Detroit Pistons in NBA draft: These 3 prospects might be perfect dark horse picks

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

For a seemingly endless number of reasons, the 2020 NBA draft will be the most irregular draft in the history of the league. It’ll take place virtually on Nov. 18, after the traditional NBA season tip-off window. It’ll happen without the usual information-gathering process, as this year’s NBA draft combine in Chicago was canceled. And most of the players who’ll be drafted haven’t played a noteworthy game of basketball in nine months. 

Yet, there’s one similarity with this draft and past drafts — as we get closer to it, certain players are beginning to move up draft boards. That means that the Detroit Pistons, who have the seventh-overall pick, could be picking from a slightly different group of players than they were when their season ended on March 11. 

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Thanks to the virtual NBA draft combine, along with teams finally being permitted to hold in-person workouts and interviews since Oct. 13, teams are getting a better idea of who the best players in the draft are. The NBA playoffs has also impacted mock drafts, as it showcased how important it is to have versatile wings who can shoot and big men who can defend wings and guards. 

The Pistons have been linked to a handful of players, with French point guard Killian Hayes, Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton and Auburn forward Auburn Okoro being three of the most common. But other players have been mocked within Detroit’s draft range within the last month. 

If the Pistons were to break from expectations and select a late riser, here are three players they could select. 

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Devin Vassell, wing, Florida State

2019-20 stats: 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 49% shooting, 41.5% 3-point shooting.

Vassell, a sweet-shooting wing with defensive chops, has long been considered a lottery pick. And he has crept into the top 10 of some recent mock drafts. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie projects him to go eighth overall to the New York Knicks, while The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor pegs him as the 10th pick to the Phoenix Suns. 

“Vassell is a terrific on-ball and team defender, and he can knock down shots to help space the floor for New York,” Vecenie said. “I personally don’t see a ton of star upside for Vassell, as he’s not really much of a pull-up shooter and not really a guy that makes high-level passing reads on offense. But he should fit in nicely as a starting-caliber wing early in his career.” 

Among The Ringer’s player comparisons, one was to a former Pistons second-round pick, two-time Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton. 

While the Pistons have big needs at point guard and center, they’ve long lacked a true 3-and-D starting wing. Vassell projects as one of the best in this year’s draft. 

Patrick Williams, wing, Florida State

2019-20 stats: 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 45.9% shooting, 32% 3-point shooting.

Williams isn’t considered to be as NBA-ready as his college teammate, Vassell, but he’s one of the higher upside prospects in the draft. He’s widely projected to go eleventh to the San Antonio Spurs, but CBS Sports analyst Kyle Boone projects he’ll be selected eighth overall to the Knicks. 

“In a perfect world for the Knicks, Killian Hayes or Tyrese Haliburton falls to them here,” Boone wrote in his latest mock draft. “But when are things ever perfect for the Knicks? Instead, they go best available player and select raw-but-talented wing Patrick Williams, whose 6-8 frame and plus-wingspan has captivated scouts projecting what he can be long-term as a defensive playmaker and all-around offensive weapon.” 

Like many, Boone sees Hayes and Haliburton as better prospects than Williams. But the draft is unpredictable. If Hayes and Haliburton were to go higher than expected, or if the Pistons were to move down, Williams would give them another athletic 6-foot-8 19-year-old to build around with Sekou Doumbouya. Williams needs to improve as a shooter, but he’s a two-way player with enough upside to become one of the better players in the draft. 

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Tyrell Terry, guard, Stanford

2019-20 stats: 14.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals, 44.1% overall shooting, 40.8% 3-point shooting.

Opinion is split on Terry. Some analysts believe the point guard is a lottery talent, while others project him to be a second-round pick. Terry is arguably the best shooter in the entire draft and has drawn comparisons to CJ McCollum. 

The biggest issue hurting Terry is his size; he was listed at 6-foot-2 and 160 pounds last season. Workouts have helped him, as he’s since grown to 6-foot-3 and added 15 pounds, giving some teams confidence that he’ll be able to hang against NBA athletes. 

O’Connor believes Terry is the eighth-best overall prospect in the draft, but mocks him to the Orlando Magic at 15th overall.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofaRead more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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