Patience required, but Pistons see a bright future for Deividas Sirvydis

LAS VEGAS – The Pistons 2019 draft is a little like investing in your 401(k). Returns won’t necessarily be immediately available, but the wisdom of your choices will better position your future.

First-round pick Sekou Doumbouya, drafted 15th, was the youngest player drafted – in fact, the youngest player drafted since the NBA changed eligibility requirements in 2006 and eliminated the direct high school-to-pros pipeline. He’s yet to play while the Pistons won their first three games, nursing a strained hamstring. The Pistons, prudently enough, aren’t depending on Doumbouya to step into a rotation spot as a rookie.

No. 57 pick Jordan Bone, acquired in a draft-night trade, was only cleared to join the roster on Sunday. He played a little more than 15 minutes – without benefit of a practice – and showed flashes of the speed and tools that led the Pistons to rate him a first-round pick. Bone was signed Monday to a two-way contract, limiting the number of days he can spend with the Pistons in 2019-20 to 45 during the G League calendar unless Bone is converted to a standard NBA contract.

Pistons fans will see even less next season of the middle of their three draft picks, Deividas Sirvydis. Sirvydis is nearly as young as Doumbouya, turning 19 just 10 days before the draft. It’s yet to be determined where Sirvydis will spend next season, but the prominent options at this time are another year in his native Lithuania, where he played in the top pro league for one of its marquee franchises last season, or seasoning with the Grand Rapids Drive of the G League.

He’s played in all three games, a total of 15 minutes. He had his longest stint, nine minutes, in Monday’s dominant win over Indiana, scoring six points in making both of his shots. All five of his Summer League shots have been 3-pointers – he’s made three – and in that stroke it’s easy to see why the NBA was so interested in a teen who didn’t play big minutes in a quality pro league.

The book on Sirvydis is pretty simple: The skills are there and so is a feel for how to play; now it’s a matter of his body maturing.

“Feel and basketball IQ, you can’t teach,” said J.D. DuBois, the Dwane Casey assistant who served as head coach for Monday’s game. “We can help you eat better. We can help you in the weight room. We can help you with a lot of different things, but his ability to feel where he is on both ends of the floor, that’s big time. He’s always in the right spot, not only on offense but defensively he uses his IQ to play team defense.”

The Pistons aren’t just crossing their fingers that Sirvydis’ physical development catches up with the rest of his tools. They didn’t use their own pick at 45 and two of the four second-round picks they got from Cleveland for giving up the 30th pick – the one they got from Milwaukee on June 19 in the Tony Snell-Jon Leuer trade – to trade up eight spots for Sirvydis on a whim.

“There’s a lot to it,” Pistons director of player personnel Gregg Polinsky said of the evaluation of Sirvydis. “I could go into a big spiel, but in talking to our performance team, they’re a huge help to us. What should we be looking for? Is he wide across the shoulders? I always say, ‘Is he thick from chest to back?’ If the guys you don’t think physically, looking at his frame, can improve, it makes it very tough to play at our level.”

Bottom line, the Pistons saw a frame they can work with in Sirvydis. He’s lean, but the framework to build out is apparent. The rest is enticing.

“Deividas is a kid that’s very committed,” Polinsky said. “He knows that he’s got to really work at getting in there with the performance team, developing his body, nutrition, because that’s going to be his key going forward. Skill level? We’re not concerned. His IQ for the game? It’s already pretty high. He’s got a lot to learn, but it’s better than you think for a young guy. Now – can he get his body NBA ready?”

Sirvydis’ stroke is easily identifiable as a projectable NBA skill. He’s long and lanky for a wing at 6-foot-8. He puts the ball on the floor comfortably. DuBois had him bring it upcourt a few times in Monday’s win.

“I tried to see what he could do bringing it up, initiating the offense,” he said. “He’s a work in progress. He knows it. He has the right attitude as far as trying to improve on all the things that he may not do at a high level. This is the perfect opportunity for him to find out what it is that he really needs to work on for the rest of the summer and going into the season.”

Polinsky watched Sirvydis’ practices in Vilnius as minutes in games for the 18-year-old were sometimes spotty, getting a better idea of what his potential might be.

“They played (EuroCup). Ritas is a well-known team over in Vilnius,” he said. “His dad’s a coach and you can see it when he plays, his feel for the game. He’s been around basketball and you can tell, going to practices. Competition was very good.”

He’d be entering his freshman year of college if he were American born. Now comes the exercise of patience while the Pistons monitor Sirvydis’ progress and physical maturation. The payoff, as with your 401(k), comes down the road.