Will Cade Cunningham actually play at Summer League? Pistons mailbag

The NBA draft is done. The free hand stands still. The basketball world is waiting to see what happens to Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

To keep everyone busy in the meantime, the NBA Summer League gets underway in Las Vegas later this week. The Pistons will be there with a roster that may have four regular-season starters on Opening Day. Detroit is using the July window by filling its Summer League roster with its young core to begin building chemistry toward the regular season.

Yes, that includes Cade Cunningham, last year’s No. 1 who was on the Pistons’ Summer League roster. That includes Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, two youngsters who in some ways have already proven themselves as NBA players. Will they even play in Las Vegas? I’ve answered these and a few other questions in the latest issue of the Mailbag to prepare you for the next two weeks.

How involved do you think Cade, Saddiq and Beef Stew will be? Last year it looked like Bey shouldn’t be there (in a good way) – @CorumsBurner

That’s the question everyone wants answered.

I can’t give you an exact answer, but on Sunday head coach Dwane Casey said all three boys are on the Summer League roster because it’s important that they get work in a team environment and “legally put them on the roster” allows them to train with the team in Las Vegas. To me, “legal” implies that there has to be a rule that says a player has to be on the roster to train with your team in the Summer League.

Casey added that practice time is more important to these players than the game, so it sounds like they don’t play in many real games, if at all. I’d be surprised if Cunningham played in more than one. Same goes for Bey. If the Pistons’ logic for including these two is that they could suffer injuries playing off-team, that’s fair. injuries happen. However, Detroit can control this situation and also prevent anything from happening under its watch, a situation that would obviously come with public and media backlash.

I could see that Isaiah Stewart, who has never played in the Summer League, got a few games. The staff might want to allow him to feel comfortable in a playing environment so he comes to training camp with that rootedness. Additionally, Stewart could switch back and forth between power forward and center early in the regular season, so putting him in different lineup combinations now could help later in the adjustment and team decision makers can get an idea of ​​how they intend to use him this season.

In closing, if you expect to see a lot of Cunningham in Las Vegas, I would lower your expectations.

Do you think it’s possible that Troy (Weaver) is trying to prioritize the lottery odds for another season given the talent in the 2023 draft? I get recaps of the big roster ahead of the 2021 draft lottery. — @buffinDubois

Can I answer yes and no?

Weaver and co. wouldn’t be upset if this young squad somehow found themselves in the play-in picture at the end of the regular season. That said, something (or things) went right in the development of multiple players. Conversely, Weaver and his staff wouldn’t be upset if the people on that squad showed real improvement but it didn’t show up in the earnings column. Another top 10 selection in next year’s far better class is a pretty good consolation prize.

As in 2021, the “hoarding” of big men is a little over the top this time. Stewart, Jalen Duren and Marvin Bagley III are pillars of the organization that continue to evolve. These three bigs are what really matter to Detroit. Nerlens Noel is with the Pistons to be an experienced leader and mentor to these guys. Will he see a court date? Certainly. However, Noel has been one of the better edge defenders in the NBA for a number of years. Learning from him would be wise for Stewart, Duren and Bagley. And when it comes to Olynyk, I’d be surprised if he’s on the squad in a year’s time, despite having one season left under contract. He’s the only member of Detroit’s current frontcourt to have shared the floor in the past, so he’s adding versatility to the lineup in the short term. Still, he’ll likely always be grounded with one of Stewart, Bagley, or Duren. The latter was the youngest player in the 2022 NBA draft, so I’d assume the Pistons are starting to bring him along even though he now has an NBA-fit physique. There will be minutes for everyone.

It is also important to remember that a trade can still happen. It’s only early July. There is still a lot of time before the training camp starts. The forecourt might not be as crowded when basketball really matters again.

Will Duren be able to train and play despite not being in the official summer league squad? — @adamtwig

Duren was not included in the Pistons’ Summer League roster because the draft-day trade between the Pistons, Knicks and Hornets has not yet been officially made. Trades and free agent deals that have taken place in the last few weeks cannot be made official until July 6th at 12:01pm EST. For this reason, Duren was not performed. Technically, he’s not a Detroit Piston yet.

However, the big man from Memphis will be able to sign later this week and then the team will release an updated list with his name on it. The Pistons begin playing Summer League on July 7, potentially allowing Duren to “legally” play in the first game. However, assuming the Pistons followed the rules, Duren hasn’t practiced with the Summer League roster and may not yet fully understand the plays and will need a little more time to acclimate. My guess is he’ll get minutes until Detroit’s second game in Las Vegas, which isn’t until Saturday.

What does Killian have to show this year and how long do you think his leash will be? — @KornKat2020

Hayes, who was No. 7 in 2020, is the player of interest in the Summer League’s third year. I have a feeling he will play a decent number of games, if not all.

I expect he’ll be the most closely watched by the Pistons’ front office and coaching staff. The 20-year-old needs to dominate or come close to making Detroit feel more comfortable with him going forward. It’s been a rocky two seasons for Hayes due to numerous injuries, a difficult jump shot and difficulty getting around the rim. The organization certainly wants him to run without hiccups on offense, have the “I’m too good for it” aggressiveness and show improvements with his knight.

Hayes has already proven to be a very good passer and defender on the ball. He might be the Pistons’ best player on those two things. But in today’s NBA, is that enough for an organization to make a long-term investment in a player? Hayes’ development as a scorer will determine not only his future in Detroit, but also his future in the NBA.

The good thing for Hayes is that he’s still very young, doing some things well and the Pistons are in no hurry right now. However, in light of this, improvements need to be made.

Could we get a butt cap breakdown? Or maybe a link to a good one? I think we’ve filled all 15, but I think we have close to $10 million left, plus the mid-level non-taxpayer exception. So about 20 million left. Also, any information on a PF signature? We need another wing. — @patsandbball

Let’s end with that.

Once Duren, Kevin Knox and Bagley sign their contracts and the additions of Noel and Alec Burks become official, the Pistons will have filled all 15 major contract spots. And if my calculations are correct, with an expected cap of $123.655 million for 2022-23, Detroit has a rough payroll of $113,810,768, with a remaining cap of just under $10 million.

How did I get this number you ask?

Well, I’ve added up all the salaries of the Pistons’ returning players, as well as dead money from DeAndre Jordan, Dewayne Dedmon, and Kemba Walker (I’m assuming he’s returning $2-3 million for the buyout to be complete, although this has not been confirmed the athlete that Walker returned a decent amount of money). I then pinned Jaden Ivey and Duren’s estimated rookie salaries (based on the salaries of players selected in their draft slots last season) and Burks and Noel’s contracts.

While the Pistons have no spot on the roster to make another signing as of now, a trade and/or release of a player would open up a spot on the roster and give Detroit the option of picking a pretty good player with their remaining cap spot to get. However, there is a world where the Pistons only carry the cap spot into the season to have flexibility should a trade opportunity arise for a higher-paying player.

Detroit is keeping options open, which has been the theme of this offseason so far.

(Top Photo Credit by Cade Cunningham: Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

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