Now we start to enter the lottery! This class appears to have good depth already as you will see. Plenty of these incoming freshman and first-year draft-eligible prospects in the lottery do have good upside to become more than role players. As always, only time will tell if this becomes fact, but I certainly like many of the guys here for the Pistons for this exact reason!
And again, to reiterate, BECAUSE this is a Pistons-specific preview of the 2023 NBA Draft, I will be leaving out Kel’el Ware and Dereck Lively II from this preview. Since the Pistons already are very invested in Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren, I think the absolute only way either Lively or Ware enters into the conversation is if they show to be worthy of top 5 consideration.
Let’s continue up the board!
15. Dillon Mitchell
6-foot-8, 205 pounds
Falling just outside the lottery, Mitchell is in contention for the most athletic prospect in the 2023 NBA Draft. He comes into the draft with an outlook almost identical to current Indiana Pacers rookie Kendall Brown, as their stock is exclusively based off their athleticism.
As a good finisher that can dunk and has soft touch in the post. Mitchell is prime candidate #1 you want in the dunker’s spot. As I stated in my Chet Holmgren breakdown last draft cycle, I feel like being a “dunker’s spot guy” is used as an insult, to say a guy is limited offensively. I want to push back on this; Usually, the guys you put in that spot are guys that can finish the play no matter what — which is exactly what Mitchell can do.
Need a lob threat who can finish, even when he is just standing still? Mitchell can do that. Need a dump-off option for your guard who can get into the paint at will? Mitchell has that covered too. Need a post-up option who has a go-to move and soft touch to finish over defenders? Mitchell even flashes a jump hook from this spot with a soft touch that he sinks regularly. Mitchell also backs down guys you think could stall him as he does not look physically imposing, but he definitely has lower body strength to get post position.
However, Mitchell’s jump shot is not just a question, it is a mystery. From the data I could find, Mitchell took a total of FOUR three-point ATTEMPTS in his sophomore and junior seasons. After transferring to Monteverde Academy for his senior season, he took THREE total three-point attempts. To say that is underwhelming would be an understatement. I did manage to find some instances of him taking threes, and although the form and everything looks fine, attempts are still few and far between. And like a couple of guys further up this list, Mitchell has the dreaded combination of not shooting a good percentage AND turning down open looks. Add in to this a free throw percentage consistently below 61%, and you have major shooting concerns all around.
Mitchell finds himself on a Texas squad that is in need of his athleticism to supplement scoring guards Marcus Carr and Tyrese Hunter, so I think he will be mostly setting screens and doing big man stuff to best take advantage of his athleticism and help Texas win games. By season’s end, he could be looking similar to fellow 6-foot-8 forward Brandon Clarke, profiling as a great screener, lob threat, and defensive swiss army knife. The Pistons definitely could use that at the other forward spot to handle the opposition’s best wings.
Scouting Video by Bryce Simon of Motor City Hoops:
14. Jordan Walsh
6-foot-7, 205 pounds
One of the top prospects on #MikalWatch, Walsh has the #Tools and the defensive game to fit that profile. Lanky is the best way to begin describing Arkansas’ third high-profile incoming freshman as his #Tools really start with his Go-Go Gadget-Arms.
A disruptor on defense, Walsh uses his condor-like wingspan and aggressive demeanor to make the offense have an unpleasant time whenever he is on the court. All three of the Arkansas freshman this year (Nick Smith Jr., Anthony Black, and Walsh) love to get after it on defense and have the skills to make a big difference there, but I think Walsh could be the most impactful of the bunch due to his wingspan.
Although not a top-notch athlete, he does not get run over by bigger players, nor does he look like he is standing still when matched up with quicker guards. Smith and Black both profile as sticking to guards, whereas Walsh does flash the potential to guard power forwards and MAYBE some centers depending on how he is developed. Walsh is also one of the better transition players I have seen in this year’s class. He creates a lot of offense there, as he takes full advantage of his long limbs, taking fewer strides to cover the full court. He is never focused on getting his own shot, however, and dishes out plenty of lobs and dimes to his teammates for easy buckets. He also did not always need a clear path to the hoop to score, as he utilizes that wingspan again to finish over and through the opposition.
This also translated into the half-court, where he can spot up, drive, and take two steps to the rim before raising up and dunking over the opposition. It is clear that Walsh knows how to use his wingspan already.
Walsh’s offense is raw at this point. Although he did show a willingness to attack off the dribble, shoot threes, and attack in transition, he is not refined in any of these skills. His handle is loose, and his dribble is high, which makes it easy for the opposition to poke the ball out. This has been on display during the summer with Arkansas’s European tour, as Walsh played the fewest minutes of three high-profile freshmen and shot a terrible 31.0% from the field—going 1/8 from three-point distance. Consistency will be key for Walsh, as he needs to establish some role-player skills on offense at the very least.
