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Kim English, Khris Middleton are the latest Pistons to have D-League success, but will it mean anything for them?

I was really excited that Pistons rookies Kim English and Khris Middleton got a chance at extended minutes for a few games with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants last week. I was even more excited when both played well.

But then I got a little less excited. The Pistons have a history of sending second round guys to the D-League, seeing them do well there, then returning to the NBA and still getting minimal or no minutes. That was more understandable in the days when they were winning. These last couple seasons, though? Far, far less understandable. This was my topic in today’s column for the Detroit Free Press:

In the earlier days, for players like (Amir) Johnson and (Alex) Acker, that was excusable. The Pistons were busy contending for titles, so the rotation was set and teams in that position typically don’t spend a lot of time giving big minutes to second round picks in an effort to develop them.

Things have changed significantly, though. The Pistons missed an opportunity with (Vernon) Macklin, a player who showed promise in the extremely limited minutes he received last season and even more promise in his D-League stint. Then, at the end of the season, because they never gave him a chance at regular minutes even after that D-League stint, the Pistons were left not really knowing whether Macklin could develop into a useful player and he was eventually squeezed off the roster.

The likelihood of Macklin, or any second-round pick for that matter, turning into a rotation caliber player is low just based on the odds. Few second-round picks make it. But a rebuilding team like the Pistons can’t afford to look for talent and assets in every possible place.

They blew an opportunity with Macklin last season by not stretching out his minutes at any point during a lost season. Hopefully, they don’t do the same with English and Middleton this season.


  • Dec 21, 20121:25 pm
    by George


    I find it hilarious that a team like the Spurs are more likely to give young’ns, even 2nd rders, a shot to crack the rotation more than our team.  This is beyond a joke.  It kinda makes me wonder how the careers of guys like Acker or Macklin would have been if the Spurs drafted them.  Our team is pretty much a career killer for guys (we) drafted outside of the lottery.  Singler is the only real exception I can think of.

  • Dec 21, 20121:51 pm
    by bugsygod


    I think you meant “not”.   ”But a rebuilding team like the Pistons can’t afford to “NOT” look for talent and assets in every possible place.”
    Macklin did not make it in the league…..with any team.  So dont think he is a good example. 
    Hope English and Middleton can get more minutes after the trade deadline when were done showcasing the vets <—-  dripping w/ sarcasm. 

    • Dec 21, 20121:59 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      “Macklin did not make it in the league…..with any team.  So dont think he is a good example.”

      I’m not saying Macklin will necessarily ever be a viable NBA player, that’s not why I was using him as an example. My point is, did we see enough of him last season to definitely conclude he isn’t a viable NBA player? I think that’s where the miss is — not that the Pistons gave up on a guy who is definitely good. In reality, Macklin, like most second round picks, is a longshot to ever stick in the league. But losing teams have the luxury of taking an extra long look at marginal prospects to see if something useful develops. I don’t believe they took advantage of that opportunity to take a long look with Macklin last season.

      It’s not so much that I think losing him will hurt in the long run. It probably won’t. But if the pattern of never playing those types of young, fringe guys repeats with their second round picks this season — if English and Middleton make it through the whole season buried on the bench — I think that is the mistake. It’s the philosophy or the thinking behind why they don’t play those guys that I think is faulty, not that I think they’ve definitely missed out on a good player in Macklin.

      • Dec 21, 20123:56 pm
        by bugsygod


        Right understand what you are saying about english and middleton, but anytime a “big” like macklin, cannot make it in the league or NO other team tries him out, then he probably is not that good. 
        Totally agree on English and Middleton i see NO reason why they cannot be in the rotation going forward or at least a good shot at the rotation.  I do think that both those guys however will not get those chances until after the trade deadline.  With maggette out of the rotation and daye in, i think that hinders both guys.  I do think Daye should get these minutes and get a chance at real playing time as one last shot to show something.  He’s young and still may have some upside with the shooting skills, but DONT go back to maggette.
        Dont really see any more vets really in the way of the young guys.  I know Max is ahead of Drummond and we know the story there.  But really we are starting 3 young guys and bringing stuckey, drummond, daye off the bench now for minutes.  Would like to see Slava in lives games.  Jerbko get back in it as well to see if he can produce.  I think the Maggette move was an underrated good one for Frank, by removing a non producing vet. 
        I think by the end of the year(last 20-30games) we will see Drummond starting, English backing up the 2guard spot and in the rotation and Middelton in a spot duty role, but getting mintues. 

      • Dec 21, 20127:05 pm
        by tarsier


        Exactly, odds are he would’ve proved to not be rotation caliber. And that’s fine. But if he had a 5% chance of being valuable, the best way to get that valuable player is to give him and 19 others a chance. Then you find the one in that 20.

  • Dec 21, 20122:18 pm
    by Crispus


    Haha English looks pretty sassy in that photo they used.

    I think most fans have complaints about playing time for this guy or that guy or the other, but let’s face it, Lawrence Frank only has so many minutes to go around, and he has to keep the veterans and the locker room happy AND at least look like he’s trying to win games. 

    After a while it’s not a Frank thing, but a Joe D thing. Will Joe ship off all the vets and have an open tryout with the young guys for the rest of the season? I would prefer this, as long as there’s some structure to keep things from getting too wild. If Joe doesn’t make those moves, Frank will have to stop waffling and decide whether to try to grind out wins with vets or take his chances with the youth. This halfway solution going on now is just making the fans angry and making it impossible to evaluate the true value of the youngsters in game situations.

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