We won’t know until it’s over quite whether or not Drummond’s career is a reminder of why mental make-up tests shouldn’t be too overvalued in light of a player’s actual abilities and impact, but the indications from his rookie season suggest that it will be.
To stick in this league, English will have to not just be a catch-and-shoot player, but also as a shooter off of screens and occasionally off of the bounce. He showed in college that he could potentially do this if he could develop the extra range required, but he has yet to show this has happened. Due to having had no opportunity to do so.
Evans is a wing man with a famously poor outside jump shot, so it’s probably a slight contradiction that last year, he started to take jump shots for free throws. If he could shoot, he’d be a great prospect, an above average defensive player (who can defend inside and out) and very good rebounder from the swingman positions with length, athleticism, transition finishes and some off-the-dribble game. But the lack of a jumper submarines it all, and it seems it’s trending backwards.
Johnson’s pro career has thus far been a jarring disappointment. Last year he played for three different D-League teams, this after being picked first overall in the draft. He was traded twice, once for Luke Harangody and once for Kyle Weaver, and his averages declined at each gig. By the end of the year, Johnson found himself averaging only 6.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game for the Idaho Stampede. Jeff Potter, the President of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants who picked him first overall, felt obliged to take the unusual step of publicly expressing that Johnson just wasn’t committed enough. Even if it’s a minority opinion, it’s a worrying one.
Kravtsov had a partially guaranteed contract for this season that became guaranteed when he was not waived by July 29th, so he’ll be back. And he should be. He’s a legitimate defensive centre with offensive skills to boot (and his 29.7% free throw percentage is an anomaly – he shot 70% over the preceding three seasons. But he should also spend a little time in the D-League. For whatever reason, the Pistons never sent him there last year, and while they played him in 25 NBA games, it was only in a bit part role. The NBA and its coaches may be a better place to learn, but a 10-15 game run-out on assignment to actually employ those skills learnt and build up some confidence (or even trade value) would consolidate that. Maybe next year.
Lucious perhaps did the right thing in transferring from Michigan State to Iowa State, as it gave him a fresh start, more minutes and more opportunity. But those minutes and opportunities reaffirmed his limitations. Lucious is a shooter, who wants to be an elite shooter, and who takes a large number of jump shots, yet he just isn’t an elite shooter. He can get into the lane and dish to some extent, yet he wants the shot more, and it’s just not that good. His point guard skills are there, somewhat, but Lucious has somewhat high turnover numbers, partly due to a loose handle under pressure. On the plus side, Lucious is quick and can guard, and crescendoed nicely (if very late) in his college career. He’ll make money in the pro game. But not the NBA.
Middleton played a fair amount for the Pistons last year, and played pretty well on offence, averaging 6.1 points in 18 minutes per game with remarkably few turnovers. The downside was poor defensive play, and a lack of true range – Middleton’s herky jerky game of hesitation, floaters, turnarounds and the like from mid-range translates to the NBA with his size, but is not enough on its own. Middleton has a guaranteed contract for next season and will be back, but he needs to continue to develop the range and the defence to compliment his current skills.
Mitchell lumbered through one of the most dramatic sophomore slumps seen for a while, seeing his numbers decline in every single statistical category (save for 0.1 of a steal), most notably going from 10.3rpg to 8.5rpg and 57% FG to 44% FG. This all happened while his minutes increased from 29 to 33 per game. He shot 44% from three as a rookie, and apparently fell in love with the idea of being a shooter, taking too many jump shots, thus explaining the field goal percentage drop. He can drive and post, to a degree, but seemingly wants to do neither, and the rebounding decline seems similarly apathetic. Mitchell has all the physical tools to be a defender, rebounder and face-up scorer, but he’s only apparently interested in one of the three.
Peterson is an odd choice for summer league. The 28 year old left Samford in 2008 and spent the first three years of his career in Bulgaria, followed by a one year stint in the Czech Republic for Prostejov. Last year was spent in the Ukraine, averaging 13.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists for Hoverla. Nice numbers, but representative of his playing style in both good and bad ways. Notwithstanding his decent defensive instincts around the basket, and his height of 6’10 or 6’11 depending on who you believe, Peterson is essentially a very big small forward. You can run some offence through him at the high post with his passing vision and outside jump shot as long as the rest of the team can offset the rebounding hole his presence presents.
Siva’s athleticism, ability and willingness to get to the basket intrigue, particularly the athleticism, which few other point guards can rival. His aggressiveness can give way to recklessness, with some turnovers and forced shots, but you can live with that. The athleticism is most effective defensively, where, when tuned in, Siva can be a genuine disruptive influence. He’s a poor shooter, not a controlled floor general (he passes first, but doesn’t necessarily control the tempo), and is prone to force things. But he makes things happen. And he’s fast. And he’s fun. Summer league lends itself well to these traits.