You know my procrastination has lost me a fair few things in life: better grades, a couple dates, cheaper airfare and several years of me telling myself next week would be the week I start working out again. Point is they’re rarely good things. A more ordered decisive person probably would have deleted their half finished draft themed fan post after their team traded its first round pick, but I left it languish in my hard drive AND NOW FROM THE RUINS OF DIGIORNIOS MONTENEGRO’S BACK IT RISES LIKE A PHOENIX FROM THE ASHES IN ALL ITS GLORY FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE/SCORN.
With the NCAA tournament coming up it's about time to take a look at some of the prospects we get to argue over for the weeks between the Pistons glorious playoff run and the draft. For those of you who don’t watch much college basketball or who have better things to do with their Sundays than watch hours of draft express videos, here’s a handy little list of when the best Pistons prospects are playing so you can properly prepare your draft day saliva for them.
Two quick notes: #1 ‘Best Piston’s prospects’ means guys that fit the Pistons and will be available when the Pistons are drafting and fit their needs. Henry Ellison might be awesome on this team but their is no way in hell he’ll be around when Detroit is on the clock. That also means no centers because I don’t care how often Chad Ford mocks us drafting a center, Baynes has been fine and the team has bigger needs (back up PF, PG and SG in some order).
#2 I’ve split it up between first and second round guys for simplicity's sake.
Demetrius Jackson PG Notre Dame. Friday 18th 9:40 ET vs Michigan on CBS
As a Michigan fan I was pretty excited today when it was announced my team had made the tournament and that excitement died about four minutes later when I saw that Notre Dame and Demetrius Jackson would be waiting for them if they won their play in game. If anyone wants to get on his hype train make sure you watch him when he gets a shot at Michigan because their horrific defense will probably make him look like Allen Iverson (the fun Philly version, not the mopey Detroit one). If you get to watch him two things will probably jump out at you. First the guy has a lightning first step and is really really hard to stay in front of and he’s also pretty crafty at attacking the basket. When I watch him and ND play Alabama earlier this year he had a couple really nice moves where he either pumped or attacked a close out to drive to the rack. Teams have to close out on him hard because he’s a pretty good three point shooter, although he is worryingly down to .324% on threes this year after shooting .417% and .429% his first two years. The second thing you’d probably notice is that Jackson’s super athletic and even at 6-1 he’s an above the rim player who can seriously throw down. Exhibit A here he is banishing 7-2 Purdue center Isaac Haas’s soul to the shadow realm. Physically he’s a full package with quickness and athleticism you need to survive in the NBA as a small guard; the draft express video has a pretty great slow motion shot of how high he jumps every time he takes a jump shot.
His drawbacks are his team defense when he can apparently got caught drifting a lot and lose his man off ball, something that’s a problem but a coachable one. The drop in his 3pt% doesn’t look good, but a lot of that probably has to do with him not being able to play off former 1st rounder Jerian Grant for catch and shoot threes. Also despite his lackluster assist numbers (averages less the five per game) he’s still been the main motor behind the team ranked #10 in Kenpom efficiency.
If you want the Piston to draft a PG Jackson’s #1 on the list of guys probably you should start drooling over. In SVG’s offense I could see him being a supercharged version of what DJ Augustine was, but with a much higher ceiling. He’s a junior and probably seasoned enough to be the team’s back up at some point soon next year, even if he wasn’t it on opening night. While his heights a knock on him you’ll see a lot, it’s less of a big deal as a backup point guard, a spot where shorter guards have been flourishing recently in the NBA. His ability to play off ball, especially as a shooter is really key in this era when PGs are being asked to do that more and more often. His ceiling isn’t as high as some of the others on this list, but if he could reach his potential in the PG friendly offense the Piston’s run, he could definitely end up as a sixth man award winner at some point in his career.
