‘I know I belong here’ – Jamorko Pickett looks like another find for Pistons GM Troy Weaver

If you took a poll among NBA general managers to ask who among their peers was most likely to identify an under-the-radar talent, Troy Weaver would win more than his share of votes. If that poll asked who would be likeliest to identify an under-the-radar talent from the DMV, Weaver would win it unanimously.

Weaver’s ties to the area – the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia comprise the DMV – run deep. It’s where he grew up, where he cut his teeth as an AAU coach and where he steered players like Carmelo Anthony and Jerami Grant to Syracuse from during and after his days as an assistant to Jim Boeheim.

So if you were scanning the Pistons Summer League roster before their run in Las Vegas began and were looking for someone who might outperform expectations, Jamorko Pickett would have been a pretty good guess.

Not only did Pickett spend four years at Georgetown, but he played at Eastern High in Washington, D.C., before that.

Pickett made the most of the chance the Pistons gave him in Las Vegas, working his way into the rotation and eventually the starting lineup as Saddiq Bey, Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes were pulled from competition. In 23 minutes a game, Pickett averaged 9.8 points and 3.8 rebounds while knocking down half his 3-point attempts.

One person not surprised by Pickett’s output? Another DMV alumnus, Luka Garza.

“I’ve known Marko since high school,” Garza said. “He went to Eastern; I went to Maret. We played against each other in the state tournament. You could always see it. He was long, lanky, could shoot the ball, was skilled. He was really good at Georgetown for four years. He started a lot of games. They won the Big East championship this year. I’m excited for him. He’s a guy no one really talked about, but when you see his frame, his ability to read the floor, his ability to make shots, he’s really impressive.”

It was hard not to see all of those things from Pickett, who hit the ground running in Las Vegas and never let up. Along the way, news broke that Pickett had signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Pistons that means an invitation to training camp and a path to a spot on the roster of the Motor City Cruise, the Pistons G League affiliate, without being exposed to the G League draft. Another NBA team could still sign Pickett to a standard or two-way contract if he’s waived by the Pistons before the start of the NBA season, but most teams have rosters already close to full.

Pickett got what he wanted out of Summer League – playing time to open eyes.

“I think I did exactly that,” he said. “I was given opportunities and I took the most of them. I know I belong here. It’s always having that mindset – knowing I belong, knowing I should start. That’s what pushed me when I did have the opportunity to excel.”

Pickett fits the profile of players Weaver has long coveted – and now the package that pretty much every NBA team seeks – as a long, athletic player capable of guarding on the ball, on the wing and holding his own in switches on to bigger players at 6-foot-8 and about 200 pounds. The shooting stroke was eye-opening in Las Vegas and Pickett also showed he can put the ball on the floor, making a play in the finale off the dribble to set up a teammate for a wide-open three.

“When you look at his work ethic, you’re not shocked by his result and his performance,” Pistons Summer League coach and Dwane Casey assistant J.D. DuBois said. “He puts the time in. He’s a great person. I was really happy to watch him and his confidence grow as the week went on. I think he has the talent. Now it’s just him being present, not worried about the last shot he may have missed, not being concerned if he’s going to make or miss the next one. Taking one possession at a time.”