It’s already (finally?) time for Detroit Pistons fans to start looking at who is being talked about as the top prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft. The team is currently in the running for the worst record in the NBA, and it’s hard to see how that won’t be the case all season without drastic internal improvement from the Pistons’ young players.
It is nearly assured the Pistons will be picking in the top 10, and it’s a decent bet they’ll be picking in the top 5. As fans begin thinking about who the team should be looking at with its upcoming draft pick, I am going to preview who is being considered in the top 10 at this early point in the season as well as argue for one player I think should also be considered here at the top that the consensus has ranked much lower.
This is not going to be an in-depth breakdown like our Prospect Preview articles, but more of an introduction to most of these players. My own personal philosophy when evaluating freshman/first-year guys is that I need to see 10 full games worth of their film before I make any definitive statements on them. So, I will not be saying whether or not I like a guy and their fit in Detroit if they haven’t played 10 full games in their respective leagues. But, rest assured, DBB will be diving into each of these guys in detail as soon as they hit that 10-game mark!
I will start by breaking down the three players being considered for the No. 1 overall pick and then group the rest in no particular order. I will give each group afterwards a name as to give an idea why they are in consideration for the top 10. I’ll also give each guy a Hashtag so we can start to form camps. There is nothing like picking sides and arguing about whose right in what promises to be a long, torturous NBA season. Let’s begin.
There Can Be Only One (No. 1)
Measuring in at 6-foot-10 and weighing in at 250 pounds, Banchero is the ALMOST consensus No. 1 overall pick at this early point in the season. Drawing comparisons ranging from Chris Webber, Derrick Coleman and Anthony Mason, his game is that of a jump-shooting big who also knows how to throw his weight around. He can drop 20 on you any given night due to a wide array of skills on the offensive side of the ball. He can put the ball on the floor and drive. He can spot up and drain shots from three. And, he can get to his jumper off the dribble almost at will. While the midrange is mostly frowned upon these days, Banchero is beyond an exceptional mid-range scorer. As stated by Rafael Barlowe in his most recent Locked On NBA Draft podcast, Banchero ranks in the 100th percentile as a midrange shooter. Just let that sink in and then you know why he is most people’s clear number one guy.
- 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.5 blocks
- 56.0% from two-point distance, 33.3% from three-point range, 83.8% from the free throw line
While not known for his defense, he is in no way considered a liability on that end. However, it seems to be his defense and lack of playmaking that is keeping him out of some people’s top spot. These weaknesses will definitely will be something we look at when we return for his specific prospect preview. Offense and size are Banchero’s calling cards, and if you are looking for the Pistons to have a power forward with center size who can trade with Cade as the leading scorer on a nightly basis, then Banchero will be your guy. #Wallow4Paolo
Standing 7-feet tall and listed at 195 pounds, just looking at Chet Holmgren might make you wonder why he was the preseason favorite for No. 1 overall for many evaluators. Yet, when you see him play, you will find a guy that backs down from no one with skills as a shooter, shot blocker, and transition threat as both a scorer and a passer. While he plays power forward for Gonzaga next to Drew Timme, with his length and shot blocking abilities many think his optimal long-term position is at center. Drawing comps to Dallas Mavericks big man Krisptaps Porzingis is easy to see as he does possess that long-range shot and shot-blocking ability that made people put the now overused “unicorn” label on Porzingis when he was entering the draft. He also moves well in transition and has unusual court vision for someone his size as you will see him regularly start the break with some LaMelo-like heaves downcourt.
- 13.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.4 steals, 3.5 blocks
- 83.3%(!!!!!!) from two-point distance, 30.4% from three-point range, 67.8% from the free-throw line
His slight frame and how he fits into a halfcourt offense are what keep a lot of people from ranking him as the No. 1 overall guy. Also, the fact he is the third, fourth, and sometimes fifth offensive option on this Gonzaga team will make it hard for others to think very highly of him. But if you are looking for a tall shot blocking shooter then look no further than Chet. #SeasonOfRegret4Chet
A new challenger approaches! Considered a lottery pick during the preseason, Jabari Smith quickly rose up into top spot consideration after just a few games of displaying a wide range of skills on both sides of the ball. He is a great shooter from distance, switch defender who covers a lot of ground, and even shows flashes as a passer. All of this is made better by the fact he stands 6-feet, 10-inches tall and weighs in at 220 pounds. Possessing a skillset similar to Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. WITH more passing to boot, it is easy to see why Smith has risen up draft boards in the early part of the season.
