Which NBA Draft Lottery prospects should most interest the Detroit Pistons?

Detroit Bad Boys

The 2024 NBA Draft is quickly approaching, and while it has been labeled weak by many in the draft community, I think that is only true insomuch as there is a lack of a clear No. 1 prospect who you might be able to build a team around. However, in many drafts, some great players are overlooked for various reasons, making us question how and why they managed to slip in the draft and go unidentified at the time. With the Detroit Pistons securing the top slot in the lottery and guaranteeing themselves a top-5 draft pick, I figured this would be a good time to dive into the prospects I currently have ranked within the lottery on my draft board.

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1. Alexandre Sarr, C/PF, Perth Wildcats (NBL, Australia)

There is a good argument to be made that Alexandre Sarr has separated himself from the rest of the class and emerged as the clear No. 1 draft pick. The 7-foot-1 big man has drawn the eye of NBA evaluators for several reasons, including his potential to be an elite defender and rim protector. In 18 minutes per game with the Perth Wildcats, Sarr has averaged an impressive 1.5 blocks per game. Being only 18 years old, playing well in a very competitive professional league, and being able to handle the physicality against more developed and experienced players bodes well for his transition to the NBA. What cements Sarr as an elite defensive prospect is how well he moves for a guy his size. His mobility when roaming and ability to leave the paint to defend and be used in switches is a coveted skill for centers in today’s NBA.

After spending the last two seasons with the Overtime Elite program, Alex Sarr jumped to the NBL in Australia, one of the top professional leagues in the world. While his defensive value has been his main selling point, his offensive upside is also very tantalizing. This season with Perth, Sarr averaged 9.6 points per game in 18 minutes while shooting 59% on 5.2 two-point FG attempts, 27.6% on 1.9 three-point FG attempts, and 70.7% on 2.7 free-throw attempts per game. He must continue to improve as a shooter, but his development is encouraging, and his free-throw shooting further adds to the belief that he will be able to shoot enough to space the floor effectively.

2. Ron Holland, SF, G-League Ignite

Iowa Wolves v G League Ignite

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No player has flashed a higher upside than Ron Holland in this year’s draft. Not only is he one of the draft’s younger players (he will be 18 on draft night), but he is also a tremendous athlete who, at 6-foot-8, has already been a two-way star for the G-League Ignite. His ability to get to and finish at the rim is his calling card, finishing through contact or just going over defenders. Throughout 29 games with the Ignite (Showcase + regular season), Holland averaged 19.5 points per game, shooting 51.6% on 12.2 two-point attempts, 24% on 3.3 three-point attempts, and 72.8% from the free-throw line on 3.9 attempts per game. He could become a legitimate top-scoring option if he can develop into an average shooter from beyond the arc.

Defensively, Holland has been very disruptive for the Ignite and has the potential to develop into a high-level defender. Holland averaged a very impressive 3.2 stocks per game (2.3 steals + 0.9 blocks). His size and athleticism make him well-suited to guard the 2 through 4 positions effectively, and this versatility will help him become one of the better defenders on whichever team he ends up on. The potential for Ron Holland on both ends of the court is tremendous, and there is a legitimate argument to be made that he has the highest ceiling of any prospect in this draft.

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3. Nikola Topic, PG, Mega Basket (ABA, Serbia)

The best point guard prospect in the upcoming draft, Serbia’s Nikola Topic has flashed both high-level creation skills and the potential to be a three-level scorer. The 6-foot-6 guard played in 19 games this season, averaging 16.37 points, 6.1 assists, 3.58 rebounds, 0.95 steals, with 2.68 turnovers in 30.8 minutes per game with a 49.8/28.2/87.8 shooting line. Topic shot 36.9% from three on 3.5 attempts per game last season through 37 games, so his past shooting beyond the arc and his impressive free-throw shooting are indicators that he can improve on his poor shooting from this season. Topic is not very explosive but has a good first step when attacking the basket and is a smooth finisher.

Topic has been the best passer in this class and has done well taking care of the ball and limiting turnovers. His high-level creation skills and potential to develop into a three-level scorer make Topic’s potential on the offensive end of the court very enticing. Though you would like to see him improve on the defensive end of the court, Topic is the best bet in this draft as a creator that you can run an offense through. I would have liked to have seen more games of him in the Euroleague to judge him against a higher level of competition, but his skill and feel for the game are evident and could have him at the top of draft boards for point-guard-needy teams.

