Even before a late flurry at the trade deadline created a need for another forward on the Pistons roster, Quincy Miller had his eye on the them. He liked the intense manner of Stan Van Gundy, reminding him of his AAU coach – his uncle. He liked the way Van Gundy used his power forwards at Dwight Howard's side in Orlando. And he liked the idea of playing alongside Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
Then Kyle Singler, Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome got shipped out of town and Miller's interest in becoming a Piston ratcheted up another few notches.
"I was just trying to stay focused," Miller said of the anxiety associated with the trade deadline. "If I had to go back to (D-League team) Reno, then I had to go back to Reno. I wasn't complaining – staying positive, looking forward to it, but it happened for me."
For the next week, at least, Miller will get his shot to prove he belongs in the NBA past the expiration of the 10-day contract he signed with the Pistons on Saturday. Since being drafted in 2012 as a Baylor freshman with the 38th pick by Denver – the Pistons chose Khris Middleton with the next pick – Miller has played a total of 65 NBA games, including six on 10-day contracts with Sacramento earlier this season.
He averaged 25 points for Reno in 15 D-League games, catching the eyes of Grand Rapids Drive coach Otis Smith and Pistons pro scouts.
"All the reports on him have been good," Stan Van Gundy said. "He's a talented guy. Plays with good energy. He's athletic, he can shoot the ball with range, he's a pretty good individual defender. He'll probably struggle a little at the four if he has to play post-up guys. I'm not really sure what kind of ball skills he has if he plays the three, but he's clearly athletic and with good energy and really has a nice shooting stroke. Length, athleticism and shooting is a pretty good combination."
The Pistons made another move for a forward with a somewhat similar skill set on Tuesday, claiming veteran Shawne Williams off waivers. Van Gundy said Williams' presence is unconnected to Miller's status.
"We've still got a roster spot and Quincy is more of a developmental guy, a guy we're looking at to see where we want to go," he said. "Shawne's more of a guy we think can play right now – played 20 minutes a game for Miami this year in over 40 games. He's a guy that should be ready to go and throw in an NBA game right now."
Williams basically assumes the role Jonas Jerebko filled for the Pistons before he was traded, along with Gigi Datome, to Boston for Tayshaun Prince as the Pistons looked to plug the hole left by their other deadline deal – sending Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin to Oklahoma City for Reggie Jackson.
Both Miller and Williams are primarily stretch fours who can play some three in a pinch. Miller sees himself as the ideal stretch four for Van Gundy's system because, he says, he can both shoot from the outside and get to the basket.
"Versatile defender, versatile player who can make different plays," Miller describes himself. "Here at the four, they utilize it kind of differently. The four is a playmaker. They make plays and (the Pistons) don't really have a specific stretch four who can do both. They have Anthony Tolliver, who can shoot threes, but he's not as good as me, I feel like, at getting to the basket – he's an awesome 3-point shooter, though. It's definitely a great makeup to this roster."
Not so long ago, Miller would have had a hard time imagining a struggle to crack an NBA roster. A Chicago native, Miller moved to North Carolina to live with his uncle, a military man he describes as "a great guy." "He was in the Army, so it was kind of a discipline thing. I just felt I needed to learn from him."
He was ranked the nation's No. 7 recruit in 2011 by Rivals – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was No. 12, some guy named Anthony Davis No. 2 and Austin Rivers No. 1 – and wound up at Baylor, though he showed up still rehabilitating a torn ACL suffered in December of his senior year of high school, costing him his spot in the McDonald's All-American game.
He admits now that he left Baylor too soon, feeling pressured to do so by the status of his high school rankings.
"I came out a little early, but it happens," he said. "If you're a baller, it's all about timing – timing and opportunity."
For at least another week, Quincy Miller has an opportunity to catch Stan Van Gundy's eye and make his case that he belongs in the NBA after all.
"Hopefully, I'm here long term," he said. "I would love to be here long term, but you never know. Things change very quickly, as I've been learning this past year."