- 16.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks
- 48.1% from two-point distance, 43.9% from three-point range, 82.8% from the free-throw line
Smith will have to answer questions about how much he can create for himself and others off the bounce. In addition, there are reports out there that list his measurables as less than desirable—which downgrade him in the eyes of those who value measurables. But, if you love the combo of defense and major shooting potential then get ready for the Pistons to be #Sorry4Jabari
Top Returning NCAA Players
Ivey has helped himself the most thus far this season with many around the internet locking him into the top 5 of this draft with his stellar play. Purdue is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation in large part due to Ivey’s ability to score and get to the rack. If you like athletic guards who can throw the hammer down at any moment then Ivey is your guy. Although he is only 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Ivey plays like a much bigger player. While I criticized his shooting and lack of playmaking, he looks to have corrected both eight games into this season. While his comps are overboard in my opinion, it is also easy to see why people are throwing names like Russell Westbrook and Ja Morant out there with the numbers he is putting up along with his athleticism.
- 15.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks
- 60.4% from two-point distance, 40.0% from three-point range, 72.4% from the free-throw line
While the shooting is improved, it is also a feast or famine skill so far. In four games, Ivey has shot 50% or better from three. In the other four games, he has shot 33.3% or worse. Consistency with his shooting will be key for any evaluator to buy into it as a legit skill for him. Factor in that he shot 72.6% from the free-throw line last year and is currently at 72.4% on the year, and you will see shooting is still a question mark. He will also have to answer questions about his half court skills as he love attacking in transition and gets plenty of easy buckets there. So for you fans of athletic guards out there, you’ll definitely want the team to be #Fadin4Jaden
My preseason pick for top returning college player, Mathurin is a 6-foot-7, 195 pound wing mainly known for his shooting. Over the summer, he displayed more of his lead dawg skills with the FIBA U19 Canadian Team and helped lead his country to the Bronze Medal over Serbia. He is someone I am certain advanced analytics people love as his shots are almost exclusively threes and shots at the rim. He has also been part of a three-headed monster for undefeated Arizona with Azuolas Tubelis and Christian Koloko so he is keeping up his winning play style from the summer. I’ve seen comps ranging from Klay Thompson all the way to Eric Gordon, Caris LeVert, and Will Barton so to say scouts haven’t quite figured him out yet is an understatement (Personally if I HAD TO pick a comp right now it would be taller Immanuel Quickley).
- 16.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.4 blocks
- 55.5% from two-point distance, 34.1% from three-point range, 80.0% from the free throw line
Obviously, if he wants his reputation as a top-shooter to stay intact he will have to shoot it much better the rest of the season. Part of this is due to the fact that he is expanding his game with floaters and being able to throw lobs to his big men off the dribble, so his shooting is suffering as a result. He and fellow guard (and NBA Draft Sleeper, in my opinion) Kerr Kriisa are doing almost all the floor spacing for this big man heavy offense so that is also a factor. Still, he’s gotta finish the season at least 35.0% even if he gets little help. Defensively, he will also have to continue improving in team defense and showing he will not be overmatched on the wing at 195 pounds when lined up against bigger wings like he’ll face in the NBA. If you want a perfect connecting Wing between Killian and Cade then you’ll want the Pistons to be #Kicked4Bennedict
Freshman Who’ve Made Their Case Already
We have an archetype here at DBB known as the Chaz Malibu special, and Brown definitely fits that bill. A teenager who can jump out of the gym and posses rare athleticism (the definition of the Chaz Malibu special), Brown is someone who was destined to be a YouTube highlights favorite for many. Scouts were not quite sure where he would line up for Baylor coming into the season—many assumed he’d be playing power forward because of his hops and the fact he is at 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds. But he has already shown himself to be a great passer and is operating more in a point forward/cutter role early in the season. He is currently leading all Baylor starters in points and 2-point field goals attempt! I’ve seen some people compare him to Memphis Grizzlies big man Brandon Clarke. Sam Vecenie on a recent episode of the Game Theory podcast said one scout even saw shades of Shawn Marion. Brown is definitely an exciting guy to watch and we all should keep an eye on him.
