NBA mock draft 2022: Detroit Pistons go with safer, more reliable option in Keegan Murray

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons’ draft philosophy is still rounding into shape ahead of the 2022 NBA draft Thursday.

It could be an unpredictable night, and the Pistons’ decision tree with the fifth overall pick will be shaped by the teams in front of them. Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren, Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. and Duke forward Paolo Banchero are widely considered to be the draft’s top-three prospects.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, who own the second pick and have an established record of taking swings on uber-athletic guards, are rumored to be fans of Purdue guard Jaden Ivey. The Sacramento Kings, who have the fourth pick and want to make the playoffs next season, have incentive to trade down or out of the first round in exchange for veteran help. Either or both scenarios happening would impact Detroit at No. 5.

In this second post-lottery mock draft, we’ll predict the top six selections, assume no trades take place and the top-three picks go as projected. We’ll also mock the Pistons’ 46th overall pick.

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

1. Orlando Magic: PF Jabari Smith Jr.

Vitals: 6 feet 10, Auburn freshman.

2021-22 stats: 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 42% from 3.

There’s no need for the Magic to overthink this one. Smith is the best shooter in the draft, and has a nearly-unblockable shot at 6-10 with a high release. He’s also a nimble perimeter defender who can handle himself on switches. Chet Holmgren may have the most long-term upside in the draft, but Smith is a perfect modern 3-and-D forward and can fit in any lineup.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder: PF/C Chet Holmgren

Vitals: 7 feet, Gonzaga freshman.

2021-22 averages: 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, 39% from 3.

The Thunder have a need for a big mam. Holmgren is the best center prospect in the draft. He’s a gifted rim protector and capable outside shooter and ball-handler, giving him a rare blend of skills as a seven-footer. His skinny 195-pound frame is his biggest red flag, as some teams are concerned about his durability. But he has the tools to be one of the NBA’s most dominant big men.

3. Houston Rockets: PF Paolo Banchero

Vitals: 6-10, Duke freshman.

2021-22 averages: 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 33.8% from 3.

Big, versatile wings are a necessity on every contending roster. Banchero fits the modern archetype as a playmaking forward. He handles the ball like a guard, was Duke’s de facto point guard at times as a freshman, and has good footwork and soft touch inside the arc. He’ll have to prove he can consistently knock down 3-pointers and handle defensive assignments, but he’s ready to score at a high level.

4. Sacramento Kings: G Jaden Ivey

Vitals: 6-4, Purdue sophomore.

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

The Kings may be the most interesting team in the lottery. Ivey is the best player available here, but is a poor fit on paper next to De’Aaron Fox. They just traded Tyrese Haliburton due in part to fit issues with Fox, and used their lottery pick last year on another guard in Davion Mitchell. Ivey and Fox are both downhill guards who are best with the ball in their hands. There’s a chance they take Keegan Murray, who is a much better roster fit, or trade this pick.

5. Detroit Pistons: F Keegan Murray

Vitals: 6-8, Iowa sophomore.

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

All three of Murray, Arizona wing Bennedict Mathurin and Kentucky wing Shaedon Sharpe are in play for the Pistons. Ivey would be in play as well, if he makes it this far in the draft. There’s no wrong answer here it seems. Mathurin is a perfect fit next to Cade Cunningham as an athletic off-ball shooter, Sharpe is a high-upside swing, and some analysts believe Ivey has the talent to emerge as the best player in the draft.

But general manager Troy Weaver has favored high-IQ, high-character prospects who were highly productive players in college. Murray checks every box. He stuffed the stat sheet at Iowa and was efficient, knocking down nearly 40% of his 3-pointers and 55.4% of his overall shots. He is a smart defensive player and instinctive rebounder. At 22, he’s one of the oldest players in the draft, is considered to have less upside than others and doesn’t possess the above-the-rim athleticism like Ivey, Mathurin and Sharpe. Regardless, Murray has one of the highest floors in the draft and the Pistons would be happy here.

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

More: Why one NBA draft expert likes Iowa’s Keegan Murray

6. Indiana Pacers: G/F Bennedict Mathurin

Vitals: 6-6, Arizona sophomore.

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

Mathurin is a prototypical modern wing, knocking down 38.3% of his 3s during his two seasons of college. He can make secondary passing reads, attack closeouts and is an above-the-rim finisher in transition. If he figures out how to consistently defend, he’ll be able to handle a variety of matchups on that end of the floor.

46. Detroit Pistons: G/F David Roddy

Vitals: 6-5 Colorado State junior.

2021-22 averages: 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 57.1% overall shooting, 43.8% from 3.

Roddy is one of the most versatile wings in the draft. He scores efficiently with soft touch around the rim and has a reliable outside jumper, rebounds well for his size and competes on defense. But his frame is a reason for concern, as he weighed 261 pounds at the combine and may not possess the footspeed necessary to hold his own defensively. This late in the draft, Roddy’s all-around upside is worth gambling on.

More: Grant Hill exclusive: Why teal Pistons never got over the hump

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

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