ORLANDO – While the eyes of most Pistons fans will be fixed on Stanley Johnson over the five Summer League games that start Saturday, the other forward is generating a little buzz of his own through the first handful of practices.
Quincy Miller doesn’t have the security of a lottery pick’s guaranteed contract, but he’s made an impression with practice performances reflecting his confidence and offensive versatility. The Pistons think he can play either forward spot, but with Johnson ticketed for minutes at small forward – and the Pistons also eager to get a look at D-League All-Star Adonis Thomas at the wing positions – Miller will spend the majority of his time here at power forward.
“It’s fine. I can guard the four,” Miller said. “You are what you can guard. I can guard one, two, three, four I feel like. I’m doing all right at the four.”
That was minutes after he took an elbow to the face that left his eye red and an abrasion on his cheek. A visit to the hospital revealed a broken nose, as well. He’ll be further evaluated before the Pistons know for sure whether he’ll be able to participate in Summer League games, which start on Saturday. Miller says he’ll play, but the medical staff will make the call.
If he can go, the chance to play power forward the way the offense is structured might give him his best opportunity to show off his skill set. While the pick and roll will play a prominent role in Van Gundy���s offense when it includes Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, the power forward has an important function in other sets, usually receiving the first pass from the point guard to initiate the offense up high.
“Our four doesn’t have a specific type of thing he does,” Miller said. “Our four starts the offense – if it’s passing, screening away, initiating a dribble handoff, anything. The four does a lot.”
For Miller, that also allows him to use his ballhandling and slashing ability, which he’s done to good effect in Orlando practices, where he’s been as impressive as anyone, word has it.
A fixture at the Pistons practice facility since the season ended, Miller bulked up to 237 pounds through his work with strength coach Anthony Harvey. He’s dropped about 5 pounds in the past week, running in preparation for Summer League and then grinding through two-a-day practices here, but feels like the strength – and the confidence that comes with it – has translated well to performance.
“The confidence has carried over,” he said. “I feel really strong in my shoulders. My first time playing five-on-five in about 33 days, so it’s kind of strenuous. But I’ll be OK the next day or two. I did well. And I love playing with the new guys.”
Miller put up huge numbers in 18 D-League games last season – 15 with Reno before signing with the Pistons, three with their Grand Rapids affiliate after: 23.8 points and 8.2 rebounds on .490 shooting, .355 from the 3-point line. If the 3-point shooting can tick up another few percentage points, Miller – still just 22 – can work his way into the young core led by Drummond (21), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (22), Jackson (25) and Johnson (19).
The Pistons signed him to a contract – after the expiration of two 10-day deals – that carries through training camp this fall but doesn’t guarantee him a roster spot for 2015-16. In that sense, nobody has more at stake among his teammates than Miller.
“I think coach has got faith in me and I want to be here,” Miller said. “I would appreciate the opportunity. But at the same time, it’s a lot of work. It’s all on me.”