Where should Matas Buzelis rank on the Detroit Pistons’ draft board?

Detroit Bad Boys

G League Ignite wing Matas Buzelis is a mesmerizing prospect in the 2024 NBA Draft class.

Before his season with the Ignite, Buzelis was tabbed as a potential No. 1 pick across many mock drafts and big boards. His size, skillset and shooting ability coming out of high school and an extremely efficient senior season at Sunrise Christian Academy made for a strong case.

Buzelis’ pre-draft season with the G League Ignite didn’t go fully to plan, though, especially from the field. He isn’t fully at fault, as the Ignite program put out a less than ideal roster which resulted in minimal wins and development concerns for their draft prospects.

Buzelis shot 26.1% from three over 34 games with the Ignite, plus 45.5% from the field and 69.6% from the free-throw line. That’s a considerable drop-off from his senior year at Sunrise Christian, where he connected on 42.4% of his 3-point attempts.

Team context with the Ignite, adjusting to the NBA 3-point line and plenty of other factors may have impacted Buzelis’ shooting efficiency in the G League. Nevertheless, he showed plenty of tools and considerable upside that will still see Buzelis as a lottery pick come June. Plus, the shot mechanics look good and his confidence is there. He just needs to see the shot start dropping in the NBA, which isn’t an easy task adjusting to an even higher level.

For the Pistons, Buzelis’ archetype and frame fills a need. If the shot comes along, his ceiling skyrockets. He’s a promising defender, but needs to add some strength, and can help the Pistons as a weak side rim protector.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie and Bryce Simon of Motor City Hoops recently released a full first-round mock draft on the Game Theory Podcast, where Vecenie selected Buzelis third overall for Detroit. With the NBA Draft Lottery this weekend, where the Pistons will learn their draft spot within the top-five, now is as good a time as ever to get to know Buzelis better, both as a player and a person.

What does Buzelis bring on the court?

Buzelis is a long wing who brings athleticism, defensive skills and shooting upside. He has the length and shot-blocking ability to play up as a five, but he’ll need to continue to add strength to do so. Getting stronger was a focus with the Ignite, and Buzelis has done so, but he must continue adding size to play against NBA-level bigs. Personally, I see him staying within that 3-and-D wing archetype at the next level, but his length and feel as a defender keeps a potential for playing at the five in the conversation.

He has a solid mid-range bag, not that any NBA team would want a majority of his shots to be long two’s, but his length and high release point allows him to get the ball up over the top of defenders. Most notably, Buzelis hit a turn-around jumper with Brandon Miller all up in his face that secured an upset victory for team G League in the 2024 NBA All-Star Rising Stars Challenge.

Buzelis is a good rebounder, too. He averaged 6.6 rebounds per game with the Ignite not only because of his size, but also due to his instincts and willingness to crash the glass. He recorded 2.8 stocks (steals plus blocks) per game this past season as one of the better rim protectors in the G League. His long arms and feel for the game allows him to step into passing lanes to get deflections and turn defense into instant offense.

He has plenty of room for growth in the NBA, most notably with his shot and adding strength, but the 6-foot-10 wing has All-Star upside if he can put it all together.

What’s the word on Buzelis off the court?

Buzelis grew up in the Chicago area before he transferred to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire as a sophomore, which is the same school where Donovan Mitchell played his high school ball. Buzelis then transferred to Sunrise Christian in Kansas where he had a great senior season. He was a McDonald’s All-American and competed in the Nike Hoops Summit in high school before he committed to G League Ignite over playing collegiately for schools like Wake Forest, Florida State and North Carolina.

Buzelis was interviewed on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast just before the 2023 NBA Draft, where he mentioned he was initially a swimmer and didn’t necessarily love basketball. He fell in love with the game his freshman year after he spent time training and went through a growth spurt. Buzelis mentioned he’d pull up highlights on his computer and then go out to try and recreate them in his driveway. Specifically, he called out one flashy player whose tape he had an affinity for.

“I love J.R. Smith,” Buzelis said on the Old Man and the Three. “I don’t know why, but there’s something about him.”

In the current NBA, he mentioned Luka Dončić and Paul George as two of his favorite players in the league, as well as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Playing in the prep school system allowed Buzelis to start diving into film and learning from his mistakes early. He knows he needs to add strength and focuses on his work in the weight room.

The good news is, Buzelis already has a full season of professional basketball under his belt where he got to hone in on growth areas. Playing in the G League also allowed him to focus solely on basketball and preparation for the NBA Draft.

He’s a dedicated competitor, hoping to prove himself as one of the best, if not the best, prospect in this year’s draft class. He challenged fellow top wing prospect Zaccharie Risacher to a game of one-on-one to prove his point, according to BasketNews.

Buzelis knows the work doesn’t end as a top draft pick, though.

“It means nothing,” Buzelis said on the Old Man and the Three when asked how his draft position matters. “It’s cool to have it, to be projected No. 1 (at the time), but it means nothing to me.”

His size, archetype and skillset is coveted by NBA teams. Depending how Buzelis’ pre-draft process goes, he could sneak up draft boards and end up a top selection.

For the Pistons, he’d help immediately as a rim protector with offensive skills and the ability to develop into a high-level 3-point shooter.

Where should Buzelis slot in on the Pistons’ draft board?

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