There can’t be many more daunting challenges in the NBA spectrum than the one Peyton Siva stared down last month. As the No. 56 pick in the 2013 draft, the Louisville rookie went with the Pistons to Summer League knowing he had a little more than a week to give a team with more than $20 million in cap space to fill their roster a reason to save one of the 15 precious spots for him.
He also knew the Pistons wanted to showcase the players they expected at the time to be a part of their 2013-14 roster, including top picks Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tony Mitchell and blossoming star center Andre Drummond.
Now factor in the Summer League variable of unfamiliarity among teammates and the inevitable chaos that ensues when players desperate to win a contract, either with an NBA or foreign-based team, play with frantic energy, and an environment that can make a point guard look overwhelmed can be easily created.
Siva, who guided Louisville to the NCAA title in March to cap a career as a three-year starter and four-year contributor, handled it all with rare aplomb. Over four games – Siva sat out the finale after twisting his ankle in the waning minutes of a win he engineered over Miami the day before – he turned the ball over just six times against 24 assists, a superb ratio. In an opener in which the Pistons committed 22 of the game’s 45 turnovers, Siva contributed just one to the bottom line despite having the ball in his hands for every one of his 27 minutes.
“Peyton did a really good job for us down in Orlando,” Joe Dumars said. “We like him. We like his makeup as a point guard. He has a certain control about him. You feel comfortable with the in his hands. He did a really good job taking care of the ball and getting other people involved.”
That struck Pistons assistant general manager George David, too, the way Siva managed to consistently put teammates in the right spots.
“It’s not easy to look good as a point guard when you come in to Summer League and there are multiple returning players from the previous team,” he said. “It’s a delicate balance between you looking good and them looking good and are you looking good at their expense or are you looking good because you’re helping them to look good. Peyton handled that balance extremely well.”
The Pistons ran out of roster spots for Siva, despite his Orlando showing, once they loaded up with free agents Josh Smith, Chauncey Billups and Gigi Datome. But Dumars made room for him before the calendar flipped to August with a three-for-one trade that sent Brandon Knight and two holdovers who played with Siva in Orlando, Khris Middleton and Slava Kravtsov, to Milwaukee for Brandon Jennings.
One week after the trade, the Pistons signed Siva. He’ll come to camp No. 4 on the depth chart behind Jennings, Billups and Will Bynum, but Siva ideally fits the profile of a young point guard there to add depth. If he’s ever called upon to play, the Pistons know Siva will take care of the basketball, get the Pistons into their offense and play harassing defense for as long as he’s needed.
His defensive chops were earned by starting under Louisville’s Rick Pitino, who demands full effort at the defensive end above all else. Siva averaged three steals a game during Summer League.
“He plays with a winning spirit,” Dumars said. “You feel good when he’s out on the court running your team. We like his ability to impact the game. He pressures the ball defensively and gets other people involved. Those are the kind of guys you want on your roster; those are the kind of guys you want in your building.”
It also wasn’t lost on the front office and coaching staff how quickly Siva’s teammates took to him.
“That’s just my guy right there,” said Drummond, a college rival of Siva’s at UConn. “He sees the floor very well, a great defender and also a great teammate.”