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DBB on 3: Looking back at a wild NBA Draft

With a few days to detox, what does the Pistons’ draft haul look like?

NBA: Detroit Pistons-Press Conference Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Fans are drinking Detroit Pistons Kool-Aid by the pitcher following Troy Weaver’s big night at the 2022 NBA Draft. The Pistons walked away with Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, two big-time athletes who will give Cade Cunningham and Co. some much-needed athleticism. With a few days gone and free agency right around the corner, let’s look back — and ahead.

1. The Pistons waited patiently on Thursday night and the guard many believed to have the highest upside fell to them in Jaden Ivey. What grade do you give the pick?

Sean Corp: I’d give it a B+, and I think I’m probably on the low-end of reactions not just locally but nationally. I understand what everyone liked about Ivey, and I understand how people thinks he will fit and complement Cade Cunningham. But the theoretical player Ivey could be is nowhere near the player he showed in college where he had an iffy handle, was an iffy defender, had an iffy handle, and an iffy perimeter jumper. THAT BEING SAID, he’s the most explosive guard in the draft, will get to the free-throw line, score inside, change the pace of the entire offense and I love that his mother was a professional player and current college coach. He knows the work that will be required to be successful. So it’s time to go to work.

Brady Fredericksen: I’ll give it a B+. I liked Ivey coming in, more at times than others, but I was never in love with him like some. His game needs fine tuning, but athletic guards with tools like his — primarily the speed and athleticism — are hard to find. I trust that the coaching staff can mold him into a more under control player. But, in the end, Ivey is a cruise missile. Let him attack. Guards with his physical tools don’t bust often. I’ve been begging the Pistons to get more athletic for years. This was a big step toward it.

Ben Gulker: C. This won’t be popular, but Ivey was the one guy I did not want. I unpacked why on this week’s podcast, but the short version is I have serious concerns about scoring efficiency at the NBA level, shooting, and defense.

Braden Shackelford: Hard to give this pick anything less than an A. There are some warts with Ivey, namely an unpolished shooting stroke, a lack of mid range game (something he has stated he is excited to show his work in this area) and inconsistent defense. Still, the athleticism, speed, and competitive fire is there and the Pistons landed arguably one of the highest upside players in the draft. The Pistons picked the best player on the board.

Justin Lambregtse: I was huge on Ivey early on in the process, but soured on him a bit as we got closer to the draft. But anytime somebody universally regarded as the 4th best player falls into your lap, you have to take him. The fact that so many teams were trying to trade for him just shows the value of that pick. If Ivey can shoot, he’s a great fit with Cade, so I give it an A.

Chris Daniels: I haven’t watched as much tape as many other people but I’ve listened to a lot of smart people say he’ll be great next to Cade and he was widely seen as either in the same tier as the top three or just below. No small matter either is that he WANTS to be a Piston. I give it an A.

2. Detroit moved a pick acquired in the Jerami Grant deal to acquire a second lottery pick, center Jalen Duren from Memphis. What grade do you give this move/pick?

Sean Corp: This move gets an A. They got rid of Grant, who didn’t really fit and I feared giving an extension to, and flipped him into a lottery pick, a few seconds and opened up tons of cap space for future maneuverability. I don’t ever bother to do deep dives on big men, but what I know about Duren is he is super young, super strong, super long, could get even bigger, stronger, faster, better, and he instantly becomes the best rebounder and shot-blocker on the team. I’m not sure where this leaves the Deandre Ayton pursuit or the long-term future of Isaiah Stewart, but there is still a space for dominant defensive big men in this league who supply tons of rim pressure. And those are things the Pistons were desperate for.

Brady Fredericksen: Again, a B+. I was more hesitant than others to go for a center. Not that I wasn’t a fan of Duren’s game, it just felt... aggressive. That said, this made the Jerami Grant trade go down a lot smoother. It was the chaser we all needed. And the more I’ve watched, the more I’ve been impressed with Duren. He was one of the best bigs in college basketball last year and he should have been a senior year in high school. That’s wild. He’s not as ready as some fans think, though. I do not think he’s anything like Andre Drummond, but can see him having a Drummond-esque rookie season.

Ben Gulker: A. Moving on from Grant without shedding assets or taking on salary is a big win from my perspective, and the wizardry of turning the 2025 pick into an intriguing lottery pick who was high on the big board is fantastic. I really, really hope this means the plan for free agency is patience rather than throwing big money at Ayton

Braden Shackelford: B+. The Pistons got one of their top guys, filled a position of need, and landed another elite athlete. Duren showed some signs of life offensively outside of the paint, but the Pistons don’t necessarily need him to be more than what he is now—a rim runner, staunch defender, and solid rebounder. For a team in need of athleticism, this pick certainly satisfied that end. Similar to Isaiah Stewart two years ago, I think we will see Duren’s game expand beyond what was shown at Memphis, particularly in the passing game. The Pistons could have elected to take a forward here, but I personally felt that this was the top player on the board, and as a former No. 1 recruit there’s plenty of upside to be had with this pick. It’s hard to fault a team for drafting someone who can impact the game without needing much drawn up for him.