Denzel Valentine G Michigan State. Friday 18th, 2:45 ET vs Middle Tennessee State CBS
Let’s keep this one quick. I’m guessing between 33-50% of the people on this blog are MSU fans, are already planning on watching this game and already have a pretty good grasp on Valentine's game. On the one hand Valentine seems like a perfect fit for an NBA which is becoming increasingly position-less and values versatility. Given that at one point this year Valentine was leading the Spartans in points, assist and rebounds, versatility is his calling card. It’ll probably come down to him and Buddy Hield for most of the player of the year awards and Valentine's more than deserving. That being said, man he doesn’t have NBA athleticism and I wonder how much his physical limitations while hold back his game at the NBA level. He’s probably going to struggle on defense and it's really unlikely he’ll be able to create his own shoot and you have to wonder what that does to his ability to create for others. Guys have played in the league who are limited to shooting of screens and Valentine can shoot well enough to do that, but unless the Piston’s make a late run and end up drafting in the twenties or trade back, I just think there'll be guys with much higher ceilings on the board when the Pistons draft. Also it feels like the Pistons would be robbing him of his basketball destiny by drafting him. In a perfect world he would fall to in the draft, acquire a substantial amount of that patented Michigan St. DISRESPEKT, get drafted by the Warriors, become Draymond’s protege, instantly reach full potential and drain threes off Golden States bench for a decade.
Taurean Prince F Baylor. Thursday 17th, 2:45 ET vs Yale. CBS
I hadn't seen much of Prince before I made this list and, but on the surface he looks like exactly the kind of combo forward that Van Gundy covets. He’s listed as a SF and is 6-7, but he plays as a four in Baylor's offense and is in the mold of the new style of smaller combo fours that in vogue right now. Jae Crowder is probably his player comp, both in skills and ceiling and that's not an insult with how Crowders been playing this year. He might need to pack on a little more weight to play PF and he might never be able to fill out as much as guys like Green or Crowder, but he could definitely be a high end role player for years, which is what you should be looking for at this level. Every scouting report on him mentions his motor being fantastic which would be nice, since that’s something that doesn’t always seem to be there with this current Pistons team.
Honestly I can’t see a ton of drawbacks from Prince other than his comparatively low ceiling as a player. A lot of the current knocks on him as a player (erratic offensive play and sometime over aggressive defense) are solvable with good coaching and a good attitude and he’s apparently got a very good one. All lot of high energy athletic guys get dinged for their lack of a jump shot, but he’s already shooting .350% from three and has the free percentage (.774) to show that’s not a fluke. He’s a bad passer which is problematic since that’s something a lot of combo fours are asked to be, but given how solid he is at so many other things it’s not a huge flaw.
Honestly the biggest con with his is that there’s a really good just everyone on this board refers to him as Tayshaun Prince at some point and it’ll be a pain in the ass twenty years from now having to differentiate between the two when talking about championship winning Pistons teams. Drafting him would be like getting a plain cheese pizza, no one would be too unhappy about it but no one's overjoyed either.
Grayson Allen SG Duke. Thursday 17th, 12:15 ET vs UNC Wilmington CBS
F**k Grayson Allen. This King Joffrey looking motherf***er seems like he was built in a lab to combine all the most hateable Duke player traits into a single person. He’s got resting smug face, plays dirty, preens and flexes and just has to get flopping down to finally rise to his final form…….all that being said I kind of really want the Pistons to draft him. Despite his extreme Dukishness, he a really good player and I’m kind of surprised how late he’s going in a lot of mock drafts. He’s only 6-4 but other than that and some shaky play making he’s got everything you’d want in two guard. He’s a really good scorer averaging over twenty points a game for Duke, shooting over 40% from three and gets to the line a ton. He’s a pest of D too and can guard either guard spot pretty well. He’s also a good athlete with the lateral speed to stay in front of NBA players and serious leaping ability (Exhibit A. Look away Spartans). That plays is also just one of like fifteen plays from last years two final four games that shows just how relentless his motor is; he fights for rebound even at his size, dives for balls going out of bounds. His like Prince his give-a-f**k tank runs pretty high and it shows in how hard they both play, something that’ll probably make both fan favorites wherever they end up.
