So what's the deal?
Ray McCallum has signed to a 1 year non-guaranteed deal for the veteran minimum, the fact that it is non-guaranteed is important because it means that the Pistons are not bringing in McCallum to be the 3rd PG over Lorenzo Brown. it means that they are going to have McCallum and Brown compete for the 3rd spot over the rest of camp and preseason.
Who Is Ray McCallum?
Ray McCallum is a local(ish) of Detroit who played his last 2 years of high school at Detroit County Day High School, where he was excellent, winning a state championship and was a highly touted college recruit, he passed on many scholarships from larger programs to attend Detroit Mercy for college in order to play for his father. Once again he was excellent in college in all 3 of his years there. He declared for the draft following his Junior season and was selected by the Sacramento Kings in the 2nd round.
With the Kings, he found some playing time later in the season with some injuries to the team and played pretty solid ball, if not anything revolutionary. Think almost like Reggie Bullock this past season if he had shot 36% from 3 instead of 41%. In his second year however, he ended up playing regular minutes and even started 30 games for the Kings. In his second season he posted very solid numbers pretty much across the board, and seemed to have solidified himself as a solid NBA rotation PG.
However with the Kings bringing in Rajon Rondo, they decided to trade McCallum to the Spurs for a 2nd round pick. He was slotted in as the 3rd PG behind Tony Parker and Patty Mills, and never really played much, and was assigned to the D-League several different times, before eventually being waived from the team in order to make room for Andre Miller. And he was signed to the Grizzlies on 2 10 day contracts, getting some playing time and playing pretty well for the injury riddled team.
The best thing that can be said of McCallum is that he knows how to play the game, like a lot of the stereotypical things that people say about white guys who are guards "heady player who is scrappy etc." are often true of McCallum, (even though he is not white obviously.) but he is a coach's son and it shows. A consistent thing that shows up in his stats at whatever level is a solid assist to turnover ratio, even when other numbers lag behind a bit. He just see's the floor well and is good at making the right passes while avoiding the wrong ones. And his career number of 2.4 assists per turnover (which is actually exactly his career number per game lol) is a solid one by pretty much any measurement.
His smart play continues onto the defensive side of the ball as well, even though he is not a great defender by any stretch, he has a very real knack for seeing opportunities to swipe a steal, whether it is a ball handler who isn't paying attention or a lazy pass. When he see's a play to be made, he jumps on it. Once again, he just has a good head for the game.
In the rest of his offensive game, the same idea as his ability to grab steals carries over as well. He is not quick enough or explosive enough to blow by most guys or to create his own offense with much regularity, but he is capable of getting past bigger guys when he gets a switch and he is good at being aggressive in attacking them. Once again, he is not a awesome scorer or creator, but when he see's an opportunity or a hole in the defense that he can exploit, he is excellent at taking advantage. This also shows up in transition, where he is actually a surprisingly good athlete with some real bounce. He is great at leaking out in transition while his guy watches a shot for a beat too long, and getting easy buckets that way.
I would say other than him generally being smart (particularly as a passer) the best thing is his ability to finish in traffic, where he uses his good size and strength (for a PG) to good effect and generally is able to finish at the hoop over solid rim protection. Even if he almost never draws fouls.
Lastly, he is a fairly proven as a competent 3 point shooter.
The main thing that worries me about McCallum is that the Spurs dumped him the way they did. The Spurs do not trade their picks lightly, and they gave up their 2nd round pick in this last draft to bring him in, and they waived him to add Andre Miller. There shouldn't need to be a reminder that the Spurs are the sort of team that good players who need a chance to show it/develop themselves a bit love. Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but it is certainly not a good sign that a organization as good as the Spurs dumped him after giving up a 2nd rounder for him.
