Taylor Hendricks could be an option for Pistons with No. 5 pick

Detroit News

Detroit — There are several options at the forward position for the Detroit Pistons to choose from with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

The Pistons could go with the explosiveness of Cam Whitmore, who spent one season at Villanova. Or they could add either Amen or Ausar Thompson, whose playmaking abilities are well beyond their years. They could also select Houston’s Jarace Walker, who could be the best defensive option among the group.

However, there is one name that is often left out when the topic of Detroit’s first-round pick comes up just after 8 p.m. Thursday.

Central Florida forward Taylor Hendricks appears to be the darkhorse of the group of forwards that could be taken within the first 10 picks. The 6-foot-8 forward is a versatile wing who makes his presence felt on both ends of the floor. He can defend multiple positions with his length due to his 7-1 wingspan, and a primary defensive stopper is something Detroit could benefit from. His shooting also makes him a viable target to pair with the Pistons’ primary playmakers in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.

Hendricks, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was a four-star prospect coming out of high school and wasn’t immediately touted as a potential lottery pick after his freshman season. After averaging 15.1 points, seven rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, his draft stock skyrocketed, and he could land somewhere within the top 10 picks during the June 22 draft.

When you watch film of Hendricks, the first thing that immediately pops out is his ability to defend the interior. The Pistons have long searched for a shot-blocking presence. No player on the roster averaged at least one block last season, with the closest being rookie Jalen Duren and third-year center James Wiseman, both at 0.8 rejections per game. Adding a versatile forward who can protect the rim, but also stretch the floor on offense would make the Pistons more formidable on the defensive end.

On offense, Hendricks shines as a shooter. He connected on 47.8% of his field goals and 39.4% of his 3-pointers in 34 games at UCF. His strength lies in catch-and-shoot opportunities, but he occasionally puts the ball on the floor and creates his own space for the perimeter shot. At 19 years old, Hendricks’ instincts stand out. He’s able to anticipate the perfect time to crash the offensive glass for put-back dunks and he does the same with his well-timed rejections.

There are some areas for growth for Hendricks, who could improve his passing ability and his ball-handling. If the Pistons indeed use their pick to select Hendricks, he won’t have to bear the playmaking responsibilities since Cunningham, Ivey and Killian Hayes will have the ball in their hands for the majority of the time. Still, he possesses a high ceiling due to his athleticism, versatility and upside.

Pairing Hendricks with a frontcourt of Duren, Stewart and Wiseman could bode for an improvement in Detroit’s defense, which ranked 28th in the NBA this season.

Hendricks had an individual draft workout for the Indiana Pacers last week after previously working out for the Orlando Magic. He mentioned he has upcoming workouts with the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Pistons. A workout in Detroit means the franchise has some interest and would want to do their due diligence in evaluating Hendricks’ game and personality ahead of the draft.

There is a possibility that Detroit opts for Whitmore, Walker or either of the Thompson brothers, but if not, Hendricks could serve as a viable option to pair with new head coach Monty Williams and the rest of the Pistons’ young roster.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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