Justin Lambregtse: The move gets an A. They gave up a pick that is probably going to be in the 25-30 range in 2025 for a current lottery pick and only had to take on $9 million in salary. That’s a win no matter how you slide it and it makes the Jerami Grant return look like a steal. As for the pick, I like Duren a lot. He isn’t a prototypical modern center, but he’s athletic and fits well with Cade, which is most important. I haven’t heard of any motor issues, which is always a worry with these young athletic bigs, either.

Chris Daniels: Picking up where I left off with Ivey, Duren apparently worked out first with the Pistons and told his agent that this was where he wanted to be. He now gives the front court the springy guy to pair at times with the more ground bound Stewart (although I did see Isaiah’s between the legs dunk in practice). Can you imagine going up against Duren and Stewart? That is an absolutely monster front court. Also an A for this pick.

3. The Pistons added two rookies (plus the final year of Kemba Walker’s contract) and still have the league’s most cap space going into free agency. What do these moves say about Weaver’s plan on the court and in free agency?

Sean Corp: I was a lot more confident I understood Weaver’s plans before the draft then after. Now, I’m not sure if he’s still in a mood to go big-game hunting for players like Ayton or Miles Bridges. If not, I wonder if he’s ready to take some future draft assets to take on the onerous contract of someone who can knock down 3s (Duncan Robinson, Joe Harris), or if he wants to shop around the margins and preserve a bunch of cap space for next season.

Brady Fredericksen: I have no idea. It makes them more athletic. It allows them to play faster. It’s going to make life easier on Cade, who needs those kind of athletes around him as he isn’t a crazy one himself. This team needs a lot of shooting. Ivey and Cade can work, but they need space to operate. Aside from Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Livers, they have none of that now and I’ll be interested in seeing how Weaver addresses that this month.

Ben Gulker: I’m not going to pretend to have any idea where Weaver is headed right now. I hope he’s going all in on the young core he’s just put together and keeping the financial flexibility around to eat bad contracts to acquire picks. That’s my dream - keep the target 2,3, or even 4 years down road and stockpile the picks and assets accordingly.

Braden Shackelford: Weaver stated the draft would impact his plans in free agency. Maybe he stretched the truth a bit here. The Pistons were reported front runners for Deandre Ayton. I suspected Ayton was Plan A for the Pistons, but after seeing the draft play out and listening to beat writers closest to the situation, it doesn’t appear that Ayton is a primary target any longer — and that Ayton may have been Plan B. I think Weaver views this draft as complimenting his core players, which tells me that free agency money will be used to find lower-impact veterans. This is a young team, and finding the right culture fit figures to be a priority in free agency. Looking at the roster as it stands currently, the Pistons still need shooting. Hami isn’t a floor spacer. Killian Hayes isn’t that, either. Beyond Kelly Olynyk, who is a natural spacer in the front court? Luka Garza? Are we confident enough in Stewart’s ability to shoot from the perimeter to pencil this in as a fundamental component of his game and do we really prefer any of these players to play alongside Duren in smaller matchups? If the answer is moving Saddiq Bey to the 4, who plays the 3 in this situation? Even bumping Cade to the 3 in this scenario leaves questions about who can effectively space the floor at the 2.

Isaiah Livers looked to be a promising shooter in the last stretch of the season, but he is still viewed as an unproven player, ultimately. I expect the Pistons to invest resources at shooting guard and forward positions with an emphasis on shooting.

Justin Lambregtse: I think the plan on the court is that give the young guys as many opportunities as possible to grow together. If the team competes for the playoffs, great, if not we will be back here next year in a better draft class. I think the plan for free agency is to play it slow and see if you can add a couple veterans on short term deals. If you have money left over, take on bad contracts for more draft capital. I would not chase a big fish at this point.

Chris Daniels: These moves say to me that somehow Weaver managed to draft the best players available that also managed to fill the holes that they had, so there’s no need to rush into signing big name free agents. I for one was luke warm on the idea of backing up the Brinks truck for either Ayton or Bridges. The Atlanta Hawks are a cautionary tale for me of going all in too soon.

As always, let’s hear it in the comments.

1. The Pistons waited patiently on Thursday night and the guard many believed to have the highest upside fell to them in Jaden Ivey. What grade do you give the pick?

2. Detroit moved a pick acquired in the Jerami Grant deal to acquire a second lottery pick, center Jalen Duren from Memphis. What grade do you give this move/pick?

3. The Pistons added two rookies (plus the final year of Kemba Walker’s contract) on Thursday and still have cap space going into free agency. What do these moves say about Troy Weaver’s plan on the court and in free agency?