Detroit Pistons desperate for 3-and-D wing. Here are 6 to watch at Pick 31 in NBA draft

Detroit Free Press

There is no lottery system for the second round of the 2023 NBA draft — thankfully for the Detroit Pistons.

In addition to the fifth overall pick, the Pistons hold the 31st pick — the first selection in Round 2. There won’t be as much fanfare for whoever the Pistons select, but second-round picks can hit big. And this draft is deep in prospects who could address their biggest need — a defensive-minded wing who can also knock down shots.

Here are six players who fit the bill and are widely projected to be drafted outside of the top 20 on June 22 at Barclays Center in New York.

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Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA

Vitals: 6 feet 7, senior.

Averages: 17.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 48.1% overall, 31.7% from 3 (2.8 attempts).

The Pistons have favored experienced players with their second-round picks. They drafted Vanderbilt junior Saben Lee with the 38th pick in 2020, and a pair of seniors in Michigan alumnus Isaiah Livers and Iowa alumnus Luka Garza in 2021. Jaquez is similar to the latter two and is the first of four upperclassmen we’ll discuss.

Jaquez, the 2023 Pac-12 Player of the Year, is one of the most accomplished and well-rounded players in the draft. He’s a smart team defender who makes timely rotations and hustles, has great touch around the rim and scores using jukes and hesitations, sees the entire floor and is a willing passer. His inconsistent outside jumper and lack of athleticism have prevented him from being a first-round lock, but he’s a potential floor-raiser in the NBA who would fit the Pistons.

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Colby Jones, Xavier

Vitals: 6-6, junior.

Averages: 15 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 50.9% overall, 37.8% from 3 (3.3 attempts).

Another do-it-all wing, Jones would immediately address the need for perimeter defense and shotmaking at the wing. He’s good with the ball in his hands, dishing out nearly twice as many assists as his 2.3 turnovers per game, and competes hard on defense. Jones was efficient as a scorer. He’s not a jump-out-the-gym athlete, but overcame that in college with a soft touch and timely cutting.

Jones’ 37.8% clip on 3s as a junior was a career-high, as he shot 33.3% as a freshman and 29.2% the following season. There are question marks about his touch, as he knocked down just 67.9% of his free throws for his career. If the Pistons can be patient with his shooting, there are few other flaws in his game.

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Maxwell Lewis, Pepperdine

Vitals: 6-7, senior.

Averages: 17.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 46.8% overall, 34.8% from 3 (4.3 attempts).

Lewis has a chance to overachieve relative to his draft position as a pure bucket-getter. He is a strong outside shooter who embraces cutting, posting up smaller defenders and keeping the ball moving. Lewis has a 7-foot wingspan and the frame to be a difference-maker defensively. Pepperdine, which plays in the West Coast Conference with Gonzaga, won nine games last season. But Lewis’ game could pop more in the NBA.

Sidy Cissoko, G League Ignite

Vitals: 6-7.

Averages: 11.6 points, 3.1 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1 block, 1.1 steals, 43.6% overall, 31.4% from 3 (3.6 attempts).

Defensively, there’s a lot to like about Cissoko. The French wing is competitive and versatile, and thrives as a weakside rim protector who can switch onto smaller players. Offensively, he’s best when getting downhill and is a willing passer. He turned 19 in April, making him the youngest player on this list. His outside jumper needs work, but the Pistons can afford to let him continue growing into his game. They need a big wing who can handle multiple defensive assignments, and Cissoko’s desire on that end, along with his scoring upside, makes him a versatile prospect who could pay off big down the road.

Julian Phillips, Tennessee

Vitals: 6-8, freshman.

Averages: 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 41.1% overall, 23.9% from 3 (1.4 attempts).

If the Pistons are willing to go all-in on defense in the second round, Phillips would fit. He is athletic and hustles. He makes the effort plays you want to see on defense and should be able to switch up and down in the NBA. But his complete lack of outside shooting limits his ceiling. He didn’t shoot many 3s, and made even fewer. Teams will certainly want to see if he can knock down a higher percentage during draft workouts. Perhaps his free throw percentage (82.2%) points to a brighter future.

Julian Strawther, Gonzaga

Vitals: 6-7, junior.

Averages: 15.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 46.9% overall, 40.8% from 3 (5.3 attempts).

Strawther’s final season was his best. He shot a career-best from 3, both in percentage and attempts, and vastly improved from the 32.1% clip he recorded as a freshman. He’s a fearless shooter with good range both inside and outside of the arc, and has the size to defend multiple positions. Like Lewis, he has a translatable game that could make teams wonder why they didn’t value him higher.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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