On Detroit Bad Boys, we’re gonna be talking draft for the foreseeable future, so I figured I might as well start doing Big Boards. This board is going to be a blend of the guys I think have proven they can produce, the guys I think have upside and areas of need for the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons, fortunately(?), need a little bit of everything around Cade Cunningham; this will de-emphasize “Need” but not totally remove it from the mental rubric I’m using.
Initially, I am going 10-deep on the big board because that’s what the people demanded:
When I make my Pistons-specific 2022 NBA Draft Big Board, it should...— Lazarus Jackson (@lazchance) March 14, 2022
I think the people are correct on this one as well, a bit of lottery luck and a successful Jerami Grant trade that everyone can see coming, the Pistons would have two top-10 selections in this year’s draft.
Before we dive in, a couple notes:
- I am aware the Pistons are also in possession of a second-round pick at the time of writing. For information about who the Pistons could take at that selection, talk to Duke or Scott. I can’t retain information on 60 guys, and you can’t make me.
- Click the in-text links, please. I can’t embed every tweet or screencap everything; the links are valuable context to the information I attempt to present. If It’s Blue, Click Through, you feel me?
- Last but not least, Shaedon Sharpe is not listed on this Big Board for two main reasons: There’s nothing official (one way or another) about his intentions to stay enrolled at Kentucky, and I hate judging guys off high school tape. Your reminder that Luke Kennard scored more points in high school than LeBron James, and Andrew Wiggins has the single most insane high school highlight reel I’ve ever seen. I personally will wait to see how guys look in college before judging.
Alright! With no further ado:
1. Chet Holmgren
Stats: 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 3.7 blocks, 0.8 steals a game, 60/39/71.
NBA Player Comparison: Evan Mobley minus some lateral movement, Late-Career Marc Gasol if he was skinny instead of thicc, The Player JaVale McGee Thinks He Is.
Here is a list of things Chet Holmgren can already do:
He can finish at the rim (shot 84% on shots at the rim, half of which were unassisted). He can shoot from outside (39% on 3.3 3PA/g). He can pass a little bit (1.9 assists per game, high-lows to Drew Timme were a staple of Gonzaga’s offense, I doubt he’ll be doing a ton of that in the NBA, but it speaks to his ability to read defenses). He can block shots (3.7 blocks, 12.6% block rate). Maybe more importantly, he deters guys from even TAKING shots in the painted area. He can also switch and recover onto (some, slower) guards. Despite being skinny and often playing next to another big, he can rebound (28.7% DRB).
Chet does everything you want a big man to do in the NBA in 2022 except defend the post. Which he might be able to do convincingly by the time he’s 24.
Look, I don’t think Chet’s as good as Evan Mobley was last year. Evan is a little more fluid, which makes him a better defensive player. But I’m not going to use “Not As Good As The Probable Rookie Of The Year” as a bad thing, either. If Chet comes to Detroit and brings 90% of what Mobley did as a rookie, he will ALSO be in Rookie of the Year contention, and the Pistons will be set for the next six years.
(Chet and Cade would make the WEIRDEST PNR duo, btw; Cade playing at his arrhythmic pace, with The Slenderman loping towards the rim, blotting out the sun with his arms. I can’t wait to see it.)
Okay, let’s talk about Chet’s body.
Chet’s very skinny. He’s listed at 7 feet and 195 pounds. And 195 seems generous. He’s going to be 20 by the time the draft rolls around, so he’s still developing, but he’s not Anthony Davis (who was 18 and listed at 220 pounds in college) either. It is likely that Chet is skinny for the entirety of his NBA career, and people doubt how much weight he can add.
Chet's starting to remind me of Kevin Love at UCLA.— Div B (@statcenter) February 4, 2022
Obviously not in specific body type, but in that our collective fixation on their body type is obscuring the more important fact that guys who are *this* good vs tough comp at 19 are almost always successful in the NBA https://t.co/2Kd9C2XNsa
There is no correlation between this tweet and being repeatedly asked about Chet's frame & translation to the league despite having ~4 years~ of meaningful data on his ability to do Chet shit on both ends against the best competition available, in a variety of contexts.— PD Web (@abovethebreak3) March 15, 2022
That’s the best encapsulation of how I am envisioning Chet’s frame concerns in my evaluation.