G League Ignite v Texas Legends

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4. Matas Buzelis, PF/SF, G-League Ignite

Matas Buzelis is a tall, lanky forward prospect for the G-League Ignite who has seen his draft stock remain fairly steady throughout the process. He had the opportunity to make a case for himself as the top prospect in this class by shooting the ball well, but he shot only 26.1% from three on 3.4 attempts per game and 69.6% on 2.0 free-throw attempts per game. He has a good-looking shot, and at 6-foot-10, with a high-release point, his shot would theoretically be hard to defend, and continuing to develop it should be his top priority. Despite his shooting, Buzelis is still a very enticing prospect on both ends of the court. Through 34 games, Buzelis averaged 14.1 points while shooting 53.5% on 8.4 two-point attempts per game (45.5% overall) and is a smooth finisher inside the paint.

While Buzelis underwhelmed as a shooter for the Ignite, he was better than expected on the defensive end this season. In 30.9 minutes per game across the Showcase and regular season games, Buzelis averaged 1.9 blocks and 0.9 steals per game. He may not have the quickness to guard smaller players on the perimeter, but he is a very versatile forward with plenty of length who can make an impact in a variety of ways. His added defensive value helps make him a much more complete prospect.

Arkansas v Kentucky

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Reed Sheppard came out of the gate shooting out of his mind and somehow sustained the hot shooting all season. In 33 games, Sheppard attempted 144 three-pointers, making 52.1% of them. He also made 55.5% of his two-point attempts and 83.1% of his free throws on his way to averaging 12.5 points in 28.9 minutes per game. Sheppard isn’t just a shooter. He impressed in every area for Kentucky. The 6-foot-3 combo guard is a pesky defender who is great at playing passing lanes to pick off steals (averaging 2.5 steals per game) and should be one of the better defenders from this draft class.

Sheppard has also impressed as a passer, averaging 4.5 assists per game with only two turnovers while sharing ball-handling duties with Rob Dillingham and Dajuan Wagner. I do think there is a chance he could play point guard in the NBA, but he would be best as a high-level secondary handler and facilitator. Sheppard is a complete prospect who will be able to help a team in many different ways right away and would likely be in consideration to go No. 1 if he were a few inches taller. Overlook him at your own risk.

Colorado v Marquette

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Cody Williams, the brother of Oklahoma City Thunder star Jalen Williams, has received a boost to his draft stock thanks to some familial development that has seen Jalen blossom into perhaps the best player in his draft class. Cody is 6-foot-8 and on the skinny side right now and would benefit from bulking up, similar to Jalen’s development. As a defender, Cody has impressed and profiles as an effective team defender, but not quite on the level of his brother coming out of the draft. In 24 games, Cody Williams averaged 11.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 2.0 turnovers while playing 28.4 minutes per game.

He has shot the ball well for Colorado, knocking down 41.5% from three on low volume (1.7 attempts per game). Williams has also been impressive within the arc, converting on 58.8% of his two-point shot attempts. I do buy that his shot will translate, but I worry about his role on offense as I feel he can kind of disappear at times and is not much of a creator. This could just be an example of a freshman on a team with talented upperclassmen (KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva) having to take a back seat. Even in a limited role, Williams has cemented himself as one of the top two-way forwards in the draft and could be one of the first names to come off the board.

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7. Zaccharie Risacher, SF, JL Bourg (LNB Pro A, France)

Zaccharie Risacher has impressed in both the U19 World Cup and in regular season play with France’s top league, LNB Pro A. The 6-foot-8 forward shows promise both as a shooter and as an off-ball defender. Through 52 games across all leagues this season, Risacher has averaged 10.38 points, 3.31 rebounds, 0.96 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.38 blocks, and 1.54 turnovers per game in 22.7 minutes per game while shooting 51.6% on two-point attempts, 38.7% on three-point attempts, and 69.6% from the free-throw line. The free-throw shooting is a concern, and while he has shot the ball well beyond the arc this year, he shot only 30.7% from three the year before. His shot looks good, so there is a lot of belief it will translate, but questions and some reasonable skepticism remain.

