The perfect draft pick for each of the Detroit Pistons’ positional needs

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons have several roster needs, and there are numerous ways they could address them with their 2020 first-round pick. 

They have an obvious hole at point guard, but their depth at every other position could be improved. They lack a young player with obvious superstar potential, but because of draft misses and recent roster moves, they’re also light on proven high-level starters. They could use help on both sides of the ball. The list goes on. 

The 2020 NBA lottery doesn’t appear to be as stacked in talent as, say, the 2018 lottery, which has already produced two All-Stars in Luka Doncic and Trae Young and potential All-Stars in DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Michael Porter Jr. But some evaluators believe it’s a deep draft, and history indicates there will be plenty of talent available when the Pistons make their selection at No. 7 overall. 

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Here’s a different spin on the mock draft format, looking at three picks the Pistons could make based on which need they choose to address. Consider this a sequel to our 1.0 Pistons mock draft, meaning Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu, Deni Avdija and Tyrese Haliburton are already off of the board. 

The point guard tier 

  • Killian Hayes, G, Ratiopharm ulm
  • Kira Lewis Jr., G, Alabama
  • Cole Anthony, G, North Carolina 

While the Pistons have played their draft strategy relatively close to the vest so far, coach Dwane Casey has acknowledged their glaring need for a point guard. Reggie Jackson is a Clipper, Derrick Rose only has a year remaining on his deal and Bruce Brown is better suited to play a wing position. Detroit not only needs a young player who can become a future starter at the position, but additional depth behind that player. 

Killian Hayes, who has been training with former Pistons guard Will Bynum, is not only a favorite among Pistons fans and certain draft evaluators, but he’s likely the best all-around point guard widely projected to be available at the seventh pick. He doesn’t have elite skill yet, but his footwork, playmaking out of the pick-and-roll, size (6-foot-5), touch and defensive versatility helps to project him as an all-around lead guard with upside as a scorer. 

Kira Lewis Jr. was a bit of a sleeper following the conclusion of Alabama’s season, but has since risen up draft boards. He’s one of the quickest guards in the draft and has shown enough promise as a passer and shooter to make it easier to buy into his potential. 

As one of the most polarizing players in the draft, Cole Anthony’s draft range is hard to pin down. The consensus five-star recruit played for the worst North Carolina team in recent memory, struggled with inefficient shooting splits and is a year older (20) than many of the other point guards considered to be first-round locks this year. This is a bet that he’s much better than his freshman stats would suggest. He’s quick, has great body control as a shooter and finisher and plays with passion. Even if he isn’t a starter, he looks like a player who could have a long NBA career. 

The non-point guard tier

  • Devin Vassell, G/F, Florida State
  • Isaac Okoro, G/F, Auburn
  • Aaron Nesmith, G/F, Vanderbilt 

Outside of James Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu and Obi Toppin, there aren’t many big men widely projected as top-10 picks. While there are bigs worthy of consideration here, such as Toppin and Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa, drafting a wing could be a better bet. 

Vassell and Okoro are two of the better defensive wings in the draft. Vassell is a stronger shooter, knocking down 42% of his 106 3-pointers last season. Okoro only hit 29% of his 3s, but he is a superior athlete and finisher at the rim. Nesmith is the best shooter of the three, hitting a whopping 52%  of his 115 3-point attempts and showcasing the most versatility in the types of 3s he can hit. But he has strides to make as a defender and playmaker. 

The Pistons have two good, young shooters in Luke Kennard and Svi Mykhailiuk. Adding a third wing now could be ideal, especially with Kennard’s restricted free agency looming next offseason. 

High-floor players who can help next season

  • Obi Toppin, F/C, Dayton
  • Devin Vassell, G/F, Florida State
  • Isaac Okoro, G/F, Auburn 

Disclaimer: The top 15 of this draft is a bit light on experienced players who are expected to be NBA-ready right out of the gate. Toppin, Dayton’s unanimous National Player of the Year last season, is one of the exceptions. He’s a versatile offensive powerhouse who averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds as a redshirt sophomore. While his defense is a question mark, he might be the only big in the draft who can shoot, put the ball on the floor, comfortably finish at the rim and also has NBA-level athleticism. His age (22) may cap his ceiling a little, but he also has a high floor. 

Vassell and Okoro earn a mention here because they already have NBA size and at least one NBA-ready skill. While they may not be day-one starters, they appear to be safe picks to develop into reliable role players. 

Boom-or-bust prospects with star potential 

  • Aleksej Pokusevski, F/C, Olympiacos Piraeus
  • RJ Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers

Sekou Doumbouya, whom the Pistons selected 15th overall a year ago, was the youngest player in the draft and widely considered to have one of its lowest floors and highest ceilings. His rookie season showed both sides — his potential and inexperience. But he’s a longterm project and the organization is invested in helping him reach his ceiling. Could they make a similar swing in this year’s draft?

If there’s a Sekou-equivalent this year, it could be Aleksej Pokusevski. The Serbian big man isn’t built like Doumbouya, with his lanky 7-foot, 200-pound frame. But there are some similarities. Both players cut their teeth in European pro leagues, and Pokusevski is the youngest player in this year’s draft. Like Doumbouya last year, he won’t turn 19 until December. He plays like a much smaller player, with a guard’s touch when shooting and handling the ball. Pokusevski has to put on weight and muscle to have a chance at lasting in the NBA, but he’s an intriguing prospect. 

Hampton, who interviewed with the Pistons in August, was a consensus five-star recruit last year and was once considered a potential top-five pick. An uneven season in New Zealand caused his draft stock to fall, and he’s now projected to be drafted outside the lottery. But he has been working to improve his shooting and fits the profile of some of the players the Oklahoma City Thunder gambled on when Troy Weaver was an assistant general manager there, such as Terrance Ferguson. Hampton is one of the most athletic guards in the draft and has great size, standing 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan. If the Pistons trust that his jumper will improve, there’s a lot to like in him as a prospect.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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