GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Only time will tell if Brandon Jennings will be more efficient with the Detroit Pistons or if Brandon Knight will develop into a steady point guard with the Milwaukee Bucks. But we can already declare a winner in the sign-and-trade deal that swapped the two Brandons across the Central Division: Peyton Siva.
The Pistons selected Siva, who led Louisville to a national championship in April, with the No. 56 pick in June. He came from a rough background, starred at Louisville and achieved his dream of being drafted, but hadn’t actually made the NBA yet. There are no guarantees for a second-round pick who may never see training camp.
Before the trade, the Pistons had 16 players on the roster, and as the last of three draftees behind four other (full or part-time) point guards (Knight, Chauncey Billups, Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey), Siva looked to be the odd man out.
Siva understood the roster math, but he says he “wasn’t worried about it.” And his agent, Andy Miller, wasn’t looking at contingency plans. Erick Green, another college senior selected 10 spots before Siva, was in a similar situation in Denver and signed with Montepaschi Siena in Italy.
“Our goal was to go through training camp and be a part of the Pistons organization in some capacity,” Miller said. “We didn’t have a secondary strategy, because our primary and sole strategy was that he was going to be a part of the Pistons organization.”
Miller told Siva that Pistons GM Joe Dumars wasn’t done putting his team together, but that didn’t necessarily mean that there was a roster spot for the point guard.
“Our plan all along,” Dumars said, “was to either have Siva with us or retain his rights.”
But then Bucks GM John Hammond asked Dumars if he was interested in Jennings, and they put together a trade that sent Viacheslav Kravtsov and Khris Middleton to Milwaukee along with Knight. That took the Pistons roster from 16 to 14.
“I was definitely happy about it,” Siva said of the trade, knowing what it mean for him personally.
Five days later, he was signed.
Of course, Siva is still behind four point guards in Detroit. And he knows he has to become a better shooter to stick in the NBA. But he stood out in Summer League, recording 24 assists to just six turnovers, even though the Pistons shot less than 40 percent. He has the ability to get into the paint and create open shots for his teammates. Defensively, as his four steals in the 2013 NCAA championship game made clear, he can be a pest.
The Pistons have loaded up on talent to make the playoffs for the first time in five years. But with the depth in the backcourt, Dumars knows they can be patient with Siva.
“We see him providing depth and spending some time in the [NBA] D-League,” Dumars said. “There’s no rush with Peyton.”
If you’ve read Siva’s story (and you really should read Siva’s story), you know how much he had to go through to get here. He had to grow up fast and avoid the pitfalls that his father and siblings couldn’t. And at barely six feet tall, he certainly couldn’t rely on his physical gifts to get him here.
Every NBA player makes it to the league with some combination of their physical talent, the work they put in and the opportunities they were presented. For Siva, the story is about the work and his attitude. Yet he still feels lucky.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “Everybody doesn’t get a chance to make it, so I’m just really blessed and I’m just happy to be here.”
He’s an easy player to root for. For Dumars, he was an easy player to invest in.
“There are several things we like about Peyton,” Dumars said, “his toughness, his ability to run the point, his winning approach. He’s a great teammate and he brings a great spirit.”
And for Miller, he’s an easy player to represent.
“He’s a quality human being all the way around,” Miller said. “You would not know that he’s a rookie the way he handles himself.
“I know that agents are supposed to talk up their players, but this is a guy that I’m not sheepish about doing it, because I really don’t think there’s anything to hide about him.”
In life, as he was in April and as he was in the Bucks-Pistons trade, Siva’s a winner.