Pistons mailbag: Rising Stars candidates, draft options and Killian Hayes’ play

Detroit News

Detroit — There’s plenty to discuss with the Pistons, especially since they’ll be without Cade Cunningham after he underwent season-ending surgery to treat a lingering stress fracture in his left leg.

This edition of Mike’s Mailbag, crafted from questions via social media, looks at the 2023 NBA Draft, the Rising Stars Challenge, who benefits the most from Cunningham’s injury and more.

Question: How many players could represent the Pistons in the Rising Stars game? — @Masont_Smith

Answer: My answer would’ve been three at the start of the season, considering the fact that Cade Cunningham was healthy.

However, barring any more unforeseen injuries, the Pistons could — and should — have two representatives in the Rising Stars Challenge. The NBA’s annual “Rookie-Sophomore” game, held during All-Star Weekend, has been modified several times over the past few years. Its current format is made up of 28 players: 12 rookies, 12 sophomores and four players from the G League Ignite roster.

With that being said, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren should get their bags ready for Salt Lake City, because they’re two of the top 12 rookies in the NBA right now.

Ivey, the fifth-overall pick in this year’s draft, is averaging 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. He’s one of the most dynamic young guards in the game and he uses his speed and quickness to create for himself and his teammates. Ivey can bring fans to their feet with his athleticism, just as he did during Sunday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets as he dunked over Yuta Watanabe.

Duren, the 19-year-old center who’s made a profound impact since entering the starting lineup on Dec. 9, is just as explosive in the interior. At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, Duren has the physique of a grizzled veteran. He’s on a rebounding tear after totaling at least 11 boards in each of his last six games.

Cunningham was named the 2022 Rising Stars MVP after leading his team to victory last season. Ivey or Duren could be in position to do the same this year.

Q: Now that it’s officially draft-prep season for Detroit, if we end up with the No. 2 pick, do we take another point guard in Scoot (Henderson)? Who would be a good fit if we can’t get (Victor) Wembanyama? — @TheSoleMusic

A: With an 8-24 record, the second-worst in the NBA, the Pistons appear to be poised for another year in the lottery. If the balls bounce in their favor and the Pistons are fortunate enough to choose second in the 2023 draft, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Assuming Victor Wembanyama is off the board with the first pick, G League Ignite’s Scoot Henderson is projected as the next-best prospect.

Henderson, a 6-2 guard, isn’t the 7-4 phenom that Wembanyama is, but he possesses a unique skill set of his own. He’s known for his explosiveness on the court and he has the ability to find his teammates for open shots. Henderson, who’s averaging 21.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists for the Ignite this season, would be the fourth guard taken in the last four drafts by the Pistons if they were to go that route.

The logjam of guards currently includes Cunningham, Ivey, Killian Hayes and Cory Joseph. Henderson would need to complement Ivey and Cunningham in order to play in the same lineup, but he could serve as the star of the Pistons’ second unit if they aren’t able to coexist.

Detroit could go in a different direction and beef up its wing rotation by taking a forward in next year’s draft. Brandon Miller, a 6-foot-9 forward at Alabama, brings size and shot-making to the perimeter and he’s shown an improved ability to handle the ball and make accurate passing reads when doubled. He’s shooting 45.1% from beyond the 3-point arc, which would bode well for a team like Detroit with multiple guards who can penetrate.

Next year’s draft is just one avenue for Detroit to get better. Troy Weaver and the rest of the Pistons’ front office will have quite a bit of cap space to improve the roster, which makes them flexible, and that’s always a good thing.

Q: What more do you want to see from (Killian) Hayes before being able to fully buy in on him, other than consistency? — @thommc18

A: Killian Hayes is having the best season of his NBA career. After getting off to a sluggish start without much impact, Hayes is beaming with confidence over the past 12 games. He’s been able to knock down clutch 3-pointers in wins over the Dallas Mavericks and Charlotte Hornets and he’s consistently become a threat from the mid-range. He’s averaging a career-high 8.8 points and 5.3 assists per game. Consistency is the only detractor from Hayes’ game right now. He’s also been hindered by foul trouble of late, totaling at least four fouls in six out of the last 10 games. Hayes will have more opportunities to be effective on the floor if he limits cheap fouls, especially early in games.

Q: What Pistons benefit the most and why from extra opportunities with Cade Cunningham out for the season? — @DetroitKoolAid

A: Cunningham’s season-ending injury gives Hayes and Ivey more time to spend as the team’s primary ball-handlers. Both players are high-usage players, but it gives Ivey an accelerated opportunity to lead the Pistons’ offense. He has to make more decisions in Cunningham’s absence. On every possession, Ivey is learning in real time whether or not he should shoot, use his quickness to get to the basket or set up his teammates. Sometimes, he makes the right reads, and other times he doesn’t. However, the experience will pay off in the long run because he won’t have to bear those duties in excess once Cunningham returns next season.

Articles You May Like

6 candidates to replace Monty Williams if Pistons move on
Report: Pistons want Dennis Lindsey to join new front office
NBA Finals Game 2 GameThread: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *