With the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons will be at the “mercy of the board,” general manager Troy Weaver said on Monday.
It’s widely expected that Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren, Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. and Duke forward Paolo Banchero will be the first three players drafted Thursday night. The Pistons can reasonably assume all three will be gone before their turn to draft.
But after that, the draft is wide open. The Sacramento Kings, who have the fourth pick, have been the topic of several rumors this month. They’ve gone an NBA-record 16 straight seasons without a playoff appearance and have been transparent about their desire to compete next season. They traded Tyrese Haliburton, who they drafted at No. 12 overall in 2020, in the middle of a strong sophomore season to the Indiana Pacers for two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis in February.
The Kings aren’t willing to be patient, and it positions them as one of the most interesting teams in the draft. They’re unlikely to find a player at No. 4 who can help them win immediately, and the player widely considered the best available outside of the top three, Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, would likely be a poor fit next to De’Aaron Fox, as both players are best with the ball in their hands and aren’t strong outside shooters.
Sacramento could instead opt to draft Iowa star Keegan Murray, who has a higher floor and is a better fit for their roster, or trade the pick. Whatever the Kings decide, it will impact who the Pistons end up with. Detroit is ready for whatever situation Thursday night, Weaver said.
“Absolutely, you have to be prepared for that,” Weaver said. “I remember how many years ago, D’Angelo Russell jumped up and went two. That’s why I’m a little agitated on so much reporting trying to find out everybody’s pick right now, it’s ridiculous. No, you’ve got to be prepared for anything to happen. Because if you don’t and you haven’t done your work, then someone drops that you haven’t done your work on, then you’re stuck. So no, we anticipate anything happening above us.”
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Chris Haynes from Yahoo Sports reported on Monday that the Kings are high on Murray, and had him dine with Fox and Sabonis. Also on Monday, Ivey revealed that he has only worked out for the Pistons and Orlando Magic. When asked about the possibility of being drafted by the Kings, he said it “wouldn’t be the worst option.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Those data points might suggest the Kings will draft Murray and leave Ivey for the Pistons. But it’s not uncommon for prospects to avoid workouts with teams in an attempt to angle themselves into a better situation. As Bleacher Report noted on Wednesday, neither Haliburton or Davion Mitchell worked out for the Kings before Sacramento selected them in back-to-back lotteries in 2020 and 2021. Steph Curry didn’t work out for the Golden State Warriors in 2009, because he wanted to be drafted by the New York Knicks.
Pre-draft workouts are only part of the puzzle. If the Kings want Ivey, they will take Ivey. And even if they don’t, drafting Ivey could still be their most logical option. Teams are interested in trading for the fourth pick because many teams perceive Ivey as the most star-ready player outside of the top three. Even if they’re not sold on his ability to fit next to Fox, the Kings could take Ivey and work out a trade afterward.
Sacramento is the wild card, and the Pistons will have to adapt based on the hand the Kings deal them.