There’s no way he doesn’t get any “bigger,” he’s 19 going on 20; guys get bigger with the help of an NBA strength and conditioning regimen and naturally as they age. Will he get “big enough” to not get pushed around by shorter wings? I think so; he can shoot over the top of those guys and he’s already a skilled driver. Will he get “big enough” so he doesn’t get bullied as a rebounder? He trended really well in that department in college so signs point to yes. Will he get “big enough” to credibly defend Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic in a playoff series? Maybe not, but NOBODY CAN DEFEND THOSE GUYS ANYWAY.
As someone who was vehemently anti-Porzingis during that draft mainly because of frame concerns, and has been proven wrong (health, not physical build, has been Kristaps’ limiting NBA factor), let the strength coaches do their thing and it’ll all work out.
2. Paolo Banchero
Stats: 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.1 steals per game. 47/34/73.
NBA Player Comparison: “The Two Halves of Blake Griffin’s Career Fused Together,” Julius Randle with the passing sliders up a couple notches, Chris Webber with the passing sliders down a couple notches.
What does Paolo do? Paolo gets buckets. He gets buckets on face-up isolations, initiating out of the pick-and-roll, screening and short-rolling in the pick-and-roll, offensive rebounds, catch-and-shoot corner opportunities, mashing little dudes in the post on switches - you name a way to score a bucket, Paolo can do it. A Paolo-Cade inverted PNR, where Cade screens for Paolo and a switching defense has to choose between a big on Cade or a little on Paolo? That’s how you win some basketball games.
Paolo gets buckets, but he’s not JUST a bucket getter. At Duke, he displayed some deft passing vision as he got more comfortable with the other guys on the floor around him. A pocket pass to Mark Williams here, a cross-court feed to A.J. Griffin there - Banchero showed a level of selflessness you don’t normally see from the Julius Randles of the world (but not the passing window manipulation you saw from Chris Webber in his heyday).
Can he shoot? Probably? Maybe? He shot more threes as the season went along, that seems like a good sign. He shot 52% from downtown in five NCAA Tournament games - that’s obviously not sustainable, but it’s a data point. He shot 73% from the line, that’s good-not-great and another data point. He seems much more comfortable from 18 feet than 23 feet, but he and everyone knows he’s going to have to stretch it out to three to really be the kind of offensive threat he’s being drafted to be.
If you look at the guys he’s being compared to, they are not great shooters. Julius Randle career 33% shooter from deep, Chris Webber (In A Different Era) shot a career 30% from deep on low volume, Blake Griffin shooting 33% from downtown since he really started shooting them in 2017-18, Carmelo Anthony a career 35% from 3. If Paolo is “only” a 33-34% from downtown guy, he can still be an All-NBA type guy, he just has to be excellent as a foul merchant and isolation player.
The other big question about Paolo comes on defense. It was definitely noticeable and problematic that North Carolina was able to attack him repeatedly in their Final Four game. Can he be a guy that’s picked on defensively in a playoff setting? Do you have to limit the types of defensive schemes you deploy with him on the floor (basically, can you switch everything with him if the Caleb Loves of the world are just going to waltz past him)? Is his defense “Can’t,” “Won’t,” or “Doesn’t Know How?”
I know I don’t trust him as a small-ball center defensively at this point, and that’s a significant limitation. His steal and block rates are absolutely low for a power forward. You’re not drafting Paolo to be a lockdown defender, but you need him to not be the weakest link of a team defensive scheme as well. I trust the game sense he flashes will translate, but, again, like a Julius Randle or Blake Griffin, I don’t know if he’s ever a plus as a team defender (maybe he’s willing to take charges like Blake and make up for some of it that way).
But the game is about buckets. The ease with which Paolo scores a wide variety of buckets and gets to the free-throw line elevates him above Jabari Smith Jr. for me right now.
3. Jabari Smith Jr.
Stats: 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.1 steals per game. 43/42/80.
