3 observations as Detroit Pistons get set for 2020 NBA draft

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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Throughout this past week, the NBA draft rumor mill has picked up steam.

At the same time, league set up media interviews with many of the top prospects in Wednesday’s draft. It provided an opportunity to learn more about several players the Detroit Pistons could target with the seventh overall pick, and also helped to narrow down the players Detroit has the most interest in. 

Here are three things we learned during the NBA’s pre-draft process, and what they could mean for the Pistons: 

Detroit Pistons and the 2020 NBA draft: Here’s everything you need to know ]

Patrick Williams declined to confirm the Pistons’ interest in him, but he fits

While most players were happy to talk about the teams they have interviewed with and worked out in front of during their pre-draft process, some were instructed by their agents not to reveal which teams have expressed interest in them. 

Florida State forward Patrick Williams, who the Pistons reportedly like a lot, is one of those players. When asked if the Pistons interviewed him or worked him out, he said he preferred to keep that information in-house. 

“I’ve been getting in the gym every day trying to be the best that I can, trying to get better every day,” Williams said. “That’s been the focus for now.”

Being an athletic, versatile 6-foot-8 forward, Williams fits the Troy Weaver mold. And he’s rocketed up draft boards in recent weeks, as teams are looking for the next prospect who can potentially become one of the NBA’s premier two-way wings, such as Jayson Tatum and Jimmy Butler. Or at the very least, defend those types of players. 

The Houston Rockets receiving two first-round picks for Robert Covington, one of the league’s best 3-and-D wings, illustrates just how important that skillset has become in today’s NBA. 

Williams did a good job pitching himself as a player every team in the NBA would want to draft. His numbers from last season don’t jump off of the page — he averaged 9.2 points, four rebounds, an assist and hit 32% of his 3-pointers. But he flashed enough potential for teams to buy into his upside as a versatile offensive player and his size and frame indicate that he will be able to defend multiple positions. 

When asked what he’s been focusing on leading up to the draft, his answer was simple: everything.

“Just from NBA schemes to terminology to getting my shot off quicker, getting to my pocket quicker and just being able to do everything,” Williams said. “I’ve marketed myself as being a guy that can do everything. So making sure that everything is tightened up, my offensive game is tightened up. And staying on top of my defensive game, trying to guard the best people that come in the gym each and every time. Just sharpening everything, I would say.” 

Pistons want to draft the best available player.But Their workout list indicates point guard could be a priority

NBA teams were allocated 10 in-person evaluations with draft prospects. Thanks to this past week’s interviews, we learned five players on that list. Four of the five are point guards: Tyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes, Kira Lewis Jr. and R.J. Hampton. The fifth, Aaron Nesmith, is a shooting guard. 

It’s possible the Pistons worked out more point guards than those four. It’s also possible that the remainder of the list consists of wings and bigs. Several projected lottery picks, including big man Onyeka Okongwu and wing Saddiq Bey, declined to confirm who they worked out for. But it’s telling that two other wings slated to go in the lottery, Devin Vassell and Isaac Okoro, did not work out for the Pistons despite being in their draft range. 

Weaver indicated two weeks ago that the Pistons intended to use all 10 of their in-person evaluation slots. It’s possible we may never know the entirety of that list. But these things are true — the Pistons have a strong need for a lead point guard, and the Pistons did their diligence in seeing if they could find the right one with the seventh pick. 

Pistons have legit interest in LaMelo Ball

Given that the Pistons need a point guard, it’s logical that they would evaluate the best point guard prospect in the draft. Thanks to his trainer, Detroit native and former Detroit Mercy player and assistant coach Jermaine Jackson, Ball has been training in the city since March, and Weaver said the Pistons wanted to schedule a workout with him. 

“I’m always happy to hear players embrace our organization, our city,” Weaver said. “That never goes unnoticed. I know people around him, his trainer, what have you, is a Detroit native. He’s been here for a while working out. I’m sure he’s well-versed in the city, traveling around being with his trainer, hearing different things. That doesn’t go unnoticed. That’s always a positive, when prospects speak highly of the city and the organization. That’s always a positive. We do plan on trying to visit with him here before the draft.”

The Pistons were one of four teams, along with the Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves, to attend Ball’s work out last week. On Tuesday, Ball confirmed that those are the only teams who have watched him work out in person.

The Pistons are the lone team in that group that lacks a top-three pick. They may be interested in him, but they’ll likely need to swing a trade Wednesday night to draft him.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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