In April, for the Big Board 1.0, I joked about how we’d be doing draft stuff for four months. That was a couple months ago, and now we know the draft will take place... in four months:
NBA has set an August 25 Draft Lottery and October 15 Draft, sources say.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 4, 2020
It was funnier when it wasn’t true.
Anyway, I’ve been continuing to watch film and read scouting reports and listen to draftniks, and the Pistons hired the general manager I wanted them to hire, so I figured now would be as good a time as ever to update the big board. The Troy Weaver hire does not affect my big board - I am not attempting to climb into the mind of Troy Weaver here - but his now-infamous talk about drafting a person, not a player during his introductory media availability did cause me to re-evaluate and re-watch some players.
As a reminder, we’re only going nine-deep on the big board because the Pistons cannot pick lower than 9th:
Yes, the 9th pick in this draft would be an incredible turn of improbability, but when has that stopped unfortunate things from happening to the Pistons?
Let’s go to Big Board 2.0:
1) Killian Hayes
See the 1800-word, clip-filled piece I wrote on Killian in May, which still holds up. Since then, we’ve learned about where Killian has (and hasn’t) interviewed, and the athletic work he is doing in a pretty revealing podcast his agent did.
Especially after the podcast, I feel comfortable leaning on Killian’s physical tools improving past what he’s already shown. His team has identified what he needs to improve on during this extended pre-draft period, and he’s getting the necessary work in to make those improvements.
2) Anthony Edwards
Edwards has gotten more intriguing to me as a guy the Pistons could take with the first or second overall pick. How well he picks his shots is an open question, and his competitive fire on defense waxes and wanes. However, I wonder if that’s a problem for the Pistons, seeing as how they’ve taken worthy swings on guys you could also levy the “lack of fire” criticism against in Sekou Doumbouya and Christian Wood.
Of course, Edwards also warrants investigation as the type of athlete Troy Weaver usually targets (and now that Edwards has signed with Klutch, there is a Troy Weaver-Klutch Konnection there to monitor, as well). Edwards’ two-way potential keeps him second on this list.
3) LaMelo Ball
All of the critiques of Anthony Edwards (shot selection, consistent defensive effort) are the same critiques of LaMelo Ball, but LaMelo’s worse at both of those things, somehow. On the other hand, LaMelo continues to make up for that by being a passing savant and 6’7.
LaMelo’s tape reveals a massively talented and maddeningly inconsistent player. To me, his deficiencies have always been more visible and more numerous than his strengths. On the basis of his tape, I can’t bring myself to put LaMelo any higher than 3rd, and on the basis of his tape, I absolutely can’t have him any lower than 3rd. So, 3rd he remains.
Lastly, LaMelo has apparently been in Michigan:
I haven’t heard if he’s interviewed with the Pistons (or any other team for that matter), but it wouldn’t surprise me if the team has at least spoken to him, seeing as how he’s literally in their backyard.
4) Deni Avdija
Deni Advija is the big riser on this version of the board, going from seventh up to fourth. Deni is not only helped by being one of the few guys playing actual basketball right now, but it’s not THAT he’s playing, it’s HOW he’s playing. He looks a little bigger, the shooting stroke looks a little better, and he’s getting to the line a LOT more (and making them at a higher rate). I am buying more Deni stock than I previously was.
The competition level still concerns me, as does Deni’s readiness versus other guys who maybe WEREN’T prepping for the NBA during their quarantines in the way he was. However, after the shooting stroke changes I buy the shooting upside a little more, and after getting a little stronger I see how he can leverage his passing ability off-the-dribble.
If the shooting holds, Deni becomes a VERY interesting project, especially for the Pistons, who would then have two foreign-born playmaking wing-sized-wings.
5) Devin Vassell
The love for Devin Vassell begins with his team defense - Dwane Casey would be dancing down Woodward if the Pistons finally had a team defender of Devin Vassell’s quality. Vassell also has shot better than 41 percent from three the last two seasons at FSU, with a shot form that come out of his hands high and soft. That alone makes him an intriguing lottery pick.
However, Vassell also is learning to self-create and ballhandle a little bit, and if you get him to the point where he can create his own shot, you’re now talking about an elite wing player.
My personal Pistons dream remains trading for a second lottery pick, escaping this draft with a Killian-Devin Under-20 Longboi 3-and-D-With-Upside backcourt of the future, and grabbing the best wing available in next year’s loaded wing class.
6) Onyeka Okongwu
Onyeka Okokngwu remains the only big man I would give any serious consideration to drafting for Detroit. He’s so damn good at basketball, but he’s also probably not a big difference-maker for for the Detroit Pistons until 2023. As a rim-running, shot-blocking athletic center, Onyeka needs someone to run those pick-and-rolls WITH, and the Pistons don’t have that long-term guy on the roster yet.
7) Tyrese Maxey
Maxey will be a good enough off-the-bounce shooter and - perhaps more importantly - a functional enough passer to mainly play point guard in the NBA. Essentially, if Cole Anthony is a point guard, so is Tyrese Maxey, and if they’re both point guards, Maxey is the guy I would want.
This still holds. I love Maxey’s proficiency as a slasher and his potential as a shooter. I love his competitive fire, especially on the defensive end. And, if Troy Weaver wants to draft people, not players, Maxey is an unbelievable person.
8) Kira Lewis Jr.
Kira Lewis makes his first appearance on the big board. Lewis has the offensive package you’d want from a modern lead guard - the ability to get to the rim, shoot pullup threes. and distribute the ball to teammates. What differentiates Lewis is his speed, which enables him to get to his spots on the floor at will. Lewis doesn’t look fast in the way a a De’Aaron Fox or even a R.J. Hampton appear to, but nobody can stay in front of him in the open court, and he was encouraged to push the pace at Alabama.
What he was not encouraged to do at Alabama, though, was run pick-and-rolls. He did a ton of his work in transition and out of isolation, which leaves me a little curious as to how he will get the ball to teammates when he can’t get out and run. However, I believe that’s a relatively easy thing to teach - I think this is a great opportunity for growth for Kira with his next team.
9) Isaac Okoro
Isaac Okoro was always hovering around the outskirts of my big board, and I think I’m finally ready to put him here. I was always afraid of being burned on another defense-first wing after the Stanley Johnson experience, but Okoro has the vertical explosion that Stanley never could quite unlock, which I think will help Okoro as a finisher, especially in the halfcourt.
Okoro currently is a poor perimeter spacing threat, which I think will limit his initial offensive impact in the NBA. I don’t think it stays that way forever, though - nothing in his shot looks BROKEN, so in time, he should become a viable three-point threat. In talking to people, the Pistons are REALLY confident in their ability to make guys decent shooters (and after the strides Bruce Brown made this year as a standstill C+S player, you understand why), so you’d hope they could do the same for Okoro if he were the selection.
Also Receiving Consideration:
Cole Anthony (I wonder if the injuries have sapped juuuust enough of Cole’s athleticism to lower his ceiling outcome. Putting him behind Kira for now, with the option to put him back), Pat Williams (love the physical frame, love the ability to get to his midrange game, don’t love the lack of playmaking), Obi Toppin (too good offensively to completely disregard, too poor defensively to keep in the top 9), and Tyrese Haliburton (the guard version of Okongwu in that I love him but he wouldn’t be useful for the Pistons).
Who did I leave off? What didn’t I consider? Let me know in the comments.