Building a 2023 NBA Draft Big Board for the Detroit Pistons: Players 1-5

Detroit Bad Boys

Here we are at the top of the mountain! If you have been following this draft class even just a little, Nos. 1 and 2 will not be a surprise. HOWEVER, they are just two very exciting prospects here at the top of this class that the Detroit Pistons should be ecstatic to even think about adding as there is some major skill and athleticism here at the top. Also, all of these guys here at the top would be fantastic additions next to Cade as they all have games that complement Mr. Cunningham and also make his life so much easier. As I said in the opening piece to this series, this would be a TERRIBLE year for the Pistons to miss the lottery.

And here…we…go!

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5. Keyonte George, SG/PG Baylor

6’4” 185 pounds

Someone who put in major work and established himself as perhaps the top scorer in this draft this past summer, Keyonte George has three-level scoring potential with a plethora of skills. While scouts have almost downgraded anyone under 6-foot-5 in recent draft evaluations, George should have everyone overlook size concerns due to how he can put the ball in the bucket from just about anywhere on the court.

George might just have the best readymade NBA jump shot in this draft class. Off of catch-and-shoot, off-the-dribble, with a defender in his face, with less than a second to get a shot off George is able to get his feet underneath him and keep that release high and the wrist flicking every time. Beyond being a great jump shooter, however, George seems to possess the entire scoring bag as he can get to the rim and the free-throw line in addition to launching threes and having a midrange pull-up game. In 14 games on the high school circuit at IMG Academy this past season, George put up shooting splits of 58.1% from two-point range, 41.5% from downtown, and 89.5% from the free throw line all while scoring 17.8 points per game. George is a top-notch scorer, no doubt. This past summer at the Global Jam event, however, is where a lot of eyes were opened to the kind of scoring impact George already possesses. Not only did George lead a veteran Baylor squad in scoring at the event, but he also led ALL PLAYERS AT THE EVENT in scoring. This list of guys he bested includes current Texas starting point guard Marcus Carr, 23-year-old, six-year Brazilian pro Yago Dos Santos, as well as fellow 2023 NBA Draft prospects Leonard Miller and Leonardo Okeke. This is an impressive feat for an 18-year-old who is just scratching the surface of his potential.

While point guard-sized, George is still developing his point guard skills and has to cut down on his turnovers. This past summer at the Global Jam, George continued to score very well, but in that primary scoring role he racked up 18 turnovers in 5 games. What’s worse is that he dished out 15 assists, so he did have the dreaded more turnovers to assist ratio. Factor in that the data I could find on George’s senior season had him averaging under 2 assists per game and this is something he HAS TO make major improvements on for an NBA team to want to develop him with the ball in his hands. And while it is not a significant concern as of this moment, teams will wonder about George’s role on defense. Being point guard height, they will hope for him to be a good guard defender at the least and if he has a good wingspan, hope he can scale up even if it is only a little.

George is such a fantastic all-around scorer with advance skill and polish it is hard for me to keep him out of the top 5. The Global Jam event stats, by the way, saw George average 22.8 points per game across five games and getting to the line 32 times in these five games. This is as an 18-year-old at an event where he went up against adults from professional leagues all around the world so George has taken step one in order to be ready for the next level.

Scouting Video against Canada at the 2022 Global Jam courtesy of Cashiggy

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4. Cam Whitmore, SF/PF Villanova

6-foot-7, 232 pounds

If you want more size and explosion in your wing prospects, then look no further than Villanova’s Cam Whitmore. Villanova is not known for putting out one-and-done prospects, but Whitmore looks to be the exception while getting the benefit of joining a school with a reputation for putting out some of the best NBA-readymade prospects in recent years.

Whitmore has power forward explosion and strength with wing fluidity. He is able to handle both forwards spots whether it is operating as a screener or operating out of spot-up situations. The thing that pops out most in Whitmore’s game is that he can dunk just about everything. Straight-line drive to the hoop, grabbing a rebound mid-air off a miss, rolling to the rim off a screen, catching a pass in the dunker’s spot, this story ends with a slam at the hoop no matter how it begins. It is no shock that Cam is a good alley-oop threat, something he displayed quite a bit this past summer at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship. On defense, Whitmore also shows that combination of strength and fluidity to show scouts that this is someone who can match up with the best forwards the NBA has to offer—plus going to Villanova will give him that bump there as well since that coaching staff stresses many NBA defensive techniques and concepts.

His jump shot, while not bad, is inconsistent. His “setup” for his three-point shot off of spot-ups is a bit slow right now, and he can sit there and contemplate the shot rather than just pulling the trigger. Whitmore also does not show much in the way of creating for others. For starters his handle is just okay at best—he is almost strictly a straight-line driver right now. Follow that up with limited court vision and Whitmore’s potential as a primary scorer is not readily apparent on film. He averaged 2.3 assists per game as a senior at Archbishop Spalding High School, so he is not a non-passer, but seeing as he put up 21.4 points and 10.6 boards the assist numbers are low for a player that can score like that.

