He’s the one player Detroit Pistons absolutely should not pick in 2022 NBA draft

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons need talent.

They need a scorer who can play off the ball and complement Cade Cunningham. They need a versatile, athletic player with length who can create his own shot, convert 3-pointers and also plays great defense.

So we’re all agreed. With the No. 5 pick in the 2022 NBA draft, the Pistons should select Michael Jordan.

Sorry, I’ve just been informed Mr. Jordan isn’t available due to a previous golfing commitment. So the Pistons have to go with Plan B.

OMARI SANKOFA II: Pistons will have their pick of solid wing options

No, that doesn’t stand for Banchero or Bennedict. It stands for “B very careful,” because the wrong pick has the potential to set back this rebuild or at least hobble it when the Pistons should be making strides toward returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2019 and trying to win their first playoff game since 2008.

Frankly, it’s a lot to ask fans for this kind of patience, especially when the Pistons are picking in the top seven for the third straight year. I think we can all agree Killian Hayes, drafted seventh in 2020 to be a franchise cornerstone and culture-changer, has been a disappointment. He ended this season coming off the bench, and in two seasons is averaging 6.8 points and shooting 37.4% overall (the worst among any 2020 lottery pick).

And missing on Hayes means general manager Troy Weaver has to get this pick right. You can’t miss two out of three years picking in the top seven and expect to get very far in the rebuild, even if Trader Troy has done a good job of turning water into wine by flipping Trey Lyles for Margin Bagley III and drafting Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey in the middle of the first round.

So who’s the No. 5 pick then?

The answer is easy. It just depends on whom you ask. Safely assuming the “big three” — Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr. and Paolo Banchero — are gone and that we don’t know what Sacramento will do with the fourth pick, the likely available top options are Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, Kentucky guard Shaedon Sharpe, Iowa forward Keegan Murray and Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin.

OMARI’S MOCK DRAFT: Why Pistons swing for upside with No. 5 pick

The one player in that group who stands out, but not for a good reason, is Sharpe. Heis by far the biggest wildcard, the biggest mystery, potentially the biggest star, maybe the biggest home run, but also the biggest swing-and-miss.

The only certainty is this: Sharpe is the biggest gamble at the top of the draft.

For that reason, the Pistons must pass him up.

Yeah, I know. He’s an amazing athlete with great jumping ability and a 7-foot wingspan. His ideal size of 6 feet 5 allows him to play wing. He’s a good shooter. He could be a great backcourt partner for Cunningham.

[ Pistons fans prefer Jaden Ivey at No. 5 overall, Twitter poll finds ]

All these things are true. But there are the major questions about how he will transition to the NBA after not playing a single minute during his freshman year at Kentucky.

When the NBA season starts in October, it will mark the first time in a year since Sharpe, the former No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class, played in his final high school game. Not only is that a long layoff, but we have no idea how he has progressed against competition. What is his shot creation like? How well does he attack the rim and shake defenders?

Prep players tend to be  notoriously poor defenders, and  we also don’t know anything about the state of his defense when he hits the NBA. Maybe he’ll use his wingspan and be surprisingly good, or maybe he’ll join James Harden on the All-Traffic Cone Team.

But it’s the unknown about Sharpe that scares me the most, the time at Kentucky where we didn’t get to see anything after he reclassified and joined the program in January. Every draft in every sport is a guess, and I usually prefer boldness out of GMs.

The Pistons, though, don’t feel like they’re in a position to be so bold and lose a gamble with the fifth pick. There are signs of them being on the upswing with a young and improving roster. Maybe Weaver finds a trade in the draft. We don’t know whether Jerami Grant is staying or going.

We really don’t even know what Weaver wants out of the pick other than, you know, a good player who helps everywhere.

“Yeah,” Weaver said the night of the draft lottery, “we’re absolutely going to pick the guy that fits best for the organization moving forward and have the same attributes these other guys have. But we absolutely factor in Cade and the rest of the guys.”

TRADER TROY: Pistons’ ability to find talent will be tested in NBA draft

It’s understandable that people get excited about potential and verticals and elite athleticism. It’s what whips everyone into a frenzy around draft time.

Sharpe is an intriguing prospect and he might have one of the highest ceilings in the draft. Of course, the converse of that is a low ceiling and a high floor, and who wants to live in that house? No one.

But when the lottery kicks you out of the “big three” gated community, it’s better to pass on dreams of infinity pools and make sure your choice has been built on a rock-solid foundation.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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