It’s the most … wonderful time … of the year — for draft aficionados.
The Detroit Pistons have the fifth overall pick after dropping two spots in the lottery, won by the Orlando Magic. Oklahoma City has the second pick, followed by Houston and Sacramento. Pistons’ fellow Central Division competitor Indiana has the sixth selection, with Portland seventh.
The draft seems to have a consensus top three, though the order is up in the air: Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. and Duke’s Paolo Banchero.
Here’s a quick roundup of respected NBA draft experts and who they have the Pistons taking in new mock drafts published after the lottery reveal.
ESPN’s resident draft expert, formerly of DraftExpress, thinks the Magic take Smith Jr. at No. 1 with his shooting and defensive versatility giving him the edge over Holmgren (No. 2 to the Thunder) and Banchero (No. 3 to the Rockets).
The Kings, already with De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell at the guard spots, pick Iowa sophomore forward Keegan Murray here, setting the Pistons up with Ivey to play in the backcourt next to rising standout Cade Cunningham.
Another dynamic backcourt player would help a Pistons team that went 23-59 last season and badly needs more offense.
“Ivey is the most electric prospect in the class, possessing the type of extra gear-changing speeds in the open floor that few NBA players possess,” Givony writes. “Ivey’s size, frame and length, along with the strides he has made as a shooter, will allow him to slide into a variety of lineup configurations, making it easy for him to find his way onto the floor, especially as his defense and decision-making improve.”
Givony has Michigan freshman wing Caleb Houstan sneaking into the first round with the last pick at No. 30 by the Thunder (from Phoenix).
Michigan State freshman wing Max Christie ends up No. 45 to Charlotte, while the Pistons at No. 46 (from Brooklyn) take Arkansas sophomore center Jaylin Williams.
Read Givony’s mock draft in full if you have ESPN+.
The draft’s top mystery man is Sharpe, who was a five-star prospect and consensus top-three recruit in the 2022 class. He ended up enrolling early at Kentucky for the second semester in January, but never played a game. Sharpe, a 6-foot-6 Canadian guard, turns 19 at the end of May and graduated high school before the NBA’s 2021-22 season began, so he’s eligible to be drafted.
Vecenie, who also has the Magic selecting Smith at No. 1 — “my favorite prospect in the class because he possesses the combination of skills that are most in-demand in the current NBA” — has the Kings taking Ivey despite their plethora of guards, which leaves the Pistons in an interesting spot again.
“Sharpe represents a high-upside gamble due to his potential as a wing shot-creator,” Vecenie writes. “He looks every bit like a future NBA star wing, combining elite length with terrific hops. The problem for scouts is that he hasn’t played much at high levels of competition, so nobody’s really sure how he’ll react to the speed of the game.”
Vecenie mentions Pistons general manager Troy Weaver “tends to really like players with a great intersection of athleticism and length, as well as guys who have high upsides,” and thinks Sharpe fits well next to Cade Cunningham as the shot maker this team desperately needs.
Like Givony, Vecenie has the Thunder taking Holmgren at No. 2 and the Rockets going Banchero at No. 3.
Vecenie has Christie going with No. 35 pick to the Magic and Houstan at No. 36 to the Blazers, and also has the Pistons taking a big man with their second-round pick: Senegalese center Khalifa Diop, who plays in the top Spanish league Liga ACB.
Read Vecenie’s mock draft in full.
Make it 3-for-3 of draftniks thinking Smith goes No. 1, followed by Holmgren and Banchero.
Woo, who joined the Free Press’ “The Pistons Pulse” podcast in April to break down the draft, has the Kings taking Sharpe, which leaves the Pistons with a chance to take Ivey despite their lottery misfortune.
“The pronounced highs and lows of Ivey’s breakout season gave the NBA plenty to nitpick, but ultimately, his unique speed and explosiveness as a downhill playmaker present way too much upside to overthink,” Woo writes. “He should benefit more than most from the freedom and space of the pro game, and if his passing chops and decision-making tick upward as he matures, Ivey is going to be very hard to stop. He has the ability to be a very good defender when he tries, he shoots the three well enough to think it keeps improving, and if he can slow down the game for himself mentally while still attacking at a breakneck pace, Ivey can be a star. Playing alongside Cunningham would make his life much easier.”
Read Woo’s mock draft in full.
Here’s a different perspective, as SB Nation’s resident draft expert has the Magic taking Banchero No. 1. The Pistons pass on Sharpe and go with Duke’s AJ Griffin, a chiseled 6-6, 225-pound freshman wing with a 7-foot wingspan.
He projects as a big-time shooter, after he converted 44.7% of his 3-pointers on 159 attempts last season, though he has a history of knee injuries, which must be inspected.
“Griffin Jr. headlines Tier 2 for his combination of youth, physical tools, and shooting touch,” O’Donnell writes.
“While Griffin is big and sturdy, he lacks great flexibility and agility, which limits him both as a north-south driver on offense and screen navigator on defense. Griffin doesn’t yet produce many free throws or consistent rim pressure, which limits his offense despite such impressive shooting. Griffin is already built like a grown man despite being one of the youngest prospects in the class. There are options with safer floors still on the board, but Griffin’s potential ceiling gives him the pole position for the fifth pick.”
Read O’Donnell’s mock draft in full.
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