Perhaps Chaz Malibu’s favorite prospects in the early going here of the 2023 NBA Draft cycle, that dunking and scoring ability has GOT TO get you hype thinking what kind of supercharger Cam would be for the MotorCade. If you are hoping the Pistons can get a more explosive Villanova guy to pair with Saddiq, then bring your horse and carriage cuz Cam gonna make you say Oh Boy.

Should Cam Whitmore be considered for the #1 Pick? Courtesy of Rafael Barlowe of NBA Draft Junkies and NBA Big Board with special guest Caleb Mueller

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3) Dariq Whitehead, SG/SF Duke

6-foot-6, 190 pounds

The top guy of the many great wing prospects in this draft, Dariq was an old teammate of Cade’s back at Monte Verde and worked his way from being a wing with good athleticism into being a great shot-creator and growing defender.

Perhaps the top reason why Dariq will stay at the top of the rankings all year is that his athleticism shows itself in every situation on the court. And to be clear, I am NOT saying Whitehead is some monster athlete, but rather his athleticism is functional in all facets of basketball. In transition, he will outrun guys and sky over them for a dunk. In the half court, he will run pick-and-roll to get free and drive in to drop the hammer and get an And1. On defense, he will sit in a stance, slide his feet, and stay in front of guards and wings so no one gets an easy look. Reason 1B for his place among the top guys in this draft class is his ability to create his own shot with a solid handle and a silky-smooth jumper to score easily. He has a fantastic pull-up jumper with a high release that defenders struggle to alter. On top of all this, Whitehead has flashed the ability to handle contact easily in order to get to the free-throw line, and his physical #Tools make him projectable to defend the 1 through the 3 in the NBA.

While his pull-up game and that jumper are impressive, Whitehead’s free-throw percentage absolutely is not. In 16 games on the high school circuit this past season, Whitehead shot 60.0% from the free-throw line. That is FAR below average for a wing. In addition to sinking his free throws, he needs to GET to the free-throw line as his free-throw attempt rate was a measly 22.9%. While I did list that he flashed the ability to handle contact and get to the line, at this point, they are only flashes. A player with Whitehead’s shot-creation ability and athleticism should be getting to the line MUCH more, and if he doesn’t, it will be highly likely he cannot be a primary offensive option. Another important factor is his limited court vision as he averaged 2.4 assists per game his entire senior season. If he is an average passer who doesn’t get to the line often, then that is the profile of a role player.

Still, even at this “role player” level, Whitehead would be a fantastic addition to any team and especially to a Pistons team in need of an athletic wing who can space the floor out more for Cade and provide top-notch wing defense. Whitehead absolutely should be on Pistons fans’ radar all season as he could be a perfect fit in the MotorCade. Seeing he is No. 3 on my list to start out the year, I definitely buy into the scoring and defensive package and think his weaknesses can be ironed out or even lessened between Cade and Jaden Ivey. Besides, the last time the Pistons drafted a Duke guy at #3 in the draft that turned out pretty good for the team and the city…

Preseason Scouting Report on Dariq Whitehead courtesy of Coach Spins of The Box-and-One

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite

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2. Scoot Henderson, PG/SG G League Ignite

6-foot-2, 195 pounds

Drawing comparisons to DRose and John Wall, Henderson made his professional debut at 17 years old this past season for the Ignite in the NBA’s G League. The kind of abilities Scoot possesses as a passer, mid-range shot creator AND maker are rarer than rare in a player so young.

First and foremost, Scoot is the ideal point guard when it comes to the skills he displays on the court. From his 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (88 assists to 44 turnovers), his 48.6% on pull-up jumpers inside the arc (36 of 74 in 21 games; he was also 3/6 on his pull-up threes), and his ability to get to the rim and finish posting 64.0% (48 of 74 on shots within 5 feet of the basket). This cannot be overstated enough…THIS IS A 17-YEAR-OLD. Seeing as the average age of the NBA G League is 25, Scoot has a game way beyond his years already. In addition to this, Scoot is a fantastic athlete with quickness, agility, and explosiveness to blow by defenders, shake guys in the lane, then get up and elevate to drop the hammer on the opposition. Put this all together, and you have a point guard who can attack the rim to generate free throws, get his teammates open looks WHILE ALSO keeping his turnovers low, and attack in the midrange any time the defense tries to keep him from going to the rim. He also appears to have great self-awareness about where his game is at and what he needs to address as evidenced in his interview with Mike Schmitz.

