NBA executives ranked young players. Which Detroit Pistons could qualify in the future?

Detroit Free Press

On Monday, HoopsHype published a poll of 15 NBA talent evaluators ranking the players younger than 25 who they would most like to build a team around. Mavericks forward Luka Doncic led the ranking, and Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns rounded out the list at No. 13. 

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Unsurprisingly, no Detroit Pistons were included in the list. But if the ranking were expanded to, say, 20 players, which Pistons have the best chance of making an appearance in the future?

Including two-way contracts, the Pistons have a whopping 10 players younger than 25. We’ll have to stretch a little here, considering no qualifying player on the roster is currently an NBA star. There are players who could become franchise building blocks, however. 

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1. Christian Wood

Including Wood on this list is a bit of a cheat, since he turns 25 on Sunday. But he’s arguably played at a higher level than any other young player on the roster and warrants a mention here.

In the 12 games leading up to the NBA’s suspension on March 11, Wood averaged 22.4 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting 56.3% shooting from the field and 38.8% 3-point shooting. He has a near-perfect offensive game for a modern big man. If he maintains a similar level of play throughout next season, he will be a favorite for the league’s Most Improved Player award. 

Wood is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so there’s no way to know if he’ll be a Piston next season. But he’s the closest thing on the roster to a young franchise player. 

2. Sekou Doumbouya

This is a bit of a projection. Doumbouya, 19, is the youngest player in the NBA and had a rough time adjusting last season, save for a hot two-week stretch with the Pistons in January. He has a ways to go before he can be relied upon to win games. 

Yet, his age is actually a benefit for him here. He doesn’t turn 20 until December, giving him more than five years to crack the ranking. He already has good size (6-9) and athleticism. He’s currently working on his forward and guard skills to further round out his game. 

The peak version of Doumbouya could be as a bouncy forward and versatile defender who can also function as a small-ball center in spurts, hit open 3-pointers, push the ball in transition and finish in the paint over defenders of all sizes. If he checks most of those boxes by the time he’s 23, he’ll be well on his way to stardom. 

3. Luke Kennard

Injuries hampered what was shaping up to be his breakout season last year. He averaged 15.8 points and 4.1 assists on 44/40/89 shooting splits through 28 games. A full season and slightly larger role could have a major impact on his reputation across the league, particularly if he continues improving as a playmaker.

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Shot-creating wings are in-demand, and Kennard, 24, has the tools to be one of the better young ones. While cracking the top-20 would be tough for him, a bigger role next season could see him boost his numbers even more, further solidifying his value in the league. 

Only 23 players averaged at least 18 points and five assists per game last season. Of that group, only Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving shot better than 39% from 3. If Kennard has a bigger role next season, he could join that list.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at 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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