Is Detroit native Derrick Walton a keeper for Detroit Pistons

Most of the hardship players signed by the Detroit Pistons have really not stood out. However, Derrick Walton Jr. is an exception. When his 10-day contract expires, should they keep the Detroit native?

There are certainly many stories of players doing well in the G-League and then becoming standout players in the NBA. After being drafted by the Pistons, Khris Middleton was sent to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Not sure what happened to him after that. Heard he was playing in Japan in July.

But most players are in the G-League because, honestly,that is where they should be at this point in their career. The COVID-19 ravaged Pistons signed eight hardship players, most of them out of the G-League.

Walton played 40 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs on New Year’s Day, posting 11 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals. He made the pass of the night (between Jakob Poetl’s legs!) to Saddiq Bey for the game-winning three-pointer in overtime.

In their previous contest, a 94-85 loss to the New York Knicks, the Pistons held a 14-point lead even though, after Frank Jackson’s injury, they only had two normal rotational players left, Hamidou Diallo and Bey.

The pair produced as Diallo netted 32 points and Bey had 31. The G-League crowd, well, they struggled a tiny bit. Taking out Diallo, Jackson and Bey’s points, the rest of the team scored a total of 19 points.

That would be a good total for the Lions, but this is the NBA, not the NFL.

The third-leading scorer for Detroit in the game was point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who had eight points, along with nine assists.

Walton is not some wet-behind-the-ears kid in awe of actually wearing an NBA uniform.

He played his high school ball at Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods and then spent four years at the University of Michigan. Walton is a few months shy of his 27th birthday.

He had 42 games of NBA experience coming into this, including three with the Pistons, as he had a 10-day contract with Detroit in early 2020. Ironically, he is the only player who played for the Pistons during the 2019-20 season who is on the team.

Walton at least came to the team having experience playing for coach Dwane Casey, which made him the obvious candidate to be the starting point guard. Walton did not score in his debut but did deal six assists (to just two turnovers).

The clock ticking on Walton’s time with Detroit Pistons

Walton signed his contract with Detroit on Christmas Day (heck of a Christmas present) which means it runs out on January 5. Most of the Pistons players in health & safety protocols are expected back before that date.

But Walton continues to play well. as he showed on New Year’s Day:

And Detroit will be short of guards for a while.

Cory Joseph is still sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols (he actually was out of the protocols and then was put back in within 24 hours). Additionally, Frank Jackson is out for at least a week, most likely more, due to a badly sprained ankle suffered in the Knicks game.

Down two of its top guards for the foreseeable future, plus the returning players needing some time to round back into shape, having a semi-experienced hand like Walton could certainly be helpful to the Pistons.

Walton is on an Exhibit 10 contract with Detroit, meaning he has financial incentive to stay with the Pistons’ G-League team, the Motor City Cruise, if he is sent back down.

While the rest of the fill-ins look to need more seasoning (except for maybe Cassius Stanley), Walton has certainly shown enough to stay up with the big club.

You never know when your opportunity will come, so you have to be ready. Getting to play for your hometown team, and contribute to a win, is a true feel-good holiday story but it is one that Walton Jr. has earned.