Defense and a lacking of three-point shooting are the concerns for Scoot. He has not shown consistent effort on defense, nor has he displayed as many skills on the defensive side of the ball as he has on offense. His athleticism still FLASHES on defense, but when it comes to things like fighting through screens or understanding angles and how to close out on the opposition, Scoot still has much to learn there. His three-point shooting this past season was about the only flat-out terrible thing in Scoot’s bag. There is NO WAY to excuse his 21.6% from downtown. He HAS to majorly improve here this upcoming season if he wants to continue to stay at No. 2 and push Wembanyama for the top spot. And while his size is certainly not going to keep him out of the discussion for the No. 1 pick right now, should he start struggling to finish or get consistently run over on defense, then the guys on this list below him could start entering the conversation for teams that prioritize size.

If not for Victor Wembanyama, Scoot would be the favorite to go No. 1 for all the reasons I just laid out. It CANNOT be stated enough that Scoot’s abilities at his age are incredibly rare and anyone that passes him up will have a high chance of regretting it. Even things such as his shooting concerns are mitigated by the fact he is such a good pull-up shooter from the midrange and knocked down 77.8% of his free throws. And if you want a ready-made point guard next to Cade that will get him many more open looks, then you should be rooting for the Pistons to #Scat4Scoot

Scouting Video by Coach Adam Spinella of The Box-And-One Podcast

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite

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1) Victor Wembanyama, C/PF Metropolitans 92

7-foot-5, 240 pounds

The apple of NBA teams in the lottery this year, Wembanyama’s size has now rocketed up to his listed 7-foot-5 and 240 pounds. Not only is that jaw-droppingly huge, but this is in a player who can shoot, protect the rim at an elite level, handle switches on the perimeter, and has some on-ball creation ability. If you liked Chet Holmgren last year, Wembanyama is like that times two. He is already about as close to a lock as the No. 1 pick as you can get due to his enormous size and unique combination of skills to go with it.

I think the best place to start is that you just simply do not see human beings this big with the fluidity Wembanyama displays on the basketball court. It is not JUST that he is so tall and might have an eight-foot wingspan, but it is that he moves like a wing out there. Wembanyama has already played three games as I am writing this and from his very first exhibition game this season, this fluidity continues to be something everyone marvels at. This manifests itself on the court in a variety of ways. He can get out and defend on the perimeter. He can put the ball on the deck in transition and attack a defense that is slow to get back. He will also pull up from three and display a smooth-looking jumper. Recently, he has also displayed court vision and passing accuracy he did not previously show. This can open up his game even more as a result. Now that he is finally able to be on a team that consistently plays him over 19.8 minutes per game, we are seeing this array of skills on full display. In three games so far this season, Wembanyama is putting up the per-game stat line of: 17.3 points, 8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.0 blocks while shooting 48.6% from two-point land, 33.3% from three-point range, and 57.1% from the free throw line. If you need to see any of this for yourself, I implore you to search “Victor Wembanyama” on YouTube and marvel at this incredibly rare player.

The one thing I have seen that could damage Wembanyama’s stock is “health concerns.” Much like with Chet last year, there are those who immediately look at the slender frame and height and immediately ask if this kind of player can handle the physicality of the NBA. To THOSE people, I say Wembanyama has already been playing professionally in Europe against adults so if the physicality were too much for him, that would have shown up on tape already. What is worrisome is the injuries Wembanyama has accumulated thus far in his young career. SB Nation’s own Ricky O’Donnell put together a list of these injuries and as he stated, “None of Wembanyama’s injuries qualify as extremely worrisome yet, but his ability to remain durable is the biggest question about his NBA future.” I do also think his shooting is more of a long-term project as he has never shot over 27.5% from three for an entire season and his free-throw percentage seems to be declining every year. I am NOT saying he will never be able to shoot, but just that it may take him longer to be a consistent threat there.

Wembanyama will be playing at Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 this year alongside former Boston Celtics point guard Tremont Waters, 58th overall pick from the 2022 Draft (whose rights are currently owned by the Milwaukee Bucks) Hugo Besson, former Michigan State star Aaron Henry (who played with the 76ers and their G League team last season), and former University of Michigan guard Devante’ Jones, so he will have roster around him to better showcase how he fits on an NBA court. Wembanyama has no comparison and he is not a unicorn because, in my opinion, not even that term can encapsulate just how rare of a beast Wembanyama is. For not just the Pistons, but for the entire NBA, 2023 will be the year to #Fail4Victor

Prospect Breakdown from BBallBreakdown

Thank you for making it all the way to the end here and for being here with us at Detroit Bad Boys! Here’s hoping the Pistons can land another awesome draft pick this year because…you know what??? This would be a TERRIBLE year for the Pistons to miss out on the lottery.

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