NBA Player Comparison: Souped-Up Rashard Lewis, Evolutionary LaMarcus Aldridge, Pelicans Ryan Anderson
Jabari Smith Jr. makes difficult shots look easy, which is why some people have him as the top player in this class. However, Jabari shoots too many difficult shots and too few easy shots for my liking.
Per Barttovik, Paolo Banchero had 188 FGA at the rim. Chet Holmgren had 125 FGA at the rim.
Jabari? Only 63. SIXTY-THREE. Half of Chet, and a third of what Paolo had.
That’s not enough for a secondary guy, even one who can shoot over 40% from 3 on high volume with minimal effort. You watch him play and it’s not passivity, those are the shots he wants. He prefers to fire off jumpers in the face of defenders instead of drive to the rim, and despite the fact that he’s REALLY GOOD at it, I think the Pistons could use someone who puts more pressure on the rim.
But don’t get it twisted; Jabari excels as a shooter. The mechanics on his jumper are unimpeachable, he’s completely unbothered by closeouts, the shot is functionally unblockable because of his height. It’s a thing of beauty to watch him shoot.
I bet he DESTROYS pre-draft workouts.
Detroit added a jumpy-jump guy in Marvin Bagley, but they haven’t surrounded Cade with elite shooters (Saddiq Bey is shooting 35% from three this season); Jabari would come in on Day 1 and fulfill that role. And with the strides the team has helped Saddiq make as a driver and finisher, it offers some hope that they’d help Jabari be able to do much the same.
The Case For Jabari Smith Jr in Detroit: https://t.co/qhFuyhIqyp— Lazarus Jackson (@lazchance) April 9, 2022
I also like how heady and impactful a defender Jabari is, especially in relation to Paolo. Despite them having roughly the same number of stocks per game, teams didn’t target Jabari the same way they did Paolo on the defensive end. He competes on the defensive glass (23.5% DRB) and slides his feet well funneling defenders into Walker Kessler’s 19% block rate.
I’ve flipped back and forth between Jabari and Paolo so often as this process has gone on; I reserve the right to flip them back.
4. A.J. Griffin
Stats: 10.4 points, 3.9. rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.6 blocks per game. 49/44/79.
NBA Player Comparison: Jimmy Butler minus the yelling, The Player We Hoped Stanley Johnson Would Be, De’Andre Hunter
I know what you’re thinking. “A guy who averaged 10 points ahead of Jaden Ivey? The guy who was invisible in Duke’s final game of the season?”
And ... there’s something to that. Griffin was a dependent player most of the year. He only averaged 7.6 FGA/g for Duke, half of what Paolo averaged and barely a shot more per game than Cleanup Man Mark Williams. He started the year on a minutes restriction and only played 20+ minutes twice in his first 10 games.
But when the minutes restriction fell away the shots started to fall. Griffin was flirting with 50% from downtown for a large chunk of the season. And this wasn’t an Aaron Nesmith 10-game heater; he was shooting 48-49% from three for the season as late as March.
So, as a bruising wing who can shoot the lights out, A.J. Griffin looks like the perfect guy in between Cade and Saddiq. With a burgeoning off-the-dribble game (with some simple fixes to be made that would make him much more effective in that department), and latent athletic improvements to come (he was a nuclear athlete in high school, ankle and knee injuries meant we never really got to see that in college), that is the type of swing I would like to take after the top 3 in this year’s draft.
5. Jaden Ivey
Stats: 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks per game. 46/35/74.
NBA Player Comparison: De’Aaron Fox, Victor Oladipo, Evolutionary Steve Francis
A lot of people are a lot higher on Jaden Ivey than I am.
What you like about Jaden Ivey is that he brings the chaos. He plays at 5000 RPM. The Pistons could use a little more oomph from their guards (part of the reason Hamidou Diallo was so valuable for this Pistons team), and Jaden Ivey has OOMPH to spare. With NBA spacing and a coach who doesn’t insist on throwing it into the post every possession, we could see even more OOMPH from Jaden Ivey in the league than we saw in college. There’s a lot to love on that front.