On the floor, as good as he is at taking advantages of holes/mistakes, his problem is that he is not generally good enough to really create those mistake by himself. On defense he is nothing special and does not offer a lot other than the occasional steal. He is not quick enough to handle good ball handlers, and while he does offer a bit more strength than your typical PG at 6-3 190 lbs. he does not do all that well against guys that are real post up players.
The same thing comes through on offense, he is not really quick enough to consistently beat most guys off the dribble, and is not a good enough shooter to really punish teams for playing off him a bit. He is a solid finisher but isn't anything too special there either. Essentially, he lacks a go to thing that can really scare a defense in any meaningful way. Against solid/disciplined defenders he can become just another guy who dribbles the ball up the court before passing it to someone else to really create the offense.
What will his role with the Pistons be?
He will compete with Lorenzo Brown for the 3rd PG spot, and last spot on the roster. (Michael Gbinije could still end up factoring into this as well.) If he were to win the spot, he would do just that, be the 3rd PG. He does have enough size that they could theoretically play him at SG a little bit, and also if Ish's size is really a problem in some matchups he could be used there as well. But mostly he would sit on the bench until injuries or foul trouble forced him into the game.
How will he fit? (once again, assuming he makes the team)
He would probably fit pretty well I think. The Pistons now have enough other guys on the bench who can do some creation and help the offense that he would be able to do his thing to good effect, and as a coaches son and whatnot, he is certain to be a decent guy to have on the team even if just for in practice and in the locker room. (And FWIW, I have never seen anything but high praise for Ray as a person.) Particularly if they could utilize him a bit playing alongside Ish as a occasional change of pace for the bench mob he could really be a nice piece to fit into the team.
He makes the team, and when he is called on to play, he shows that his time in Sacramento is actually more indicative of his abilities than last season, and the Pistons fill out as being one of the deepest teams in basketball. And possibly sticks around longer term taking a bit of a pay cut to be close to home and the Pistons have yet another solid young player on their team.
The Pistons pick McCallum over Brown, Brown is then signed by the Nets where he plays really well and is a quality NBA player, while McCallum is very underwhelming in the playing time he gets, and eventually the Pistons give his playing time to Gbinije and McCallum falls into obscurity perhaps even being waived before the season is over.
Upshot for the rest of the roster?
He only affects Lorenzo Brown, who now is no longer looking like a lock for the 3rd spot, instead it will be a competition.
I like it just fine. He is a local guy who I think is a pretty decent player. And even if it was guaranteed it would be a no risk thing even if he stinks. I still kind of hope Brown wins the 3rd spot but whatever.
Why would you rather have Brown?
No, I kind of hope Brown wins the 3rd spot. I want the better player to win it, regardless of what else I'm about to say, if McCallum proves himself to be better, I want him on the team. And if I had to guess which one would make it, I would go with McCallum just because he is more proven (which is to say he is proven at all) as an NBA player.
The reason I am kind of rooting for Brown is because the D-League is already becoming more legit as a real minor league, and fulfilling this process will be a matter of some importance for the next CBA. As such, when trying to get guys to sign up for your D-League team, I think it matters to show that you actually put real effort into it. There are a lot of teams that don't give a flying fuck about the guys on their D-League team, that's just the reality. But if Brown makes the team this year, in the future, when the Pistons are trying to get someone, shoot McCallum could even be the guy, to play for the Drive, they can point to Brown as a guy who spent 2 years in their system and eventually won himself a spot on the NBA roster. And that matters to guys, like I kind of wish that the Pistons had called up Devin Ebanks last year instead of signing Justin Harper to a couple 10 day contracts, just because it would show that they really see the Drive as being part of their organization, not just as a place to send their draft picks to get them some playing time.
Obviously this is not that big of a deal, even the ones who end up becoming NBA players out of the D-League are not game changers, other than the rare Hassan Whiteside or Danny Green, most of them are a Lorenzo Brown type who might end up being a decent 3rd guard. But still, every advantage you have helps.
What do you think? Will McCallum win the 3rd PG spot? Let me know! We all get smarter!