- 13.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks
- 73.7% (!!!) from two-point distance, 57.1% from three-point range, 73.3% from the free throw line
Calm down looking at that 3-point percentage, Brown has only taken seven attempts from downtown all year. He not only doesn’t take threes, but he looks like he DOES NOT WANT to take threes. When he does, his form is unnatural and clearly needs a lot of work. He’ll also have to up his rebounding game. With that athleticism, averaging under four rebounds per game is not good. Part of it is that there are three guys on this Baylor squad the scheme calls on to rebound, but if Brown cannot and will not shoot threes, then he will have to shift into a Brandon Clarke type player and contribute elsewhere. Fire up the Chaz comments if you love athletes and hope the Pistons go #Down4Brown
He may not be the No. 1 overall prospect, but he has to be the consensus No. 1 on the Lazarus Jackson Too Yoked big board. Duren made waves at Memphis’ pro-day in the offseason when he posted measurements of 6-foot-11, 250 pounds with a 7-foot-5.25-inch wingspan. Quite possibly the best defensive center prospect this year, Duren is thought of first and foremost as an intimidating, shot erasing center down low. He also has shown to be bully in the post on offense getting to whatever spot he wants. There have been a lot of Dwight Howard comparisons for him out there and it is easy to see why. A rim runner on top of being such a big dude, Duren is sure to have many fans out there clamoring for more size and force down low.
- 10.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 3.2 blocks
- 64.6% from two-point distance, 0% from three-point range, 60.0% from the free throw line
Offensively, Duren has not shown much. Teams will be banking on him being a top-notch pick-and-roll threat in addition to being that rim runner he has shown he can be. He’s one guy that context will be crucial when understanding his game and numbers as Penny Hardaway and the Memphis coaching staff do not run an offense with a traditional point guard, so Duren will not get the normal feeds a point guard would get him as a roller or dump off option. He has only take one three-point attempt all season so don’t get your hopes up about his stretch potential either. But if you feel like the Pistons need a bigger presence at the 5 then you’ll definitely want the team to be #Failin4Jalen
Intrigue and Upside
Patrick Baldwin Jr.
Now we’ve reached the point of the list where it becomes “State Your Case,” as the remainder of these prospects have many more lows in the early parts of this season than highs, unfortunately, at least in regard to being a potential top selection. Patrick Baldwin Jr. is perhaps most emblematic of this final grouping of players. PBJ for short, Baldwin Jr. is a 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward who chose to go the path less chosen and play for his father at Milwaukee. PBJ profiles as a top-notch shooter and it is easy to see why anytime you see him play. He has a near perfect shot with a high release, clean footwork, and consistent mechanics which is incredibly rare for a player of his size. Over the summer, he not only provided spacing for the USA’s FIBA U19 team, taking the most three-point shots, but he also was third on the team in rebounds so he also crashes the glass with the best of them. The guys from the Draftdaq Podcast compared him to Indiana Pacers and Seattle Supersonics legend Detlef Schremp, and with his jumpshooting abilities it is easy to see why.
- 17.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks
- 43.2% from two-point distance, 40.0% from three-point range, 86.6% from the free throw line
I had to type in PBJ’s stats from his most recent game against Robert Morris to get these numbers—and his 6-of-6 from three-point distance absolutely saved his overall percentage from deep. Before this game, he was 6-of-24 from deep which translates to 25.0%. PBJ has been struggling immensely this season as THE man in Milwaukee. In Milwaukee’s game against current No. 14 Florida, PBJ scored 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting from two-point distance and 0-for-3 from downtown, which gives you an idea where he is at. As with Jalen Duren, context will be key for PBJ as his guards were powerless in that Florida game and Milwaukee currently sits as 2-6. While not completely a one-man show for the Panthers, PBJ still is doing way more than anyone on this list is being asked to do for their team and his numbers most likely will suffer as a result. Still, if you have an affinity for jump-shooting forwards that can crash the glass, then you can hope that the Pistons #TankAway4PBJ
Working himself back from an injury and not playing organized basketball all of last year, Griffin is this draft cycle’s mystery man. Son of current Toronto Raptors assistant coach and former NBA Wing Adrian Griffin, AJ had a lot of hype coming into this draft year. Listed as a wing with measurements of 6-foot-6 and 222 pounds, the Jimmy Butler comparisons pretty much wrote themselves. While I am going to give you stats just like everyone else on this list, these are not indicative of what Griffin can do, as he has only played 83 total minutes. Plus, the scouting report on him did reflect Jimmy Butler with ball skills to drive and finish but possessing a questionable jumpshot.
