Three Situations Surrounding the Detroit Pistons and the NBA Draft

Image: Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

This has certainly been the weirdest draft process we’ve ever been through. But hey, it’s coming. Originally scheduled for May 19, it’s finally going to happen nearly six months later on this Wednesday. 

As you’ve probably heard, it’s also a weird draft class. It’s been totally over-analyzed, but also rather unknown. LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman project to be among the top three picked, but have fewer than 20 games combined between the two of them at a level higher than high school basketball competition. 

There’s also been little movement in mock drafts compared to most years. Looking more closely at a prospect like Patrick Williams, he’s risen. But of course he has. He’s one of the youngest players in the draft, a terrific defensive player, has ideal size, and shows some offensive ability. Starting the draft process in the 20s, well yeah, that’s a dude who eventually rises to the lottery.

But there are plenty of prospects who have stayed under the radar, while those at the top of the draft haven’t fallen when, well, they probably should. 

1. Number seven is a great spot to pick

For lottery teams, winning the lottery is, you know, winning. That’s what you want on lottery night. 

Not this year. The first pick three picks of the 2020 NBA Draft are about the worst you can hope for. 

Sure, you can probably trade them to some dumb, desperate team who are infatuated with the idea of getting a top pick. But those are teams that have a misconception between the value of a pick and the value of a player. These players who will be taken in three top three in this year’s draft have a much more dubious value proposition than usual.

Each has major red flags. Each will make a lot of money. 

The top pick will make around $8 million next year. For context, that’s around the range that the Charlie Villanueva contract peaked at. 

The player the Pistons will likely take with the seventh pick will make about half that. Taking a risk on a project at $8 million versus $4 million looks quite differently. 

The top prospects do have a considerable amount of talent, but those who will likely be available at seven have other aspects that make them just as viable as the likely top picks. 

In Killian Hayes, you could potentially be looking at a 19-year-old point guard with great size who just happens to speak the same language as your current top prospect for the Pistons, Sekou Doumbouya. In Isaac Okoro, you could have that two-way wing the Pistons have been after for quite a while. Kira Lewis Jr. is perhaps the best point guard prospect in a point guard-heavy draft. 

Troy Weaver isn’t likely to get his franchise player in this draft. But he can start to mold the team in his identity. Seven in this draft is a great spot to do that.

2. Trading down could make a ton of sense

While not a top-heavy draft, there is plenty of depth. In 2013 the two best players came from the 15th and 27th spots. Nearly half of the lottery is either out or barely hanging on to their NBA careers.

This year’s draft could look similar – although the overall quality will likely be higher. 

When you look further down, you can see some really decent players. Aaron Nesmith is the kind of elite shooter on the wing that every team needs. He can get it off the bounce, can catch and shoot in movement, and has the type of mentality that you love to see. But he’s not the type of physical profile that generally goes super high. Even for the Pistons, he doesn’t really make sense given the presence of Svi Mykhailiuk. f

There are teams with multiple first-round picks in the Celtics and Thunder, both of whom should be interested in moving up. 

The Pistons have open roster spots, the ability to get young players into the rotation, and (hopefully) a rebuilding mindset. If you can get multiple shots at the same caliber of player, you should take it. 

Some players to target:

  • Kira Lewis Jr.
  • Paul Reed
  • Aleksej Pokusevski
  • Isaiah Stewart
  • RJ Hampton
  • Jahmi’us Ramsey
  • Tyrell Terry

If the Pistons were able to walk away with two of those players, it’d be a nice win for the day.

I’ve already mentioned Lewis as potentially the best PG in the draft. Paul Reed is probably the best defensive player, with flashes of Brandon Clarke last year. Poku has unicorn attributes. Stewart averaged 17/9 as a freshman and has a 7’4 wingspan. In the days of big men being valued higher, he’d be a surefire lottery pick. Especially if Christian Wood leaves in free agency, the Pistons could use some post offense. 

Hampton has game-changing speed. Ramsey has a terrific competitive streak. Terry is a prolific shooter from the point guard spot. 

But these are just some of my favorites. There are plenty of arguments to be made for others. Cole Anthony’s pedigree, Malachi Flynn’s defense, Vernon Carey’s production, Nico Mannion’s…err, actually let’s not go there. 

The point is that there are lots to like about this draft even past 20. The Celtics have 14 and 26, which makes a ton of sense for seven, especially considering the Celtics’ roster crunch. Unless the Pistons are in love with someone at seven (which they very well might be considering how much sense someone like Killian Hayes or Patrick Williams makes), it’s otherwise a natural fit. 

The Pistons traded away their second-round pick in the 2015 trade for Marcus Morris, which sure, that was a great trade. But getting hold of a second-round pick would be cool. There’s still plenty of people to like.

3. Keep 2021 (and beyond) in mind

Whoever winds up being the top pick in the 2020 NBA draft might be unlikely to go in the top 10 of next year’s draft. The 2022 draft is perhaps even stronger.

It calls to mind Elfrid Payton in the 2014 draft. The Orlando Magic fell in love with him as a late riser. Sam Hinkie exploited that by drafting him 10th, even though the 76ers didn’t really want him, just to hold Payton hostage to the Magic at 12.

Hinkie brought back the 12th pick, a second-round pick for the following season, and a future first-round pick. Orlando traded Payton after three seasons for a pair of second-round picks. Sam Hinkie being Sam Hinkie, he never actually turned those assets into anything, but it was a nice work of asset accumulation from a team that was incoherently obsessed. 

Payton wasn’t worth the Magic’s infatuation, and no one in this draft is worth the Pistons becoming infatuated. Next year though? Yeah, Cade Cunningham is worth infatuation. Or Scottie Barnes. Or Brandon Boston. Or Usman Garuba. 

LaMelo Ball simply isn’t. He flashed a 46 percent true shooting percentage in Australia. He let the likes of Bryce Cotton drop multiple 20 point games on him. If you were wondering where our old friend Terrico White went, it’s the league LaMelo Ball was in. And in that league, Ball still sucked. He’s a shoot-first point guard who can’t shoot, a basketball genius who makes terrible decisions, and a dude who could be a good defensive player if he chose to be…he just chooses not to be. He could put it all together, absolutely. But do not trade up for this player. 

Or James Wiseman. Who’s the last big man successfully picked in the top 3? Would you like to say Joel Embiid or Karl Anthony-Towns, both franchise centers who put up incredible numbers on teams that need to figure out if they can win with them? Wiseman fits that same mold. He shows great potential and the ability to produce. But also a future as a franchise centerpiece that you wish would take a back seat. 

And Anthony Edwards. You can find clips of him looking like the next James Harden. But at the end of the day, he’s just a 52 percent true shooting percentage guy that takes a lot of shots, can’t shoot threes, doesn’t create enough, doesn’t play defense, and led a 16-16 team. 

Any of those three could pan out and be solid players. But the red flags are waving high. 

The Pistons are looked at as a team that could trade up in this year’s draft. They’ve been stagnant, they need a star, all that jazz. But it would be a huge mistake to sacrifice any future assets to chase these players. 

For the Pistons rebuild to be successful, they do need a star (or three). It’s just unlikely to come here.

The Pistons have done a nice job of accumulating young role players. Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown Dzanan Musa, Svi Mykhailiuk, Sekou Doumbouya, that’s a nice place to start. A successful draft night for the Pistons will be an addition of another one or two of that same level, aiming for a nice fit.

Featured Image: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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