However, Ivey’s three-point shooting cratered in calendar year 2022, and it gives me pause. Without the ability to punish teams for ducking under or packing the paint to prevent the OOPMH, I don’t know what Ivey gives you if he’s the subject of a dedicated game plan. Playing at 5000 RPM is awesome... until you can’t switch gears and crash into walls (which, in this case, means can’t read the floor that quickly and turn the ball over):
This is basically the perfect Jaden Ivey clip.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) March 30, 2022
Immense burst with any sort of space. Awesome change of pace crossover. Holy shit explosive leap. Also missed the wide open shooter in the corner to take on three dudes at the rim. https://t.co/aLqplkHjtb
If you’re drafting Ivey to be a lead guy, I think you’re going to be disappointed in how far a turbo-button-mashing non-shooter can take you (call it the De’Aaron Fox Hypothesis). And if you’re drafting Ivey to be Cade’s second, I would rather have someone who can shoot it a little better and map the floor a little quicker.
But on the chance I’m wrong, Ivey figures out the perimeter shooting (off the catch and off the dribble), and you can’t wall up the defense to keep him out of the paint ... that’s a VERY good NBA player, and exactly the type of Fire-And-Ice combination you’d want alongside Cade.
So, for now, I’ve got Ivey in this spot.
6. Keegan Murray
Stats: 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 blocks, 1.3 steals per game. 55/39/74.
NBA Player Comparison: Harrison Barnes, Tobias Harris, Insert Wing Player With $200 Million in Career Earnings Here
Three words describe Keegan Murray’s game: Production, production, production.
On offense, Murray can do everything at a B level or better. Shot 39.8% from three on a variety of looks. Can attack a hard closeout (and guys are closing out hard because he shot 39.8% from three) off the bounce and get to the rim. Can get up and down in transition. Can mash smaller guys in the post if the defense is switching. Can keep the ball moving (a requirement in Iowa’s offense). Sure, he probably won’t get as many duck-ins and post-up possessions in the NBA as he got in college, but that offensive versatility is a big strength.
He’s 21-going-on-22 as a sophomore, but that just means he’s ready to go NOW. Think Desmond Bane, not Obi Toppin.
If the Pistons draft Keegan Murray, one of the younger guys drafted after him will pop, and we’ll say “Aww man, why didn’t we take the chance on Guy X?” Meanwhile, Keegan will be putting up 16/5/2, shooting 38% from three, and counting down the days until his four-year, $115 million extension.
7. Bennedict Mathurin
Stats: 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks per game. 45/37/76.
NBA Player Comparison: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with more chutzpah, Terrence Ross, Jason Richardson
Bennedict Mathurin is a classic old-school two-guard to put next to Cade, an excellent catch-and-shoot and movement three-point shooter at volume (6.1 3PA a game). Not a lot of “wiggle” or creativity as a ballhandler, but if the defense is already rotating when the ball swings his way, LOOK OUT BELOW.
The thing I like most about Mathurin is he takes and makes big shots. The kid is not afraid of The Moment (yes, I realize this is not a cold evaluational statement, but I don’t know what to tell you, dude is a gamer). However, he can go too far in this regard. He Hunts The Moment occasionally; you could REALLY feel this at the end of their season-ending game against Houston. It was written all over his face how badly he wanted to lead his guys past, to make the huge play that swung the game, but he forced too many things, to his team’s detriment.
Can he tamp down that tendency next to Cade Cunningham? Will he be willing to let someone else, someone more talented than he, have those moments? We’ll have to see.
On defense, Mathurin can be lacking. He watches the ball instead of his man far too often, and he leans too hard on his plus athleticism to make up for late rotations. On a lot of scouting reports, you’ll see “Has the tools to be an impact defender,” which is just a nice way of saying he has the body but not the brain or inclination for defense right now. I think that that’s one thing Dwane Casey will make him learn, though.
Lastly, his physical dimensions are a concern, but not a disqualifying one. If he really is 6-foot-3 like many fear, we will then re-evaluate him. As it stands, I think he can guard 1’s and 2’s when he ... remembers to guard 1’s and 2’s. I am much more worried about him paying attention than staying in front of someone.
8. Jalen Duren
Stats: 12.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.1 blocks, 0.8 steals per game. 60/0/62.