His height seems to be a major sticking point and if he were 6-6 or 6-7 I bet he would have gone in the first round last year. His number’s paint his as a bit of a gunner and he’s not super efficient as a 2pt shooter at .503% shooting. But Dukes been so a thin team this year that in a lot of games they’ve pretty much just had to ask Allen and Ingram to out score teams and he’s more efficient than his percentages suggest considering how well he gets to the line. He really is just a JJ Redick clone with some added hops and a somehow even more punchable face. But Redick was one of the key bench cogs in SVG’s Orlando offense and Allen could easily fill in that same role with Detroit. Ridicks been able to make it in the NBA as a defender at on 6-4 and Allen’s athleticism give him the higher ceiling. Plus it'll be fun when he starts a fight by dunking on someone then flexing at their bench/ trips someone. I Hope its Wall.
Buddy Hield SG Oklahoma. Friday March 18th 2:00 ET vs. CSU Bakersfield TNT
Another guy who probably needs little explanation as he’s currently neck and neck with Valentine for player of the year honors (I think he should win but it’s really splitting hairs between the two). Hield’s probably the purest scorer in the NCAA and can light you up from pretty much anywhere. His 3pt% has been climbing every year and has now reached a preposterous .464% to go along with his extremely impressive handle and drive game. Honestly the stats don’t even do justice to how fun he is to watch. Against LSU the guy hit a couple of what are affectionately known as "f**k you" threes, drilling them every time the tigers made a run. He’s getting a lot of Dwyane Wade comps, which seems hyperbolic, but the best I can come up with is Victor Oladipo with a jump shoot, which also doesn’t feel quite right. If this is a guy you want to see in Piston’s colors starting rooting for an Oklahoma early exit. Hield’s stocks been slowing falling since its midseason high point when he was dropping 46 points on #1 Kansas and a senior close to his ceiling like Hield will probably need the ‘winner’ intangible to keep himself in the high lottery.
And here for you deranged basketball addicts who actually watch the NIT tournament, I’ve got two guys for you to watch too!
Malik Beasley/Dwayne Bacon G/Fs Florida State. Next game time still TBD
DraftExpress Page (Beasley) Bacon Doesn't have one.
Beasley and Bacon have both been flying under the radar this year but they’ve both got all the raw skills you’d look for in a three and D player and a lot of the production too. The two have remarkably similar physical profiles and their both very good above the rim athletes. Bacon is bigger and the better of the two attacking the rim and getting to the foul line, while Beasley is the better shooter (.391% from three as opposed to Bacon’s .288). Bacon’s got the higher ceiling but Beasley’s a safer bet and more NBA ready considering how much better a shooter he is already. They both seem to have a ways to go on D, but they’re both the kind of athletes that they should get their eventually. I wouldn't declare for the draft if I were either of them given how strong the draft is at their position and how much they both could improve their draft stocks with strong sophmore years. At this point neither is probably worth as high a pick as Detroit will probably have, but if they trade back it’d become more realistic.
To wrap up the first round guys here are the international players and guys who didn’t make the tournament for you highlight viewing pleasure.
