| The Detroit News
Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series looking at potential draft picks for the Detroit Pistons in next week’s NBA draft. Today: Backcourt.
A quick scan of the Pistons’ roster at the end of last season gives an immediate hint that they’ll need to fill some spots in the backcourt.
What immediately jumps out is that Derrick Rose is the only true point guard — and given that he’s on the final year of his contract, the likelihood is that he’ll be traded at some point this season. That is, unless the Pistons are in playoff contention at the trade deadline, which would be optimistic, to say the least.
They tried playing Bruce Brown at point guard some last year, which had mixed results, and Luke Kennard seems to be the other fallback plan. Jordan Bone was on a two-way contract and isn’t the long-term answer — at least not now.
The Pistons likely will pursue at least one point guard in the Nov. 18 draft and free agency, which begins Nov. 20. As for shooting guard, they have a grouping that includes Brown, Kennard and Khyri Thomas. There could be room for another one in what’s projecting to be a packed week of roster shaping.
Here’s a look at the 10 best backcourt targets for the Pistons in the draft:
1. LaMelo Ball, Australia: At 6-foot-7, Ball has ideal size for an NBA point guard and his playmaking ability and ability to break down defenses could help the Pistons immediately. The problem is that he almost assuredly will not fall to them at the seventh pick. Even if he falls below No. 3, another team would trade up to Nos. 4, 5 or 6 to nab him. If they want him, they’d have to trade up — and they’d have to give up assets to get him. His shooting remains a question mark, but his upside would be too much to pass on.
2. Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State: In my first mock draft, I had the Pistons taking him, but after his workouts and interviews, Haliburton has shot up many draft boards — and he could land in the top five. He has an impressive skill set, can play either guard position and has good vision and pick-and-roll ability that would fit immediately with the Pistons. He’s 6-5 and his 3-point shooting would let him blend with any of the guards on the current roster. Like Ball, the Pistons might end up having to trade up to get him.
3. Anthony Edwards, Georgia: Simply based off their roster construction, having another wing isn’t the biggest need, especially with the lack of point guards. Edwards likely won’t be available at No. 7 either, but there are quirky things that happen with the draft sometimes. He’s 6-3, 225 pounds and has an NBA-ready frame. Defensively, he could be a big addition and his knack for scoring around the rim would be a big help as well.
4. Killian Hayes, France: A few weeks ago, most mock drafts had Hayes and the Pistons as a good match. That sentiment seems to have cooled a bit, but if their other top options are gone and they don’t trade down for more picks, Hayes should be the choice. There’s plenty to like about Hayes, including his size (6-5, 192) and his ability to get to the rim and create. He’s not as good a shooter as Haliburton, but if Hayes is there at No. 7, the Pistons likely would have to take him.
5. Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama: Since the summer, Lewis has risen up many draft boards because of his quickness and shooting ability once he gets in the paint. At 6-3 and 165 pounds, he has a little smaller frame than many of the other point guards in the lottery range. Lewis’ ability to create and his 36% shooting on 3-pointers could make him a good value if the Pistons trade down into the back end of the lottery.
6. Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky: Though he’s 6-3, his 6-8 wingspan becomes that much more of a plus for him. Maxey is an adept scorer and can create his own shot as well as come off ball screens. Defensively, the wingspan also comes into play, making up for his relative lack of speed and athleticism. He tends to be more of a volume scorer, which can be a negative if he’s not consistent.
7. Devin Vassell, Florida State: In recent weeks, Vassell’s value has increased, putting him on the fringe of the top 10 in some mock drafts. At 6-7 and 180 pounds, he seems a little light, but his 7-foot wingspan makes up for some of those concerns. He has the potential to be a solid 3-point shooter (42% last season) and to be just as effective on the defensive end. The other shooting guards don’t have the same profile and the Pistons don’t could do much worse if they decide to strengthen their backcourt.
8. R.J. Hampton, New Zealand: Cut from the same mold as Hayes and Haliburton, Hampton isn’t ranked as high on many draft boards. He’s regarded as a playmaker and setup man, which is something the Pistons covet with their current set of guards. Hampton is 6-5, 190 pounds and like Haliburton, doesn’t absorb contact well when he goes to the rim. There are questions about his defense, which was part of the reason his stock is lower.
9. Cole Anthony, North Carolina: He’s regarded as more of a combo guard than a true point guard, which isn’t a knock against him. The Pistons probably need bits of both, but there are times that a distributor and facilitator is more important. Anthony is 6-3, 190 and is a good shooter but will need to prove he can hit open 3-pointers to keep defenses honest. Defensively, he can stand to improve, but he isn’t a bad choice if other options are gone.
10. Theo Maledon, France: The international pool of backcourt candidates is deep this year, with point guards being readily available. Maledon is 6-5, 175 and has a longer wingspan, which will increase his value. He’s a career 36% shooter from beyond the arc. How his game translates to the NBA might be a question, but his defense is a plus and he’s played against top competition for most of his pro career.