2014 could go down in the annals of basketball history as the year of the draft. It’s one of those rare years when a draft class is projected to be so loaded with talent, that teams are inclined to start rebuilding. To take this even further, many general managers around the league would, at least privately, see losing as a necessary evil on the path to the lottery and a potential franchise player. This means that draft picks have never been more valuable, yet still some organizations miss the point. Franchises like the Knicks, Nets and Lakers frequently trade away their picks, regardless of round, while second rounders generally aren’t given the respect they deserve. Although lottery picks are often vital in the construction of a team, the foundations are often made up of solid second round role players, just like the Detroit Pistons’ Kyle Singler.
Singler, taken with the 33rd pick of the 2011 draft, is typical of many players that have found their way to the NBA in recent years. Singler was drafted out of Duke as an NCAA champion. Pre-draft, his upside was a great attitude, decent size and a sweet shooting stroke, particularly from behind the arc. On the other hand, scouts remained wary of his lack of athleticism and explosiveness, particularly in regards to how it impacted his finishing around the rim and how often he got to the line. With the lockout in progress, the Pistons would send Singler to Spain. The Oregon native would eventually spend two seasons in the Spanish League, playing first for Alicante before moving on to Real Madrid. Getting significant burn in a professional league alongside fully grown men did Singler a lot of good. As a strong performer during his stay on the Iberian Peninsula, he grew in confidence and maturity, meaning that when he finally returned stateside for his shot at the NBA, he was ready to contribute.
When Singler finally arrived in the Motor City for the 2012-13 season, his play overseas had earned him a significant role in the Pistons rotation. In his rookie season, he would play in all 82 games, even starting in 74 of them. Putting up averages of 8.8 points and four rebounds in 28 minutes a night is evidence of the solid production he offered up during his first season. Indeed, his play was enough to get him selected to the All-Rookie Second Team. With the roster changes made by the Pistons in the past offseason, Singler’s role was always going to change though.
The arrival of Josh Smith in Detroit to play alongside Pistons stalwart Greg Monroe and a healthy Andre Drummond has created quite the log jam for minutes up front. As a result Singler has seen his minutes fall by just less than 15 percent so far this season and where last year he was a consistent starter, this year he has only been in the starting five once in the 47 games to date. For some players this could lead to a drop in confidence and performance levels, but Singler has continued to play hard and impress.
His averages are only slightly down on last year, even with less time on the court. For the season, Singler has been averaging 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Another bonus is his increased shot efficiency. Singler’s field goal percentage has jumped from 42.8 percent last season to 45.3 in this one. For a Detroit team in chronic need of floor spacing, the 25-year-old offers something dynamic off the bench. In fact, it wouldn’t be hard to make the argument that Singler’s skill set could be best utilized as a starter within the current roster in Detroit. On Saturday night against Philadelphia, it’s fair to say that Singler made his case for this concept, too. Not only did he score 20 points, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range, but he also grabbed 10 rebounds. Singler’s double-double was a vital contribution in a much needed Pistons victory.
So, now in his sophomore season in the NBA, the former Duke Blue Devil is continuing to progress and develop into the type of player that can not only help his current team’s situation, but remain a factor in the league for years to come. He’s one of a raft of guys in recent years who have either gone overseas to play, or stayed the full term in college, before being drafted in the second round. In the past, second round picks could sometimes be treated like throwaway’s, but now with guys like Singler coming in with experience, ready to play, that perception is changing. So when you hear all the talk of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Joel Embiid, don’t forget that after they are all long gone off the board, drafting a guy like Singler would be a wise move for any number of NBA franchises.