It is hard to argue against Walsh being the top name on #MikalWatch as he does have defensive desire and skills in addition having legitimate offensive upside as well. Just in this past year’s draft, one of the primary appeals of guys like Jeremy Sochan, Jalen Williams, Ousmane Dieng, and Jake LaRavia was the size that could project to defensive versatility. And, if Walsh can come anywhere close to the stat line of someone like Jeremy Sochan, then the Pistons should be one of many teams looking to add this multipurpose defender who can be developed in a variety of ways.
Game Highlights vs. Oak Hill Academy courtesy of Swish
13. Anthony Black, PG/SG Arkansas
6-foot-7, 198 pounds
A point guard with great height and length, Black is what many fans and evaluators clamor for when it comes to forming a roster that has an immediate mismatch advantage on the opposition. Black might just be the lost Ball brother, as he has a lot of Lonzo and LaMelo in his game.
First and foremost, Black is an elite passer. He definitely leads this draft class in DIMES per game; He makes one or two passes every game that only he can see. He also is able to make these passes out of any situation: From a standstill, off-the-dribble, out of the post, and on the fast break.
This summer he played for the U18 Team USA FIBA team, and on Arkansas European tour and in both tournaments he led his team in assists. Technically, he tied Davonte Davis for the team lead at Arkansas with 16, but he had fewer turnovers than the junior, with 8 as opposed to Davis’s 12.
Black’s basketball IQ also shines through on defense. In the six games I watched from the FIBA U18 Americas Championship this summer, Black had 12 blocks and 11 steals. The blocks, in particular, are a rarity from a guy that is primarily defending point guards — and he is NOT just getting them by waiting near the rim. During many of them, you will see him put himself in a position to get to the ball as the man he is guarding drives to the hoop. It might seem like he is getting beat, but the fact he kept using a somewhat trail technique that ended in him blocking their shot shows his knowledge of angles and how his size can be used to his advantage. It also helps to see him hold up on smaller quicker guys, keeping them in front and sliding his feet.
Scoring is going to be the biggest question mark for Black. This is not to say he CANNOT score, but it is clear that he is not looking for his own shot first and foremost. For many evaluators, this will be a major demerit in the grade book — and it all starts with his shooting. As I say many a time here, we keep correct in these evaluations, and Black has the dreaded combo of bad percentages and an unwillingness to shoot. In the aforementioned FIBA U18 Americas Championship tournament, Black averaged just 1.7 free-throw attempts per game and an even smaller 1.0 three-point attempts per game. His percentages on these were 50.0% at the line and 16.7% from downtown. He will have to get up more shots to get those reps in game. He also managed to score just 25 points in 103 minutes (the most of the three Arkansas freshmen), went 1 of 4 from deep, and did not attempt a free throw. The ONLY thing I will say is his shot is not mechanical, and his lack of shooting has more to do with his play style of primary distributor more than anything else.
Black definitely is a demarcation line in this draft, separating the guys who seem like surefire top one or two offensive options for a team or defensive anchors and what I like to call “Role Player Supreme,” aka the Tayshaun. Pointing back to Black’s FIBA stats, those 11 steals tied for the team lead with Villanova freshman Mark Armstrong, and his 12 blocks led the team as did his 25 assists and 47 rebounds. These are VERY impressive stats considering Kel’el Ware and Cam Whitmore were both on this team AND started in the frontcourt. Black did all of this as a guard and a wing. His passing is definitely LaMelo-like, but his projection right now leans more to Lonzo as he still can make an impact in a variety of other ways while still manning one of the guard positions.
Scouting Rapport video against Puerto Rico from FIBA U18 Americas Championship
12. Brandon Miller
6-foot-9, 200 pounds
Miller is one of two players on this list I could see pegged as a Jerami Grant upgrade prospect. Brandon Miller is much more wired to score over everything else, however. This makes him a big-time bet for anyone that is looking for a supersized creator to help the MotorCade get supercharged on offense.
Miller led Alabama in scoring on their European tour this past summer and is averaging around 22 points per game for the whole tour. This is no small feat, as this Bama team returns their second leading scorer from last year in Jahvon Quinerly. In addition, Alabama added Ohio transfer Mark Sears, who averaged 19.6 points per game last season. Miller outscored these seasoned guards and proven he is a leader in his play. Miller scored 843 points his senior year in high school on 608 field goal attempts and 169 trips to the free throw line. 243 of those attempts came from long range as well, and he sank 41% of those. Couple this with the 47% from three-point range he shot as a junior, and you can see Miller’s 6-foot-9 shooting mismatch potential along with his other scoring abilities. I think he may end up being a better rebounder than our friend Jerami Grant, as Miller averaged 8.1 per game in his final season and has shown a commitment to crashing the defensive glass in particular.
