Detroit Pistons’ big NBA draft decision: How the top targets fit the roster

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons have an important decision to make on NBA draft night, which is less than two weeks away. They have the fifth overall pick, the organization’s second-highest since 2003, and will have a prime opportunity to add another core piece alongside Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes.

There are several players in consideration, and the pick could reveal something about the Pistons’ priorities. Here are four players high on Detroit’s draft board who could be available , and how they fit the roster:

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Jaden Ivey

Vitals: 6 feet 4, Purdue sophomore.

2021-22 averages: 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 35.8% from 3.

The skinny: Ivey established himself as a potential top-five pick after an electric sophomore season. He’s an explosive athlete whose quick first step and leaping ability should give NBA defenses trouble from day one. Ivey also improved significantly as a shooter, boosting his 3-point shooting percentage from 25% as a freshman, to 35% in his sophomore season. However, he averaged nearly as many turnovers (2.6) per game as assists and is much better creating plays for himself than for others.

The fit: Cade Cunningham has few holes in his game, but he struggled to consistently get to the line last season. Ivey is a relentless rim attacker, and his athleticism and ability to push the pace in transition would round out Detroit’s backcourt. However, Ivey would have to prove he can consistently knock down NBA 3-pointers and find other ways to create offensive activity without the ball to maximize his fit next to Cunningham, who should continue to be Detroit’s lead initiator next season.

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Keegan Murray

Vitals: 6-8, Iowa sophomore.

2021-22 averages: 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 39.8% from 3.

The skinny: Few players in college basketball scored the ball as well as Murray did last season. The 21-year-old is a versatile and efficient offensive player. He’s a menace in transition, has a strong post-up game and knocked down 3-pointers at a high clip. He’s also a strong rebounder, and his near-two blocks per game suggest he has defensive upside as a small-ball center. Murray is considered to be a high-floor prospect due to his age, production and IQ.

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The fit: Detroit’s frontcourt is a bit crowded right now, as Jerami Grant and Marvin Bagley III are natural power forwards and Saddiq Bey, Kelly Olynyk, Isaiah Stewart and Isaiah Livers all spent time at the position last season. Murray is one of the safest bets in the draft to have long, productive career, and he may have more upside than he’s been given credit for. His arrival could further incentivize the Pistons to move Grant for assets. The Pistons could use Murray in a variety of lineups, given that he can play inside or out, rebounds and competes hard on defense.

Bennedict Mathurin

Vitals: 6-6, Arizona sophomore.

2021-22 averages: 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 36.9% from 3.

The skinny: A prototypical shooting guard, Mathurin has the tools to become an above-average 3-and-D wing. He shot very well from behind-the-arc at a high volume, is a plus athlete, and even showed some upside as a passer last season. His defensive effort was inconsistent, but he has the size and length to defend multiple positions.

The fit: The Pistons have a hole at the shooting guard position, and Mathurin is one of several wings who will be among the first players to hear their name called outside of the top three on draft night. He’s firmly a top-10 pick. He could provide just what the backcourt needs: a jolt of shooting and athleticism. Mathurin would thrive alongside Cunningham as an off-ball shooter, defender and transition threat.

Shaedon Sharpe

Vitals: 6-6, Kentucky freshman.

2021-22 averages: N/A.

The skinny:  He declared after a spring semester at Kentucky, during which he practiced but didn’t play a game. Sharpe averaged 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 55.6% inside the arc and 36.1% from 3 at Nike Peach Jam last summer, a showing that helped him become one of the top-ranked recruits of the 2021 high school class. He’s a gifted leaper and can shoot the ball, but NBA evaluators are split on his NBA preparedness . Sharpe is talented, but he’s best viewed as a project.

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The fit: On paper, Sharpe fills a lot of holes on the roster. Similar to Mathurin, his shooting, athleticism and defensive upside makes him a prototypical shooting guard. But he’ll need to do more than shoot and dunk to justify becoming a top-five pick. He has fans in the Pistons’ front office, but it’s tough to project his game since he hasn’t played since he was in high school.

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

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