Stephan Zimmerman F/C UNLV
It be somewhat ironic if the Pistons drafted Zimmerman with a pick that they almost trade for Delmonte Monkeyshorts, since he’s not a terrible comp for Zimmerman. Like Monkeyshorts, Zimmerman has the potential to be the kind of player who can both post up and hit threes and has the potential to be a better rim protector too. The three point shot hasn’t been there much this season, going 5-17 on the whole season, but scouts seem to have been quite insistent about it being a plus pre-college that that might just be an effect of being played as a square piece in a round hole at UNLV. The post moves have apparently been coming along this year, but the scouts say barely anything about it besides the word "improving" and I haven’t seen a UNLV game this year because they're awful and not worth deal with streaming sites for. It would probably make sense for him to come back another year seeing as how he’s been injured half this year and wasn’t setting the world on fire in the other half, but if he does declare he fits a need for the Pistons so it’s worth taking a look as fans
Wade Baldwin IV PG Vanderbilt. Lost to Wichita State in play-in-game
I only watched Baldwin once this year and I’ve spent a lot of the rest of the year thinking he was overrated, but man does he have some great measurables. While he’s only 6-3 he has a pterodactyl like 6-10 wingspan to go along with his NBA level athleticism. He’s got great stats to go along with his tools and has a .430/.414/.796 line this year to go along with averaging five assists, four rebounds and over a steal per game. Given his size and role as option #1 on Vanderbilt he’ll probably get slapped with the combo guard label, which always comes off as a backhanded compliment when draft gurus say it. The label’s probably fair because he can be a bitter of a gunner and was weirdly in love with shooting running foul line shots when I watched him vs. Kentucky. But being a combo guard seems to be less of a problem with bench guys than starters and that’s what the Pistons would be drafting him to be. He’s a good enough passer to play the point and really uses his height well to find open guys. Most the assist on his highlight videos are him holding the ball and whipping it over his defender to a cutter or a big man crashing to the rim. That seems like something that won’t be there as much in the NBA when he usually won’t have a height advantage on most defenders, but most of the draft guys seem to be high on his passing ability so it might not be too big a problem. That 6-10 wingspan also lets him swipe at passing lanes and potentially makes him able to guard twos which he sometimes does now.
The two big knocks on him are his quickness and his finishing. Despite his size and leaping he’s actually not super fast and already has trouble beating guys in the SEC off the dribble. Linked to that he’s also not great at finishing at the rim as you can probably tell by the fact his overall shooting percentage is barely better than his three point one. Stanley had a similar problem in college, but he’s a much better athlete than Baldwin is and he’ll probably have to get better at finishing through contact or develop a good floater to be a threat attacking the rim in the NBA. Vanderbilt’s also really underperformed this year, capping it off by getting blown out by WSU in their play in game. Without knowing much about the rest of the team, his coach or the team’s luck I don’t know how much you can put on Baldwin for that, but it won't help his stock.
While he probably has a higher ceiling than Demetrius Jackson, especially on defense, because of his size and wingspan, Jackson just seems like a better fit if the Piston’s want to draft a point guard. Even though he’s a better shooter and a good one overall, his struggles with penetrating and finishing seem like they’d be a bad fit in SVG’s spread pick-and-roll system that really needs its PG to be able to attack off the dribble. Seems like he'd be a better fit on team like Chicago or Houston with ball dominating two guards who could use a PG who can stretch the floor, play good defense and act as a secondary passer.
Timothe Luwawu G/F Mega Leks.
No strong feelings here one way or the other and the DraftExpress scouting reports better than anything I could write here. Seems like the kind of G/F that every contender needs a few of and the fact that he’s already playing well against adults the Adriatic League bodes well for his ability to contribute early.
Petr Cornelie & Juan Hergangomez
Got nothing here, but there both stretch bigs projected in the first so figured it’s worth a look if you interested. Hergangomez seems like the combo forwards SVG likes while Cornelie more in the mold of a traditional big who can also shoot threes.
Furkan Korkmaz SG Anadolu Efes.
