Hammons, Stone try to show Pistons more diversity
Auburn Hills — As the Pistons wind down their final few workouts before next week’s draft, the strategy seems to be clear.
The majority of the prospects that they’ve had at the practice facility are point guards and big men, sticking with the notion that those are two focus areas for the bench. The group of point guards has included Demetrius Jackson, who is projected as a first-round pick, as well as Oakland University’s Kay Felder, who is pegged from late in the first round to the middle of the second.
The Pistons have the No. 18 pick in the first round and No. 49 in the second, but could lean on Spencer Dinwiddie or bring in a rookie. Pistons general manager Jeff Bower acknowledged the difficulty in having a young player stepping in and contributing in that role because of all the responsibilities.
“(It’s) very difficult. As you see in watching teams play this year, that guard is maybe a backup but in many scenarios, they’re on the floor with starters and they’re playing a role that’s maybe just a notch below a starter in today’s NBA,” Bower said Monday.
“That’s taken on increased value. The change and adjustment that’s made from just the college to the NBA level is a huge jump but when it’s at that position, it’s magnified because of the impact that he has on the rest of your team and specifically the other players on the floor. Those are heavy learning curves to navigate.”
Dinwiddie was limited by injuries and played in just 12 games last season and there’s no indication that he’ll be the heir apparent when next season begins.
It’s a similar question mark at power forward, where the Pistons are loaded with jump-shooting forwards in Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris and Anthony Tolliver, but lack a traditional back-to-the-basket big man who could play alongside centers Andre Drummond or Aron Baynes.
While the Pistons have brought in big men such as Maryland’s Diamond Stone, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons and UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman, there hasn’t been much in the way of first-round prospects in the workouts.
That could signal that they’ll take a cautious approach to trying to getting a power forward. Even with the big men who played center in college, there’s a nod toward finding one with some perimeter touch who can help extend defenses.
“I’m just trying to work on my jumper and stretch the floor, but stay close to my post game, in case the team wants to go big,” Hammons said this week. “You’re always going to take as many things as possible (from teams) but don’t change your game, because you never know where you’re going to end up.”
Hammons said he didn’t get to show his full repertoire in his four years with Purdue, but he’s getting to expand it with NBA teams looking to have more dynamic big men.
It’s a familiar refrain for big men, as with Stone, who in his only year at Maryland was surrounded by shooters and role players, which made his priority just being a traditional big man.
“We had a lot of talent and coach (Mark) Turgeon said he wanted me underneath the basket and not popping or shooting jump shots,” Stone said. “We had (Richard) Carter for that and I had to accept the role; once everyone accepted their role, that’s when we got stronger as a team.”
The Pistons’ coaching changes — including promoting Otis Smith to a dual role of assistant coach and director of player personnel — left the Grand Rapids Drive without a head coach.
Pistons president Stan Van Gundy said there’s no rush to fill the position, given that the Drive start their season later than the Pistons, but with the summer approaching, they’d like to start working on solidifying things with the Drive.
“It’s not really necessary before summer league but it’s possible. We’ve known for a little while that we were going to bring Otis on,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve talked to some people and we have some names. It’s something we could get filled pretty quickly but I don’t feel it’s a necessity.”
Van Gundy also revealed that he’ll hire a general manager for the Drive, who will be based in Grand Rapids, to give them more autonomous control there.
The Pistons have been nominated for an ESPN Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year award, for their involvement in helping in the Flint Water Crisis and starting the #FlintNOW campaign.
The other nominees are the L.A. Galaxy soccer team, the San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco Giants.
The winner will be announced on July 12 and will get a $100,000 grant for its charity; finalists will receive $25,000 each.