| The Detroit News
In June, the Pistons hired Troy Weaver as general manager, mainly because of his eye for talent and his previous experience as an assistant GM with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Maybe more than Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose and even last year’s first-round pick, Sekou Doumbouya, Weaver now is the star of the show. He’s in charge of assessing the talent on the roster and paving the path forward for the Pistons.
Wednesday’s NBA Draft figures to provide a corner piece in the puzzle that Weaver has to assemble. With the No. 7 pick, he can make a bold statement for the Pistons’ future direction. The pandemic has limited some of the normalcy of the draft, but Weaver has done his due diligence in scouting some of the top prospects and gauging the Pistons’ options of trading up, trading down or staying put.
That pick looks like it’ll be point guard Killian Hayes.
With all of the permutations of how the top six can go, the consensus seems to be that — barring some significant trades — LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards, in some order, will be the top three picks. The next three could be Obi Toppin, Deni Avdija and Tyrese Haliburton.
Weaver has maintained that there’s significant depth in the lottery and whatever the Pistons do with the pick, they stand to get a prospect who could help.
“I think that the top 10 picks could go a lot of different ways. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3, so the top 10 picks could really be a scramble,” Weaver said this month. “My thoughts are still the same. My feeling is that 3 through 10, you could shuffle them however you want to shuffle them.”
That puts the Pistons on the clock with Hayes, Patrick Williams and Onyeka Okongwu among the top remaining choices. The Pistons also have had in-person workouts with RJ Hampton, Kira Lewis Jr. and Aaron Nesmith. Those could be potential options if Weaver chooses to trade down, as they could be available from picks 10 and below.
Making that tough decision is why Weaver was brought in. He’s renowned for making what seemed to be a reach in the 2008 draft and championing the case the Thunder to select Russell Westbrook at No. 4. That worked out well.
There’s some uncertainty about which direction Weaver will go. Although Hayes played overseas in Germany, his skill set translates to the NBA. ESPN draft analyst Mike Schmitz points to Hayes’ experience and talent as assets.
“I think his size, his passing ability and his craft in the paint are all things that that really stand out, and he’s been scouted as much as any international prospect in this draft, not just in Germany, but he’s been on the radar for so long,” Schmitz said. “He’s kind of a known commodity around the NBA.”
The Pistons’ biggest roster need is at point guard, and they don’t seem to have the bounty of assets it would take to move up into one of the top spots to get Ball or one of the other top prospects. Haliburton is a talented option, but it’s very likely that a team like the Bulls or Hawks will take him before the Pistons.
Giving Hayes a chance to learn under Rose, who is entering the final year of his contract, can help in the rebuilding process. Unlike with Ulm, Hayes’ team in Germany, he likely won’t have to be relied upon to do everything immediately; a slower transition will be beneficial.
“He was in a situation where (Ulm) put the ball in his hands, and they said, ‘You’re young, but we’re going to try to build around you and let you play through mistakes.’ I think you saw him kind of reap the benefits of that,” Schmitz said. “I think he’s an interesting long-term play. I’m not sure he’s going to come in right away and save your franchise, but if you surround him with good pieces, you’re patient with him and he continues to get better as a perimeter shooter, then you really might have something because he’s a super-talented kid.”
Beyond all the on-court talent that Hayes could bring, the added benefit could be his connection to Doumbouya. The two have some history together, having grown up in France and developed in the French leagues.
More than that, picking Hayes could help with Doumbouya’s transition to living in the U.S. and adjusting to the NBA. As a rookie, Doumbouya’s closest teammate was Bruce Brown and the two joked around in the locker room and hung out on the road.
The Pistons agreed Monday to trade Brown to the Brooklyn Nets. Enter Hayes — and they could create their own French connection, forming the core of the Pistons’ future.
“Sekou is one of my guys; I’ve known him for a long time now and it would be great having somebody you know,” Hayes said. “I feel I can integrate myself a little quicker just having him show me around.”
Hayes, 19, has played against the physicality of grown men in Germany and at 6-foot-5, has the frame to withstand the contact he’ll take in the NBA. Experts point to his excellent court vision and ability to impact a game by getting in the paint and to the foul line. Of course, he has some work to do on 3-point shooting, but that can be improved.
If Hayes is available, Weaver can get things started Wednesday.