The NBA Draft is just a week away, and that means the rumors are flying all over the place about players shooting up draft boards, tumbling down after poor interviews, potential trades and even franchise promises.
Really, we don’t definitively know anything, and we won’t until the name is called on draft night. The Pistons are rumored to be interested in trading up, trading down, making a promise to a certain prospect. Perhaps they’ll shock everyone, but by putting together bits a pieces, we think we have a clearer understanding of players the Pistons are interested in under first-year GM Troy Weaver.
1. LaMelo Ball
This flies in the face of our own informed speculation, and if any specific smoke screen has been deployed by the Pistons to throw other teams off their scent, it’s likely this one. Still, there are rumors that the Pistons would be interested in trading up in the draft in order to land LaMelo Ball as a potential franchise point guard.
Everyone knows the Timberwolves at. No. 1 and Warriors at No. 2 are hoping someone will blow them away with an offer so they can trade down, and floating interest from more teams just helps that case.
If we take it at face value, why would the Pistons be interested in Ball? He would be the most naturally gifted playmaker and distributor the team has had on the perimeter since ... well, a long time. There are significant questions about Ball’s defense and individual effectiveness on offense, but he already has elite level vision and passing ability, and that could go a long way.
2. Patrick Williams
The powerful, versatile forward out of Florida State is looking to go from sixth man on his own team to top-10 NBA Draft pick. The most prevalent rumor in the past two weeks is that Williams received a promise from the Pistons at No. 7. Weaver spent many years at OKC and that franchise had a habit of targeting guys they wanted and making promises to those players. If Weaver did the same in Detroit nobody would be surprised. It could be a smoke screen, but that’s a hell of a lot of smoke we’re seeing.
Williams would come to the Pistons as a great defensive prospect capable of switching on the perimeter and holding his own in the paint. He seems to be destined to play power forward in the NBA, which is the same long-term potential Sekou Doumbouya shows. But as the NBA Playoffs continue to show, you can never have two many strong, athletic and long forwards on your roster.
3. Killian Hayes
A tall, skilled passer from France who could form The French Connection with Doumbouya for the next decade-plus at the point guard position might be too good an opportunity for the Pistons to pass up — if he’s available at No. 7. Hayes has some detractors who worry about his penchant for turnovers and over-reliance on his left hand, but others seem the long-term potential of a franchise point guard who is effective on both ends of the floor. If the Pistons do draft a point guard, I think Hayes is their man, but others seem to disagree (see No. 4).
4. Tyrese Haliburton
It’s easy to fall in love with Tyrese Haliburton the person, who has aced every interview and workout, and looks like he could be the general on and off the floor for a young, rebuilding team looking for leadership. He also was extremely effective in college as a scorer, including a reliable perimeter stroke, so he will be effective on day one no matter if he’s leading a rag-tag bunch or a supplemental scorer on a team that is already good. Weaver has preached he’s evaluating the person as much as the player so it’s no surprise he’d be high on Haliburton. Still, there is a worry that he just doesn’t have enough of those top-shelf “point guardy” skills to really be a difference maker. After so many years of investing heavily on players with substandard athletic markers, I’d personally be surprised to see the Pistons go that route when reports indicate they are looking for playmakers and difference-makers at the guard position.
5. Aaron Nesmith
Even as most of the talk lately has been about Williams, most reports also take a moment to mention the Pistons are also high on Nesmith at the forward position. Nesmith’s game is easy to project and fall in love with. He is the best shooter in this year’s draft class, sinking more than 50% of his 3-pointers on high volume. Also, while I wouldn’t say he was a supremely effective defender in college, he has the body of someone who could succeed on that end after some heavy investment in a player development program. At worse, he projects to be a smart team defender who will struggle because of a lack of top-end athleticism. The bonus is that his shooting profile is so elite that he’d likely find minutes and success at the NBA level as a catch-and-shoot option even while developing and learning the ropes on the defensive side of the ball.
6. Kira Lewis Jr.
Another popular yet divisive player among NBA Draft prognosticators and Detroit Pistons fans is Kira Lewis Jr. He’s a lightning quick player with great dribble penetration skills who can also elevate from deep. Think of a more effective Ish Smith. But, like Smith, for lack of a better word, his biggest shortcoming is his size. There is a worry that even at 6-foot-3 and 165 pounds, he still won’t have the heft to be a difference-making starter, and unable to play both on and off the ball. He seems destined to have a long, effective NBA career, but if that success is as a change-of-pace guard off the bench is that good enough for a team like Detroit?