While Risacher is a respectable athlete, he is not overly explosive. He does not impact the glass much and is also not a creator of offense for himself or others, which will limit his upside. He is one of the better 3&D prospects in the draft and excels in an off-ball, catch-and-shoot role on offense, but he may lack the upside of some of the other wing/forward prospects in the draft. Risacher will be a candidate to go among the top of the draft with his ability to knock down shots and impact defense, but he must continue to expand his game to become a more complete player.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - Final Four

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Stephon Castle is a 6-foot-6 point guard prospect who excels on the defensive end of the court. As a freshman at UConn, Castle emerged as a significant contributor for the National Champion UConn Huskies. In 27 minutes per game, Castle averaged 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.5 turnovers per game. Castle is a big-bodied guard at 215 pounds and is a great athlete who can finish above the rim. His size and athleticism also help him on defense, giving him the versatility to guard the 1 through 3 effectively. He is a very smooth player with a high feel for the game on both ends of the court, which is very impressive for a 19-year-old, and I think the sky is the limit for him in the NBA.

You would like to see Castle improve as a shooter where he shot only 26.7% from three on 2.2 attempts per game but shot a respectable 75.5% from the line. This is his only glaring weakness at this point, and he has a lot of other strengths that compensate for it as a strong driver, passer, rebounder, and defender. He didn’t get to play point guard full-time with Newton at UConn, but his passing ability, high BBIQ, and ability to take care of the ball all suggest that he should be well-suited to facilitate an NBA offense.

Purdue v Connecticut

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Donovan Clingan’s draft stock has fluctuated a bit throughout the season. Initially, he was being viewed as a top 10 prospect but concerns with his conditioning and inability to play heavy minutes caused a lot of people to fade him down boards. That concern remains, but I think many are coming around to just how impactful Clingan can be when he is on the floor, especially on the defensive end. In only 22.5 minutes per game, Clingan averaged 13.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.5 blocks, and was the defensive anchor for the National Champion UConn Huskies. What impresses me most are the instances where he was just a clear mismatch for his opponents at 7-foot-2, 265 pounds, and how hard they have to work just to compete with him on the block.

As a traditional center, Clingan won’t offer you any floor spacing. He attempted only eight three-pointers last season and shot only 58.3% from the free-throw line. He can still make a strong impact on offense as someone who secures offensive rebounds and scores around the basket, especially with lobs and putbacks, and he’s flashed a bit of passing ability, too, that may continue to develop. His stock is as high as ever with UConn’s Championship. It will be interesting to see how highly NBA teams are willing to draft a player with obvious strengths and a well-defined role but also clear limitations that may be difficult to overcome.

SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals

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Dillingham is a very polarizing prospect because as tremendously talented as he is as a scorer, he is an equally poor defender. This will be hard for him to overcome without Trae Young-level passing abilities and may ultimately limit him to a bench role. Though, even in a bench role, Dillingham’s scoring could prove potent. He is a very fast and shifty guard with a good handle who can create for himself and others (3.9 assists per game) but also excels off the ball, where he can get open and play a catch-and-shoot role. As a shooter, he has been lights out beyond the arc for Kentucky. Over 32 games, Dillingham averaged 15.2 points per game and attempted 144 three-pointers, making 44%.

His struggles on the defensive end will be difficult to overcome as a short guard with a skinny frame. It certainly isn’t impossible, but with as far away as he is from being an even average defender, I’d say it will be an uphill battle. There are a lot of questions that a team considering Dillingham will have to be able to answer. Can he facilitate the offense well enough to start? Can you build a successful team with him and hide him defensively? If he’s a super 6th man, how early can you draft him? He’s an exciting player to watch, and I think he will have a long NBA career, I’m just not sure I want to be the team to bet on him being a star.

Tennessee v Purdue

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Dalton Knecht can flat-out score the ball. The 6-foot-6 guard began his college career at Northeastern Junior College before transferring to Northern Colorado. In 2022-23 with Northern Colorado, Knecht was doing much of the same that we see now at Tennessee, averaging 20.2 points on 38.1% shooting beyond the arc. The jump to Tennessee and playing against tougher competition was a test that Knecht passed with flying colors, upping his averages to 21.7 points per game on 39.7% three-point shooting, including eight games where he scored over 30 points, and a career-high of 40 against Kentucky. Dalton Knecht looks to be one of the best shooters in the draft, and you could argue that he is also the most polished and proven scorer in the class.

