2024 NBA Draft: Second-round sleepers that fill needs for the Detroit Pistons

Detroit Bad Boys

The Detroit Pistons have an important draft ahead of them. After securing the league’s worst record, only the NBA’s highest honor, Detroit guaranteed themselves a top-five pick. No matter how the draft lottery plays out, the Pistons get to add a top talent or explore trading the pick to improve their roster immediately.

With many needs to address, Detroit can also sift through second-round talent to bring in intriguing players at much lower stakes. The Pistons haven’t added much talent in the second round lately, though. They didn’t draft a player in the second round during either of the past two drafts, most recently adding Isaiah Livers and Luka Garza in the 2021 draft, neither of who are still with the team.

Detroit’s most recent late-draft success came in 2018, when they drafted Bruce Brown at No. 42 overall, their only pick that year. Well, we can all cringe at how that one turned out. Brown contributed much higher than his draft position for two seasons before Detroit traded him to Brooklyn for a bag of chips and he eventually went on to play a crucial role in the Denver Nuggets’ championship run last season.

But, the past is the past. The Pistons have an opportunity to pluck a player in the second round this June, even though they don’t control their own pick. Detroit’s own second rounder, No. 31 overall, is now with the Toronto Raptors. The Pistons do have the New York Knicks’ second round pick, though, which is much later, back toward the end of the draft.

So, let’s explore some prospects in that range who can help fill some of the many potholes the Pistons need to patch. To caveat, this is all very arbitrary at this point as teams treat their second round picks like spare lunch money.

Players end up receiving draft promises and their agents influence teams on where their client would sign, or not sign, a deal. Plus, a number of players coming from the NCAA ranks maintain their collegiate eligibility, hoping to only test the waters and get feedback through the pre-draft process, which puts the final player pool up in the air at this stage of the game. And of course; trades. Oh-so many trades.

Nevertheless, here are a few names who could intrigue the Pistons at the end of the draft, all who could help fill one glaring need or another.

Payton Sandfort – Wing, Iowa

6’7” Junior (21)

2023-24 Stats: 16.4 PTS, 6.6 REB, 2.7 AST

Shooting Splits: 44.6 FG%, 37.9 3P%, 91.1 FT%

There’s no question about it, Sandfort will make his money at the next level as a shooter. He had next to a 50-40-90 year at Iowa while playing over 30 minutes per game and seeing a large shot diet. Plus, his elite free throw shooting provides optimism that the shot can only get better over time.

He declared for the 2024 draft while maintaining college eligibility, so he may or may not be available on draft night depending how his pre-draft process plays out.

In the NBA, Sandfort looks like a true catch-and-shoot threat that opens the floor. As a junior, 85.1% of his made threes were assisted, according to Bart Torvik. He works off-ball primarily and should thrive next to decent playmakers.

While Sandfort will make a name for himself as a shooter, that’s not all he offers. He’s a solid finisher at the rim, connecting on 61.2% of his attempts near the basket last season. Although he’ll never be a primary playmaker, he’s shown the ability to make the right reads and take care of the ball once he sees a defense crash.

He won’t shine defensively, but he’s a good enough defender to stay afloat on that end. But, he’s on the floor to shoot. As long as his defensive play doesn’t negate his shot-making ability, he’ll find a role.

Sandfort fills a large need for the Pistons, especially if they don’t take a player known for their shooting at the top of the draft. Should Sandfort stay in the draft this year, his signature shooting could bring Detroit a diamond in the rough.

Ohio State v Iowa

Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Jonathan Mogbo – Forward, San Francisco

6’8” Junior (22)

2023-24 Stats: 14.2 PTS, 10.1 REB, 3.6 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.8 BLK

Shooting Splits: 63.6 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 69.2 FT%

Now I’ll go to a player the exact opposite of Sandfort. Getting the elephant out of the room immediately, Mogbo doesn’t shoot threes. He shot just two this season and missed them both. The season before, when he was at Missouri State, he took none.

He did considerably improve as a foul shooter, though, shooting only 43.2% from the line with Missouri State in 2022-23, then jumped up to 69.2% this year with San Francisco. I’m not banking on Mogbo developing any kind of outside shot in the future, but that kind of leap at the line makes you think about it, at least.

Alright, now for areas where he actually shines.

Mogbo is a force getting to and finishing at the rim. He connected on 74.1% of attempts at the rim this year, according to Bart Torvik. He had the third-most dunks in the country, behind Purdue’s Zach Edey who ran away with the highest number in a landslide. Mogbo is (*checks notes*) eight inches shorter than Edey.

Mogbo is a great rebounder. One of the best in the country, in fact, especially at his size. Of his 10.1 rebounds per game this season, 3.3 of those came on the offensive end, bringing immediate second chance opportunities with his efficiency near the rim.

He’s a very good playmaker at his size, which only helps open up more opportunities for him at the basket. He can make the right read when operating in pick-and-rolls and kicking out after cleaning up the offensive glass.

His high motor and athleticism paired with strong footwork brings an immediate impact defender. He’s exciting as a small ball five, as long as you surround him with some shooting. He averaged 2.4 stocks (steals plus blocks) per game this season with the Dons.

For Detroit, a defensive minded big, at least as a backup, is a priority this offseason. Mogbo is a unique talent who brings defense plus promising offensive tools that make you excited about the player he can develop into.

Ariel Hukporti – Center, Melbourne United (NBL)

7’0” 22-year-old

2023-24 Stats: 8.0 PTS, 7.1 REB, 0.7 AST, 1.5 BLK, 0.5 STL

Shooting Splits: 56.3 FG%, N/A 3P%, 61.7 FT%

I’m going against everything I believe in by suggesting two big men who don’t space the floor for the Pistons, but you have to pick your poison when combing through the weeds.

Hukporti is a rim protector, though, which Detroit needs to address in the offseason. He runs the floor well and is explosive at the rim with decent touch. He’s a bonafide lob threat whenever he’s on the court.

Where I’m really excited is his defensive ability, however. He blocked 1.5 shots per game this season in a limited role with Melbourne, playing just 17.7 minutes per game. He made a real impact in the NBL for a team that made it all the way to the finals. His performance in Australia provides optimism that he can impact an NBA roster.

Hukporti has a positive wingspan and the energy to become an efficient second big. He didn’t even attempt a three this past season, so I doubt he has upside as a prospect who can develop an outside shot. However, if this Pistons season taught us anything, it’s that they need a five-man who can shoot or protect the rim. Ideally both, but you’re not always going to find that in a prospect. Hukporti provides the latter, at least.

He’s on the older side compared to other international players you see as upside swings, but he provides a skillset that is primed for an NBA role.

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