Who should Detroit Pistons take in 2020 NBA draft? Best player available ought to be motto

Detroit Free Press

In two weeks, the Detroit Pistons will know where they will pick in the  2020 draft. 

The lottery will take place on Aug. 20, and new general manager Troy Weaver and the rest of the front office are hoping the odds will fall in Detroit’s favor. The Pistons haven’t drafted higher than seventh since 2003 and have never moved up in the draft with their own pick. 

The Free Press talked to Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated’s NBA draft guru, about the Pistons and their potential draft plan as the new regime prepares for its first lottery. The Pistons have the fifth-best lottery odds, their highest since 1994. 

The Pistons, being at the start of a rebuild, have a lot of needs. Is there a need you think they should prioritize entering this draft, or should the focus be getting the best possible player?

Woo: “Probably the latter. If you look at what’s on the roster, they really just need to start accumulating players that have potential to increase in value. It’s way too early in the rebuild to say exactly what they need, at least from my perspective. They should take a high-upside swing or just get a sure thing. That depends on how you view this draft, which I would say the attitude right now from the NBA is there’s not going to be a star laying around. There’s guys who break out unexpectedly, but from their perspective I think the likelihood is someone they’re happy with. If they stay at five, I don’t think they have to win the lottery to come out doing OK. But it’s really about rejuvenating the roster. It’ll be interesting to see. They might be able to pick up another first later on, if they want. I’m sure they’re being very proactive about this draft.”

[NBA mock drafts: Detroit Pistons could address these needs on draft night]

This draft is widely considered a weaker one. Which guys do you think have the strongest chance of developing into franchise players?

“There’s already some clamor about LaMelo Ball, it’s interesting. I think there are (teams), and Detroit is one of the teams that will be in position to, if he’s on the board, take that risk. On one hand, if you’re Weaver and you just took over the team, do you want to stake this first draft to him? I don’t know. And the opinion on him varies a little bit more around the league than you would think reading articles online. I don’t know if he makes it to five. If he does make it to five and they’re sitting there at five, there’s a pretty decent case for it. If they’re picking one, I don’t know if that’s what I would do. He’s so big and so skilled that even with the warts, with the shooting and just general inexperience in terms of having won games, I think that’s something you might overlook if you’re them and you want to try it.

“Anthony Edwards, in terms of upside, there’s a case for. I don’t think he’s going to make it to five. If they win the lottery, picking in the top one, two, three, they might be able to pick him. He’s a player who makes sense just because you can invest the time to develop them. I don’t think the floor is as low with him as some people think. The tools are really good and he is really raw, but on the other hand part of it is contextual as well, where he clearly has not played a lot of high-level basketball before getting to Georgia. It’s going to take some nurture but he has a chance to be at least a starting-caliber wing who can score and defend. You gotta have good wings right now in the NBA. He’s someone I’d look at as well. Those are probably the two guys who we’re talking about obvious long-term potential, those are the ones.

“In James Wiseman, you could bring up, I don’t know if, having just gone through all of this with (former Pistons center Andre) Drummond and then getting rid of Drummond, I don’t know if you want to take a center who is maybe in a similar mold where the production may always be there, but in terms of the winning results he may not be the guy who directly impacts that as much.” 

The Pistons have almost the same odds of drafting above fifth overall and below fifth. Given that this draft doesn’t have the same talent hierarchy that many drafts have, would falling below No. 5 be as detrimental this year compared to an average draft?

I don’t think so. It’s pretty close with all of these guys that we’re talking about as top-10 guys. I don’t think the talent gap is super, super wide. There will be a difference in who is available, but in terms of long-term ramifications, I don’t know if that’s necessarily going to be an issue. At least you’ll be able to walk away with someone you’re OK with later on. They may not be one of the high-upside guys if you drop a little bit. I don’t think this is a draft where anyone should necessarily be expecting to get a franchise-changing player. If you look at next year, which is going to be much stronger, I don’t think it’s a secret at this point, they’re going to have more chances, more bites at the apple, so to speak. So I wouldn’t be super discouraged if they end up picking a little bit later, a guy who isn’t a high-upside guy. There are enough guys in this draft, guys who are going to have decent careers as role players. There are guys who are going to be good pros. But we always talk about, ‘Well, what’s a good draft?’ That’s the big question. The upside is not necessarily as obvious, I guess I would say, this year.” 

Who are some of the dark horse guys you think will be better than they’ve been given credit for? 

“For me, Tyrese Haliburton is the guy laying in plain sight. There are some people who really like him, some people who are lower. It’s easy to understand the warts of his game, just because he’s still figuring out how to score off the dribble. He does not have traditional shooting mechanics, but it goes in. It’s not like he doesn’t make shots. I’m not saying he’s going to be a superstar, but I think there’s a real chance he has the best career. He might be the most well-rounded player in the draft in terms of the different ways he can impact the game. He’s probably a guy who’s better off playing off of another star. He may not be a traditional, ‘This is your best player’ type of player. He’s a guy who is a good outside-the-box option. And his feel is just so good. He’s somebody I would feel comfortable with. 

“Killian Hayes is another one. If you need a guard, he’s probably going to be mid-to-late lottery. I don’t think he’ll be top five. I think teams will be a little bit more wary of the athleticism and his shooting and how far he has to go. But he did have a really good year. He’s a player who I’ve always liked, having had a couple of opportunities to see him in person. He has a chance to be a starting-caliber player. 

“And then another guy is Patrick Williams from Florida State, who hasn’t necessarily shown everything he can do, but clearly has checked the boxes defensively, physically to be a pretty useful, versatile combo forward. Those types of guys, you can’t really have enough of right now. He’s probably a guy who’s going to be mid-late lottery, but probably someone a team will be excited to work with just because of the growth potential.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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