Oooooooooooooooooooooh boy Furkan. Prepare for some metaphorical drool because man do I love Korkmaz. For a team like Detroit that really needs more shooting from its wings, a scorer like Korkmaz could be perfect. Despite the fact that he’ll be one of the youngest players at the draft, only 18, he’s got a weird old man game, using a lot of quickness and crafty moves to score when driving instead of pure power and athleticism. He’s a willing offensive creator and he’s tall enough to see the floor for passing. Plus he can dunk and I guess even took part in the Turkish dunk contest. But the shooting, oh the shooting. At one point his year he was averaging .500% from three and he’s still shooting a respectable .429% now. His counting stats are pretty bare but he’s extremely young for a guy playing in a league full of grown men so like a lot of Euro prospects that’s not too rare or too worrying since he apparently lights up any collection of players his own age when he gets the chance. His main draw back at the moment is his spindly physique and boy is he thin in his highlight videos. I couldn’t say if he has the build to put on a lot more weight but again, he’s only 18 so he shouldn’t be a finished product physically. I’m in such basketball love with him I’ve probably passed the point of objectivity but it really seems like at worst this guy could be Turkish Jamal Crawford and at best he could become Turkish Manu Genobili. He seems to be willing to come over next season and the Piston’s wouldn’t need him to be anymore than a bench scorer until if/when he become capable of being more. This is the guy I’m praying the Pistons draft in June, I just think he fills so many needs, but feel free to comment if you feel different.
Quick aside before the second rounders for a theory. You might notice that this list is pretty wing heavy especially at the two and there’s some real reasons for this: it’s by far the drafts deepest position, a area of need for the Pistons unless you want to put faith in Meek's health or on Bullocks hot streak being legit. But I think it’d also be good for Pistons to have a good backup plan in case KCP’s free agency goes badly next summer. He’s still not a finished product and although we all have faith he’s improving offensively he might not have improved enough for the Pistons to know if they want to pay to keep him long term and his people are going to ask for a looooooot of money. He’s repped by Lebron's home boy Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, who was last seen holding out for most of the summer with Tristan Thompson before signing a huge contract, did the same with Eric Bledsoe and the Suns the summer before and KCP is his biggest client until John Wall hits free agency in four years. KCP isn’t as good as Bledsoe and they won’t have as much leverage with the Pistons as they do with the Cavs (even though KCP’s arguably better than Thompson), but I’m still afraid they’re going to demand a looooooooot of money and with the cap shooting up again next summer they might find a team willing to spend on him. It may be paranoid but I’d feel a lot better about KCP’s free agency if the Piston’s had a good option to go to not only as a leverage point in negotiations, but also as a plan B if, I don’t know, Klutch Sports steers him towards another mid-western franchise with a history of overpaying its clients…..
Monte Morris PG Iowa State. Thursday March 17th 2:00 ET vs Iona TBS
Low floor low ceiling kind of guy. Amazing almost 7-1 assist to turnover ratio and a pretty decent scorer too but definitely a pure pass first type of point guard. Seems like he might always be a bit of a defensive lightweight, but super well rounded PG’s normally don’t fall to the second round. He’s a pretty season junior who’s started the last two years so he’d be ready sooner than other higher upside freshman who might fall to the second round, which could be important if the Piston’s do sign anyone and Dinwiddie’s development continues to stall.
Nigel Hayes F Wisconsin. Friday March 18 6:50 ET vs Pittsburgh TNT
I was driving the Nigel Hayes bandwagon at the beginning of the season, but man did he ever hit a cliff. He’s still been good this year and was a key cog last year in one of the best offense in college basketball history, it’s just clear now how much more comfortable as a cog he is than as a leading man. He’d be a cog in Detroit and still a very good one, with quickness to cover wings and forwards but also the strength not to get punished in the paint. He can shoot the three pretty well and better when he doesn’t have to create for himself it seems, but can also post smaller guys up if he’s switched. He’s also been Wisconsin’s leading assister this year, even if he only averages three a game. He’s too limited a prospect for where the Pistons will pick but he’s worth crossing your finger over if you hoping he falls to us in the second. He’s still somewhat flying under the radar after repairing early damage to his draft stock so he’s another guy you should root for an early exit for if you hoping to see him in Piston’s blue.