Miller’s abilities on the defensive side of the ball are the biggest question mark for me personally. The film I watched of him at Cane Ridge high school saw Miller as a pseudo-center type of role, but also the team stuck to man-to-man quite a bit as well. This did not help him showcase his off-ball potential much, nor did it do him any favors having to stick on centers a lot just by default of being the tallest guy out there. He did also not attempt to block or alter as many shots as he could have and did let guys get by him more often than you would like to see.
Miller is also a below-average passer, as his 76 assists to 99 turnovers attest to. If he is going to be a primary or even secondary scorer, this will be where he needs to improve. Being someone who is even an average playmaker can separate him from the pack with all that he has already displayed on offense.
Miller will be one to keep a close eye on at Alabama. How they use him on defense and more development as a playmaker can vault him up the board. There are just not many six-foot nine-inch tall players that can score as naturally as Miller, and the Pistons have already shown they know how to utilize this kind of player well.
Highlight video against Hamilton Heights High School courtesy of Ball All Day
11. Ausar Thompson
Ausar is athletic and energetic on the court, with a commitment to excelling on both ends of the court. Ausar and his brother Amen are great athletes and possess some of the highest upsides of any prospects in this draft class. Both of the twins also pay attention to many details on the court that you don’t normally see in prospects with their level of athleticism.
Ausar has one of the most unique shots of anyone in this draft cycle with his driving hook. Michigan Basketball fans will remember this shot, made famous by our guy Zavier Simpson, but Ausar’s height and wingspan make this shot unguardable. Ausar already makes these at a good rate, and as he perfects his craft even more, it will make his athleticism and ability to get to the hoop and finish even stronger.
Speaking of that finishing, he also is the rare guy that shows he will finish with both hands. This is an underrated skill in my opinion, as you don’t have to twist or really take longer to move to the opposite side of your body and you can also FULLY extend your finishes as a result. It also is rare in a player so young, this is an advanced skill MANY guys work on to perfect in the NBA, so it serves Ausar well to come readily equipped to finish with either hand.
Ausar also gets after it on defense. He shows the ability to handle point guards all the way to small forwards. He utilizes his athletic gifts well, along with effort and his wingspan, to try and swallow up the opposition. His athleticism also makes him a swiss army knife type of player who can sky up for a tip-in dunk off an offensive rebound, jam the ball against the glass for a chase-down block, and provide vertical spacing as a lob threat any time he steps out on to the court.
Ausar has major shooting concerns, however. Last season with Overtime Elite, the data I found on him has him shooting 27.0% from three and 56.% from the free throw line. Couple this with Ausar putting up zeros in the three-point column all offseason. Although it’s not as bad as Dillon Mitchell, Ausar also does turn down open looks from three, which adds to the concerns.
In addition to the shooting concerns, Ausar is not a very good passer. He makes careless turnovers when he does pass, but most of the time he is looking for his own shot. Per the stats I could find from last year, Ausar posted a 12.9% assist percentage versus a 17.7% turnover ratio. Ausar also has not been asked to do much supplementary stuff, like set screens and be a consistent spot-up threat, so it is also tough to see if he could be developed into a very athletic role player. All of these concerns, however, are troublesome in my opinion as it makes an evaluator immediately ask, what position does he play? If Ausar can’t shoot, can’t handle the ball, can’t pass at even an average rate, and is not a screener or possesses clear big man skills, then where do you put a player like THAT on the court? Again, I get why many are in love with what the Thompsons twins COULD become, but what they are now—and for Ausar in particular—there is a lot of work to be done to even fill a role on an NBA court, let alone become a star.
But just to close out my thoughts on Ausar, EVERYTHING I just said about the concerns I have about his game could probably be said for that Greek kid in the 2014 Draft. And, as Rafael Barlowe said recently when revealing his top 8 on his big board, the Thompsons are home run swings. But just as baseball has seen in the last 50 years, the more you swing for the fences, the more you strike out. Ausar and Amen will be the two I will keep my eye on the most as their “fits” with the MotorCade are most likely going to be odd—and I am sure some will say it is bad—but it could also yield major rewards if they develop more supplementary skills to make it even harder to contain their athleticism.
Scouting Video by Hoop Intellect aka Keandre
Thank you for taking the time to read and support us here at Detroit Bad Boys! Next time we get into the top 10 of this draft and get to see the level of prospect, the Pistons SHOULD still be aiming for come June.