Knecht’s ceiling is limited by his lack of explosive athleticism, which will hurt him most on the defensive end of the court, where he will have trouble when tasked to guard quicker, more athletic guards or forwards. He also does not add much value as a creator, averaging only 1.8 assists to 1.7 turnovers per game. Being one of the older prospects in the draft class (turns 23 on April 19), there is also some worry about how much more Knecht can develop and add to his game at this point. I will say that in recent years, I feel like I’ve learned a lesson from discounting “high-floor” prospects because sometimes that floor might just be on a second story.

Texas A&M v Virginia

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12. Ryan Dunn, C/PF, Virginia

Dunn is easily the best defensive prospect in the draft and would immediately be the best defender on many teams throughout the league. I refer to his archetype as a “destroyer.” At 6-foot-8 and the ability to guard every position on the floor, Dunn averaged 2.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per game in 27.5 minutes. Dunn is a great athlete and a strong rebounder who plays above his listed height. The value that Dunn can generate on the defensive end alone should have him drafted within the lottery or teams will look back in a few years and wonder what they were doing à la Jaden McDaniels.

Offensively, there are clear limitations, which will keep him down on some draft boards. Dunn only attempted one three-point shot per game and only converted 20% of the time. He’s a guy who isn’t shooting unless he’s open. He’s making only 53.2% on 2.3 attempts per game from the free-throw line. He’s useful as a lob threat, a putback guy who can score around the basket and rebound, but that is the limit of his offensive value at this point. He’ll be your #1 defender but must be your No. 5 option on offense whenever he’s on the court.

USC v Washington

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Isaiah Collier is a very talented guard prospect who has impressed as a scorer for the Trojans during his freshman season, averaging 16.3 points per game. Collier is a big point guard at six-foot-four, 205 pounds, and he uses his body to his advantage when driving to the rim. Being a strong and athletic guard, he can get to the rim through traffic and finish easily. This led him to convert on a very impressive 54.3% of his two-point attempts. However, he has struggled as a shooter beyond the arc and at the line, making 33.8% of his three-point attempts and only 67.3% of his free-throw attempts. How he develops as a shooter will be crucial for his chances of becoming a high-level scorer in the NBA.

As a passer and handler, Collier has clear talent, however he has struggled with taking care of the ball, averaging 4.3 assists to 3.3 turnovers. This is not overly concerning to me; he is not in a great situation based on the talent around him, and I think back to Cade Cunningham at Oklahoma State when he averaged 3.5 assists to 4.0 turnovers. Many at the time felt that was due to his supporting cast and that he would benefit from NBA talent and spacing around him. I think this is probably also true for Collier. On the defensive end, I feel there are times when he can really be impressive, while other times when he seems much more passive. I think the talent is there for him to be an at least average defender, but I’d like to see him more locked in on that end of the court.

Darussafaka Lassa v Cholet Basket - Basketball Champions League

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14. Tidjane Salaun, SF/PF, Cholet Basket (LNB Pro A, France)

Tidjane Salaun, a 6-foot-9 forward playing in France’s top professional league, has caught the eye of NBA scouts for his length, athleticism, and two-way potential. In 23 minutes per game across 46 games, Salaun averaged 9.46 points, 3.83 rebounds, 0.89 assists, 1.04 steals, 0.17 blocks, and 1.3 turnovers per game while shooting 48% on two-point attempts, 33.3% on three-point attempts, and 80.5% from the free-throw line. Salaun can use his length and athleticism to get to and finish around the basket effectively. His strong shooting last year (36.3% through 40 games) combined with his development as a free-throw shooter (upping his % from 61.3% to 80.5%) are both positive indicators that Salaun can continue to develop his three-point shot.

Salaun projects to be a strong defender, with his combination of impressive length, big hands, and explosive athleticism though at times can be too easy to throw off his balance and not quite quick enough to handle guards on the perimeter. He is still one of the younger prospects in the draft (he won’t turn 19 until August) and has already emerged as a high-upside 3&D prospect playing in a top professional league, but he is still far from a finished product. He does not have much self-creation ability right now, so it will be very important to track his offensive development along with the continued development of his shooting. The upside of a 6-foot-9 athlete who can shoot and defend should have Salaun receiving lottery consideration, but they will have to land with a team willing to take the time to develop him properly.

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