- 4.0 points, 1.9 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.4 blocks
- 50.0% from two-point distance, 40.0% from three-point range, AJ has yet to attempt a free throw
There is nothing to critique with such a small sample size so all I will say is I hope AJ is fully healthy and Coach K gets him into that starting lineup soon! If you want the upside swing on the wing for the Pistons then you’ll want a #SeasonOfMayday4AJ
Detroit’s own has been a volume scoring guard for the G-League Ignite team this season. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 198 pounds, Hardy is a combo guard in almost every sense of the word. Able to get to his jumpshot at anytime, dish out assists like a lead guard, and pull up from deep three-point range, Hardy profiles as a new-school guard you want as one of your primary ball handlers and scorers. He also possess a solid handle to do more than just shoot as he can get through traffic and to the rim as well. Drawing comps to Bradley Beal and Cam Thomas, Hardy is another guy scouts don’t quite have a handle on yet—and it is easy to see why when you look at his numbers.
- 17.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.3 blocks
- 32.5% from two-point distance, 28.9% from three-point range, 100% (!!!) from the free-throw line
The percentages are clearly bad and scream inefficient volume scorer—which is fair as Hardy has shown little restraint when it comes to his shot selection. Yet, our old friend context needs to be reintroduced here as this Ignite team is bad. There is no Jarret Jack, Bobby Brown or even Chase Jeter to stabilize and mentor the young guys. Amir Johnson, Dakari Allen, Pooh Jeter, Kevin Murphy, and Kosta Koufos are the guys over the age of 25 on this team. Plus Brian Shaw did not return to coach, and the man at the head of the bench this season is Jason Hart whose previous experience was as an assistant at both Pepperdine and USC. My point with all this being that Hardy is not in as good of a situation with THIS Ignite team the way Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga were last year. He will have to stop chucking away so much as the G-League season wears on or he will be the first guy that will be knocked out of top 10 consideration (he is dangerously close to that already). #PoopTheParty4Hardy
Guy Who Should be Considered in the Top 10
Jović is someone I feel very strongly should be in consideration up top here for a variety of reasons. First, almost all the draft evaluators have made the comment, “after the top 4, I don’t know what to do,” or something similar. This is a very top-heavy draft thus far and there are very few players in the secondary tiers and below who have done a lot to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. But, I think Jović is one of the guys that has done quite a bit actually to vault himself into consideration in the top 10. For starters, he is 6-foot-10, 205 pounds with guard skills and big man rebounding and shot-blocking chops. To say he is a unique prospect is an understatement. He runs the break as well as any up-tempo guard, shoots a good 3-ball, is a rare 6-foot-10 ball handler with an actual handle. His numbers won’t wow anyone, but remember this is an 18 year old playing in a professional European league.
- 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.4 blocks
- 46.1% from two-point distance, 34.3% from three-point range, 78.6% from the free throw line
Scouts will want Jović to continue to shoot it from deep better as the season wears on, and I am sure there are teams out there that will want him to do more big men things like block shots and set screens. Personally, I don’t want to see that as someone his size with the ability to be a ball handler has major mismatch potential if his guard skills are allowed to be a continued area of emphasis and development. In his most recent game against KK Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana, Jović dropped 16 points, 7 assists, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 blocks shooting 5 of 7 (71.4%) from two point distance and 2 of 5 (40%) from three-point range. I will be doing a post on him as soon as he hits that 10 game mark—which will be December 12—and I just wanted to begin to make a case for Jović as he is an incredibly unique player who is not getting enough love. #SeasonOfCrapola4Nikola
Let us know who you like in the comments using the Hashtags. If there is someone you think I missed, let us know in the comments and we can discuss. Here’s to the Tank!