G League Ignite’s Tyler Smith can help the Pistons stretch the floor

Detroit Bad Boys

The Detroit Pistons have many needs to address this offseason. That’s putting it lightly. Nothing more necessary than who’s going to steer this ship forward as the franchise’s president of basketball operations. That new executive will have a draft to navigate at the end of June, however, where they can patch roster holes with shiny new prospects.

Detroit has two primary on-court craters: spacing and defense. A one-size-fits-all solution isn’t out there, not when you’re coming off a franchise-worst season, but there are ways to get better in both areas through the draft and free agency.

Tyler Smith, who played last season with G League Ignite and previously Overtime Elite, helps space the floor immediately.

Over the Ignite’s regular season, the 6’11” stretch forward shot 36.4% from three on four attempts per game, while shooting 48.1% from the field and 72.5% from the free-throw line. He added 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 stocks (steals plus blocks) per game, as well. He did all of that in just 22 minutes per game, coming off the bench for the Ignite in all but two games over their season.

He played primarily off-the-ball in the G League and can effectively operate in pick-and-rolls to get toward the rim. He’s surprisingly explosive when he gets to the hoop in addition to his floor spacing ability. He hasn’t shown much flash as a shot creator, but I’m optimistic that he can take a leap as a playmaker to find open teammates when needed, especially in short-roll actions.

Smith will be 19 years old on draft night, turning 20 in November. As a young prospect who has already played professionally, he has the upside to grow in a number of areas. Both as a shooter where he is already strong, but also as a defender, which is his most important area for improvement.

His length and frame provides a pathway toward a strong defensive career. He showed sparks on that end of the floor with the Ignite, particularly as a weak-side rim protector, but did make mistakes you can credit to playing in an NBA-level league as a young talent.

Smith and any players coming from the now defunct Ignite program get the benefit of the doubt for playing in the G League, from playing against high level talent to playing in an NBA style and shooting from the NBA 3-point line.

Did I mention Smith shot over 36% from the NBA line, by the way? For comparison’s sake, top wing prospect Matas Buzelis shot 27.3% from 3-point range for the Ignite during their regular season.

I see Smith as a big that can thrive in today’s NBA thanks to the modern era of pace and space. He gets up and down the floor and can run toward the rim as a sufficient lob threat. His shooting ability stretches the floor and opens up the offense on any roster as a borderline 7-footer.

Teams can elect to go size heavy and play him as a stretch-four alongside a traditional big. Running a two-big lineup with Smith helps alleviate defensive concerns while he adjusts to the next level.

How can Smith land in Detroit?

As the Pistons finished with a league-worst, and franchise-worst, record at 14-68, the lowest they can pick in the 2024 NBA Draft is No. 5 overall.

Smith isn’t in that range, I doubt he’d be seriously considered by Detroit for their top selection without a trade-back scenario. Currently, Tankathon has Smith ranked 22nd on their big board while The Ringer has him at 29th. No Ceilings ranked Smith at No. 16 on their latest board.

Because of Smith’s archetype and signature skills, I could see him pushing his way up toward or within the top-10, especially if he shoots well during pre-draft workouts.

The Pistons should consider trading down if they can due to the number of young players they are already developing in house, depending on who stays with the team after an offseason primed for change.

No matter how Detroit’s roster looks, though, Smith immediately helps with the glaring need for additional spacing. He also has the upside to improve defensively and impact that end of the floor from the frontcourt, another hole for Detroit that needs patchwork.

Of course, the right deal has to be on the table for a trade down scenario to happen. Plus, another team must be willing to trade up, which is more difficult in an overall weaker draft compared to recent years.

Smith can become a high-level player thanks to his playing style and skills that are tailored for the modern-day NBA, which fits the type of prospect that teams should take a swing on in the lottery. Especially for a team like the Pistons, where Smith helps address a need the moment he steps through the door.

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