While the Detroit Pistons made some obvious strides this year depth remains an issue, especially at the power forward and point guard positions.
During the first day of the 2016 NBA Draft Combine, it looked like the Pistons were largely focused on those backcourt issues, speaking with point guards Demetrius Jackson, Wade Baldwin, Tyler Ulis and shooting guard Malik Beasley, according to media reports.
Those players are rated Nos. 14, 15, 19 and 24 on Draft Express's Big Board. The Pistons have the 18th pick in the NBA Draft.
We will have more about select draft prospects as the NBA Draft draws closer, but here is a brief background on the three point guards.
Jackson might be small, but the junior guard is strong and possesses a 6-foot-5 wingspan. He's lightning quick and while he's not the most natural distributor in the world, he was able to boost his assist percentage from 15.9 percent to 25.1 percent while keeping his turnover percentage hovering around 13 percent in his transition from secondary to lead guard.
As for his general function and appeal to the Pistons, check out this part of his scouting report on Draft Express:
Jackson's consistency shooting off the catch (41% with feet set--Synergy) allows him to see time operating off the ball, which gives his coaching staff nice flexibility in how to utilize him and his teammates. He's very good out of the corners, and moves off the ball intelligently, something he has experience with spending two years sharing a backcourt with another PG in Jerian Grant. This is a major positive in today's NBA, where almost every team likes to utilize multiple playmakers in concert for significant portions of the game now.
Jackson's strong frame, quick first step and ability to operate at different speeds gives him great potential as a pick and roll, isolation and transition playmaker/scorer as well, even if he's far from reaching his maximum effectiveness in this area. He tends to kill his dribble in traffic far more than you'd hope, looking somewhat indecisive or even passive probing the defense and using his blazing speed to his advantage.
Wade Baldwin IV
Baldwin is my favorite prospect, at least at this point in the process. He has the height that Stan Van Gundy likes from a point guard at 6-foot-3, a massive 6-foot-10 wingspan and has shot 42 percent from 3 in his two season at Vanderbilt. His size, strength and length make him a terrific defensive point guard prospect while his catch-and-shoot perimeter history mean he might also be able to play alongside Reggie Jackson and add a second perimeter ball handler during stretches of a game.
The one giant red flag in Baldwin's game is his inability to finish, which is attributed to his lack of burst and quickness. According to Synergy, Baldwin shot just 38 percent on shots around the basket, which seems close to impossible.
That means he's either got a lot of room for growth or he'll always be a limited offensive player with a high floor but low ceiling. Still, because of his ability to shoot, defend and the love he gets from a lot of the advanced analytics crowd, Baldwin makes a lot of sense for the Pistons.
Ulis is a big-time prospect out of Kentucky who is lauded as a true floor general and a player who can get points, get the ball where his teammates like it and control the pace of the game. As Draft Express puts it:
He is very aggressive pushing the ball ahead in the open court, getting his teammates good shots early in the shot-clock, in transition or in early-offense situations. He's also very effective in the half-court, showing an advanced understanding of operating on the pick and roll, while also being capable of going out and creating good looks in one on one situations as well.
Ulis is an outstanding ball-handler, showing great command of the ball getting low to the ground, while using his quickness and ability to operate at different speeds to keep defenders off balance. He has a variety of moves he can utilize to create space, including crossovers, behind the back dribbles and subtle hesitation moves, as if often looks like he's playing at a different pace than everyone else on the floor with how calculated and under control he is.
He surveys the floor wonderfully with great timing and patience, whipping the ball all over the court with vision and creativity. While he's aggressive and decisive with his moves, he does a very good job of keeping mistakes to a minimum, only turning the ball over on 12% of his possessions.
While many floor general types are looking to pass the ball almost exclusively, Ulis finds a nice blend between creating for others and keeping defenses honest by looking for his own offense as well.
The problem for Ulis is his size, sitting at 5-foot-9 and just 160 pounds. It has meant he's had trouble finishing around the rim and might struggle to defend consistently at the next level. However, these size concerns are also the reason such an offensively gifted point guard could be available at the No. 18 pick.