NBA Player Comparison: Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, Clint Capela, Insert Rim-Running Center Here
I want you to look at that picture for a second. Good GOD is Jalen Duren yoked for an 18-year-old.
Duren is this year’s high-level jumpy-jump guy. He’s young, he’s raw offensively, and he can leap out of the gym despite being 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds. With that level of athleticism, he has a lot of potential defensively as a guy who can play both drop and switch coverage.
Memphis’ guards were not particularly good, so there were fewer “just spam high 1-5 PNR” looks than you’d imagine he would get, but he still managed to be productive offensively by crashing the offensive glass and running the floor in transition. This is good because in the NBA he needs to... crash the offensive glass and run the floor in transition.
Duren is a physically interesting prospect but a limited one. It is likely he is “just” a run-jump center; occasional passing flashes aside, he likes to take (and miss) 16-footers, doesn’t shoot threes, and shot 62% from the line, capping the impact you can reasonably expect from him offensively. Duren would need to be an ELITE, ELITE level defensive player to overcome those offensive limitations, and as we’re seeing in Utah right now with Rudy Gobert, even sometimes THAT isn’t enough for your team after a while.
The version of Duren who actually hits those 16-footers and is an elite defensive player is supremely valuable to the Pistons as a partner to Cade. I wouldn’t want to spend a top-3 pick to find out if Duren can be that, though.
9. Tari Eason
Stats: 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.9 steals per game. 52/36/80.
NBA Player Comparison: Taller Hamidou Diallo, Young Robert Covington, Andre Iguodola minus most of the game sense stuff that makes him ANDRE EAGLE DOLLA.
Eason is a wing-sized live wire, a bundle of athleticism in a 6-foot-8 frame. He can make anything happen on offense but tries a bit too often to make everything happen. Extremely right-hand dominant (which I am obligated to point out in righties after Killian), which gets him in trouble on drives. Shot 36% on low volume (2.4 3PA/g) from three, but that actually represents a big jump in shooting since his freshman year (24% on 1.3 3PA/g); you hope he has another leap or two in him offensively.
Sneakily, he is 20-going-on-21; usually when you see these high-athleticism guys you just assume they’re 18. Despite being “old for a young guy,” I don’t think he’s a finished product. If he was the selection, though, I think it foretells the Pistons “restoring” for another year, giving him the time to develop in a non-starting role. Given that time, he could be the tip of the spear at POA on defense and a guy who you can’t just ignore in the corner during a playoff setting.
In a better draft, you’d take Eason at 16 and feel good about giving him the time to develop; I wonder if the expectations he might get from being a top-10 pick will be good or bad for his development.
10. Malaki Branham
Stats: 13.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks per game. 50/41/83.
NBA Player Comparison: Calm Dion Waiters, Caris LeVert, college Gary Harris
This final big board spot was a real struggle. I considered guys like TyTy Washington, Dyson Daniels, Johnny Davis, and Ochai Agbaji. If Shaedon Sharpe played basketball this college season, he’s probably somewhere above this spot, making filling out a top-10 easier. I had TyTy here for a while, but I don’t see enough “special” about TyTy to really put him as a top-10 pick.
It’s easier to see the “special” potential in a young guy like Branham, the Big Ten Rookie of the Year. Two things stand out with him immediately; his efficiency and his age. Going 50/40/80 at 18 years old? That’ll bump you up some. Branham also got more productive as the season went on; he averaged 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1.6 assists in his first 10 college games, broke out with a 35-point performance in an overtime win over Nebraska, then averaged 17 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and shot 43% from downtown the rest of the season.
He’s a good-not-great athlete who got all the way to the rim in college, but wasn’t yamming in traffic over guys. Although he shot it well in college, his shot will need adjustments to make it in the NBA (he shoots very stiff-legged and has some bad misses on tape if he’s forced off-balance). He’s also not the best defensive player; he takes some ... circuitous routes around screens. But I love the patience he shows on offense, using his body to carve out space and get to his spots.
Being that productive and that composed at his age stood out to me, so Branham is here for now. I am definitely open to suggestions for this 10th spot, though.