Gary Payton II PG Oregon State. Friday March 18 1:30 ET vs VCU TNT
He’ll still probably be over drafted because of his bloodline, but if he’s still on deck when the Pistons pick in the second there no reason why Payton shouldn’t be a consideration. His calling card is, of course defense, given that his pops probably would have abandoned him in the Oregon mountains at age nine if he couldn’t play good defense. He’s really been a one man wrecking crew for the beavers this year, leading them in points, assists, steals and most impressively for a 6-3 guard, rebounds too. His shooting remains his biggest weakness; he shoots .313% from three and his .647% free throw shooting (a good barometer for future shooting success) doesn’t bode well for future improvement. He’s a jump shoot away from being a very good role player and those "he’s a _______ away from being a good player" guys are perfect for the second round.
Troy Williams SF Indiana. Thursday March 17th 7:10 ET vs Chattanooga CBS
Williams has taken a bit of a fall on a lot of the draft site mocks presumably because he didn’t develop as much this year as people were hoping, but after watching him dunk all over big ten this year I think he’d be a decent second round pick. He’s got lottery level athleticism and knows how to uses it, but the problem is that he plays more like a 6-7 power forward rather than a wing. While he does have nice straight line drive game he gets almost all of his points from crashing the boards, baseline drives and alley-ops. His three point percentage fell off a cliff this year after he started taking more than one a game and like Payton his sub 70% free throw rate doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. Worth a shot with a second rounder with that high ceiling even if he’s got a very low floor.
Jarrod Uthoff F Iowa. Friday March 18 1:30 ET vs Temple truTV
Any fan of either of the in state college teams is uncomfortably familiar with Uthoff as he’s worked the Spartans and especially the Wolverines pretty hard this year, but I have to say I love Uthoff’s game. He’s a really skilled offensive player who struggles a bit at the rim but makes up for it by shooting almost 40% from three. He’s another one of those guys who’s athleticism comes in his speed and quickness not dunks and it shows in his defense. Uthoff averages almost three blocks a game and has multiple games of five blocks or more this season and can close out freakishly fast. I can’t track down the tweet, but earlier this year I saw a someone tweet that Uthoff has blocked the most three’s of anyone with year. He’s a bit of a limited passer and I doubt his problems finishing around the rim get a lot better in the NBA but he could still be a great role player. If the Pistons ended up trading back in the first I honestly wouldn’t mind if they took Uthoff in the high twenties. I joked earlier this year that MSU seniors will be getting over drafted for a decade because of Draymond Green, but guys like Uthoff and Hayes are the real heirs to his legacy in terms of being highly productive upperclassman who’ll go under drafted because of their lack of flash.
Dorian Finney-Smith SF Florida. TBD, but Florida’s in the NIT so I doubt anyone cares much
I hadn’t really heard of Finney-Smith before I did this post and I’m surprised how low he’s going in so many mocks with his skill set. His big downside seems to be that as a 23 year old senior that he’s pretty much a finished product. But it doesn’t feel like a 6-7 guy who shoots 37% from three, is a fluid if not elite athlete and isn’t a sieve on defense has to develop a lot more to at least be a productive role player. The one case against the Piston’s drafting him is that he’s basically does all the same things Reggie Bullock does and having two of that seems somewhat redundant.
Caris Levert G Michigan. Friday 18th 9:40 ET vs Notre Dame on CBS
He’s hurt and won’t play in the tournament, but feel free to watch Michigan just to see how the wheels came of the time when he got hurt. Levert was the little engine that could that powered Michigan and he’d be in the top half of this list if he’d stayed healthy. Two foot injuries are enough of a red flag that he’s probably not worth a first round pick anymore and even though he probably won’t be around long enough in the second for the Pistons to draft, he’s still worth a look. As a Michigan fan I really hope he lands somewhere with a good medical staff willing to let him take his time coming back and selfishly I hope that teams the Warriors so I can see him play in person again.
My Personal hope for this draft as it stands right now is: Korkmaz/Jackson in the first or trade down and draft Allen or Beasley, then take either Uthoff or Hayes in the second. Share you're own in the comments.