ORLANDO – The positional “glut” Stan Van Gundy talked about after last week’s trade of Jodie Meeks is no longer an issue for the Pistons – for all the wrong reasons.
First it was Darrun Hilliard who went down with a stress fracture of the lower back. Now it’s Michael Gbinije, the rookie drafted in the second round of last month’s draft. Both will miss all of Summer League after Gbinije suffered a sprained ankle by stepping on a teammate’s foot during Sunday’s practice.
Neither injury is expected to affect their availability for training camp, but the loss of critical summer development time for players the Pistons were intent on assessing is a setback for both team and players.
Hilliard plunged into off-season workouts soon after his rookie season ended in late April with the Pistons’ playoff series loss to Cleveland. He’d gained some needed bulk while working with strength coach Anthony Harvey and had spent hours with assistant coach Charles Klask on shooting and ballhandling drills. The Pistons have set no timetable for his return, but similar injuries in recent seasons suffered by Meeks – dealt to Orlando last week in part to create opportunity for Meeks and Reggie Bullock – and Andre Drummond have sidelined them for about two months.
Gbinije won’t be out even that long – the Pistons expect he’ll miss no more than two weeks – but that will limit his Summer League experience to the one game he logged in Saturday’s rout of New York. In that game, Gbinije played a strong second half to finish with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“Every time I watch him, there’s certain things I pick up about his game that I like,” Pistons associate head coach Bob Beyer, coaching the Summer League team, said after the game. “He has a calmness to his game.”
The Pistons had hoped to get a long look at Gbinije during Summer to determine if he could fill the role of No. 3 point guard, a position he played only as a Syracuse senior. At 6-foot-7, the Pistons are confident Gbinije can defend all three perimeter positions and develop into a solid 3-point shooter. The ability to play the point, beyond making Gbinije a more valuable player, would also save them a roster spot by avoiding the need to keep a third point guard.
The Gbinije injury opens the door a little bit further for other point guards, though, and that immediately could benefit Lorenzo Brown and Phil Pressey. Both have prior NBA experience, Brown with Philadelphia, Minnesota and Phoenix and Pressey with Boston and Phoenix.
The Pistons could cover themselves by signing another veteran free-agent point guard, but they don’t necessarily have to rush that decision. If Brown or Pressey shows enough to keep his hat in the ring, the Pistons could bring one or both to training camp – Brown is already playing under a non-guaranteed contract and is expected in camp – and give themselves more time to assess Gbinije’s aptitude for the position.