LAS VEGAS – Summer League is primarily a tool to speed development of young players. On that front, it’s been a very encouraging first week for the Pistons. More recently, it’s become a place forward-thinking franchises use to cultivate an organizational devotion to winning.
And on that front, too, the Pistons are growing a bumper crop in the desert.
With their three 2018-19 rookies setting a tone in both commitment and productivity, the Pistons blasted another team, routing Indiana 102-84 Monday to improve to 3-0.
Bruce Brown, Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk have all served notice that they intend to be viable rotation options for the Pistons in 2019-20.
After a sluggish and error-riddled first quarter, after which the Pistons trailed 18-16, the sophomore trio sparked a 17-0 run to open the second quarter and build a lead that was never remotely threatened.
“I think just the energy on the defensive end,” said J.D. DuBois, Dwane Casey’s assistant who took a turn as head coach for the game. “We were being active with our hands. We weren’t giving them easy baskets and we started playing with pace. We were walking it up early. We talked about, let’s pick up the intensity on both ends and that kind of led to our offense.”
Brown got his best test yet as a point guard given that he was largely matched head to head with Pacers 2018 No. 1 pick Aaron Holiday, who with Darren Collison and Corey Joseph’s exits figures as the No. 2 point guard behind trade acquisition Malcolm Brogdon.
Brown finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, running his three-game assists-to-turnovers numbers to 23 and six. He could’ve easily had double-digits assists if passes that led to fouls to prevent layups counted. The Pistons shot 35 free throws, a healthy percentage set up by Brown, Thomas and Mykhailiuk passes.
For a team thrown together less than a week ago, the Summer League Pistons have done a remarkable job absorbing the blueprint for how Casey wants to play. Nearly half of their shots – 49.1 percent – have come from the 3-point arc. That, too, is a credit to Brown, Thomas and Mykhailiuk, DuBois said.
“It starts with Bruce, Khyri and Svi. Those are the guys we had all summer, most of the year except for Svi (a mid-season trade acquisition), and they came in and set the tone on how we want to play. Everybody has just followed the lead of the guys that have been with us. We’ve got a great group of guys. Everybody is buying into what we’re doing on both ends. When you have that unselfishness from one to 15 or 16 and you get open shots, it’s contagious.”
Thomas and Mykhailiuk were patient, combining to take just 16 shots, nine for Thomas. He finished with 11 points, hitting 3 of 4 from the arc, and had four steals and three assists. Six of seven Mykhailiuk shots were triples and he finished with 10 points and matched Brown’s six assists.
The Pistons have gotten good play from their big men, notably ex-Michigan State center Matt Costello, Iowa stretch four Jared Uthoff and Alabama’s Donta Hall, raw offensively but an athletic rim protector. Costello, who two years ago was on a Spurs two-way contract, has been practically flawless fundamentally while quarterbacking the defense. He and Uthoff were an eye-popping plus-31 against Indiana, Costello finished with 20 points and eight rebounds – he hit 8 of 9 free throws, serving as the roll man for Brown and Mykhailiuk – while Uthoff had 17 points and four steals.
Monday’s win also marked the debut of Jordan Bone, the 57th pick whose draft rights were only officially conveyed to the Pistons on Sunday. He signed a two-way contract on Monday and played 16 minutes in relief of Brown at the point, finishing with six points, four boards, two assists and a steal. He was able to observe but not participate in Pistons practices until the trade was cleared by NBA headquarters.
“I’ve been off for about six days, a week,” Bone said. “It was tough, trying to get my rhythm back, get my wind back. But I’m just so happy to be out here. Got that first game out of the way. Now it should be good.”
“He’s a guy who when he’s watching on the sideline, you can tell he’s engaged,” DuBois said. “When you talk to him about what we’re running, even though he hasn’t been in it, he’s well aware of what we’re doing. And then his attitude is the same as all our other guys. ‘I’m here to do whatever I have to do to help our team win.’ It was good to have a young guy already have that selfless attitude.”