Perhaps the only thing Detroit Pistons fans can look forward to in the garbage pile of a year that is 2020 is the upcoming NBA Draft. Currently scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 18, the draft is the only thing fans get to experience between the final game of their season on March 11 (a loss to the Sixers, no surprise there) and the debut of the 2020-21 season which is currently slated for “early 2021” (though that is not set in stone.)
Fans are pinning a lot of this draft, and the Pistons don’t have a great pick and it’s not a great draft! Not all is lost, however. There are some intriguing prospects who could be available when the Pistons select at No. 7 overall. More intriguing, especially for bored fans, is the idea of trades. We love trades! This year there is a chance the Pistons actually have a chance to execute a trade for multiple picks. The Celtics, currently fighting the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, have a stacked roster, young players already developing and three first round picks. There is a chance the would be willing to part with those three picks so they can jump up to No. 7 and grab a player they are targeting.
Luckily, this flight of fancy has entered the NBA mainstream and Jonathan Waserman at Bleacher Report even built an entire mock draft around the idea that the Pistons-Celtics trade went through. Exciting!
Quickly, though, excite fades into confusion as Wasserman’s projected picks for the Pistons are not exactly what I’d be looking for. Let’s break it all down.
The first six picks are no surprise: Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman, Deni Avdija, Obi Toppin and Onyeka Okongwu. That leaves some tantalizing players still on the board for the Pistons to choose from, but in this exercise, Detroit trades the pick to the Celtics for Nos. 14, 26 and 30 so Boston can jump up to seven and take Tyrese Haliburton.
So what do the Pistons get with their giant haul of picks? Wasserman has Detroit nabbing a point guard at No. 14 instead of No. 7 and taking Cole Anthony out of North Carolina. Wasserman writes:
The Pistons move down for Anthony, who gives the franchise a ball-handler and scorer to build with once Derrick Rose’s run is over. Detroit could use the year to let Anthony learn and develop under Rose before giving him the keys. The Pistons would put more stock into Anthony’s creation, shot-making, positional athleticism and potential to improve as a playmaker than his inefficient numbers at North Carolina, where he got hurt and didn’t have much support.
At this point Haliburton and Killian Hayes are off the board, but fellow PG Kira Lewis Jr. is still available (slated to go next to Orlando at No. 15). I’d take Lewis way before I took Anthony, and, frankly, I’d probably also take Aaron Nesmith before I took an inefficient but explosive guard like Anthony.
The next two picks, though, are even bigger head scratchers. A team completely devoid of talent and looking to stock high upside players is slated to take a couple low-upside old players who could contribute right away. Huh?
Wasserman has the Pistons taking Arizona big man Zeke Nnaji and has this to say:
Nnaji’s game doesn’t scream upside, but he could give the Pistons a reliable finisher, active offensive rebounder and mid-range shooting threat. Despite limited versatility, his established strengths seem likely to carry over, and his shooting figures to improve based on his touch.
Limited upside? Limited versatility? Range that only extends to the mid-range? Pass. But, hey, at least he’s a freshman. Their next pick is senior Desmond Bane, a shooting guard out of TCU:
Plus shooting, passing and defensive IQ paint Bane as an easy fit for every team. Without any obvious stars on the board, Detroit will just hope to add a role player, and Bane checks the right boxes with his consistent jump shot and improved playmaking.
Easy fit role players might make sense for teams that are used to picking at the end of the first round, but makes zero sense for Detroit. I just don’t see it.
So what players were still available at each of these last two spots? Nico Mannion, Cassius Winston and Daniel Oturu are the three players taken 27-29 so it’s not exactly a star-studded, high-upside affair. Grant Riller, Isaiah Stewart and Theo Maledon are also names that I see bubble up in some diamond-in-the-rough conversations, but I’ll leave the talk of who really should have been taken to the draft experts.
Really, the exercise tells me that perhaps trading down this season is not the smartest move. I mean, the way this played out as long as you do something smart like take Lewis instead of Anthony the slide down is negligible. But the options at the end of the first round are not immediately inspiring me with confidence.
Taking a step back, and putting my Pistons-colored glasses I also wonder if Detroit could execute further moves to move around in the draft. Armed with three first-rounders and a contract like Derrick Rose, it might entice someone (maybe, say, the Suns) to move off a spot from 8-14 in exchange for Rose and a first.
What do you all think of the idea of trading down generally and this mock draft specifically? Only four months until real basksetball starts!