will return to full strength at his position.
They’ll have a decision to make at some point. Dwight Buycks intends to make it an easy call.