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NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at UCLA

2023 NBA Draft: 8 second-round NBA Draft targets worth paying attention to

Many of these players are staring for their teams in the NCAA tournament and will be available when the Detroit Pistons select in the second round

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, lottery luck always helps, but for a rebuilding team like the Detroit Pistons, acquiring talent later in the NBA draft is a necessity. This is especially true when you’re a franchise that does not qualify as an attractive free agent destination. While second-round picks aren’t as exciting as lotto picks, they are an essential part of building a sustainable winner. Quality players can be found throughout the draft, and many great players have fallen late into the second round. The hard part is identifying the players who have the potential to carve out an impactful role in the NBA.

With a pick that looks like it’ll range from 31 to 33, Detroit will have a chance to get a player they have ranked pretty highly on their draft board. In a draft loaded with wings and forwards, a specific need for the Pistons, Detroit should be able to draft a promising player at a position of need. Wing defense is perhaps the team’s biggest areas of concern if it plans to take a meaningful step forward next season. This draft does happen to have some very impactful defenders projected around this range worth considering.

Here are 8 draft targets for the Detroit Pistons to consider with their second-round pick or if they were able to acquire another decently high pick in the draft.

Jalen Wilson, SF/PF, Kansas

Jalen Wilson took a significant jump from his junior to senior seasons and is now the best player on arguably the best team in college basketball. Wilson next sees his top-ranked Jayhawks play Arkansas at 5:15 p.m. ET today on CBS. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward averages 20.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.0 steals with shooting splits of 42.8/33.7/79.8. While not incredibly efficient, his volume nearly doubled from the year prior and his three-point and free-throw percentages have both improved. Wilson is a strong rebounder, recording double digits on the glass 13 times this season. He is also an impactful and versatile defender. While he may not have the highest upside, he is a prospect with few flaws who can impact the game in a number of ways.

He could fill the void of Saddiq Bey as scoring forward off the bench for the Pistons, and he has a chance to have a positive impact as soon as his rookie season. One of the older players in the draft at 22, he is also one of the more NBA-ready players. Wilson is a high-IQ and high-character player, and his leadership both on and off the court has been praised by his teammates. After losing many of its top players from last season, Kansas is only near the top of college basketball because of Wilson’s jump from role player to star. He would be a welcome addition to Detroit’s young core as a player who checks many boxes.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Colby Jones, SG, Xavier

Colby Jones will be a name to watch throughout the NCAA tournament. His Xavier Musketeers next play Pitt at 12:10 p.m. on CBS on Sunday. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard is averaging 15.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game in 33.9 minutes while shooting a very impressive 51.2% from the floor and 37.5% from three-point range on 3.3 attempts per game. He has a somewhat concerning free-throw percentage of only 65.9%. Not only is Jones a high-level scorer who notched 20 or more points in nine games this season, he is also a good defender who excels playing the passing lanes, resulting in him recording three or more steals in seven games this season.

Jones is also a very good passer for a non-PG and has a chance to be an effective secondary handler/facilitator. He’s a versatile wing who does a little bit of everything well and should be able to carve out a role early on with a chance to develop into a starting-level wing if he can continue to expand his game. He would be an ideal fit for a Pistons team in need of both shooting and wing defenders. Jones is currently being projected anywhere from the 20s to late 30s but could see his stock rise with a strong performance in the tournament.

Julian Strawther, SG/SF, Gonzaga

One of the best shooters in the draft, Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther is shooting 42.9% from three on 5.1 attempts per game. His Bulldogs will square off against TCU in the second round of the tournament on Sunday at 9:40 p.m. on TBS. Strawther has good shooting form with plenty of range on his shot, plus the ability to create for himself as a handler or get open when off-ball. He has also improved as a free throw shooter, from 70.5% as a sophomore to 78.7% as a junior, while also increasing his free throw rate from .288 to .334. On January 28th against Portland, Strawther erupted for 40 points on 21 shots, including 8-12 from three. Outside of Brandon Miller, Gradey Dick, and Jordan Hawkins, Julian Strawther may be the best shooter in the draft.

Strawther has been a positive defender according to win shares and box plus/minus, and is active and engaged on that end of the floor. Listed at 6-foot-7, he has ideal length to play either position on the wing. His shot creation and three-point shooting will help him carve out a role in the NBA early on. He also has the chance to develop into a legitimate scoring option not only as a three-point shooter but as a three-level scorer dangerous from mid-range and at the rim. Through his three seasons at Gonzaga, Strawther has converted on 59.8% of his 2-point attempts. As an elite shooting off-ball scorer, his fit with Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey would be intriguing and is exactly what they need with both guards being ball dominant.

Jaylen Clark, SG/SF, UCLA

Arguably the top defender in college basketball, Clark is a key reason for No. 2 UCLA being seeded so highly. Unfortunately, Clark has been ruled out the rest of the season with an Achilles injury suffered in the team’s season finale. This will undoubtedly cause issues for the Bruins in the NCAA tournament having to go without their star defender. Clark is a phenomenal point-of-attack defender with good length, athleticism, positional versatility, and incredible defensive instincts. This season, Clark ranks seventh in the nation in steals at 2.6 per game, fifth in defensive win shares, fourth in defensive rating, first in defensive box plus-minus, and has been named a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year finalist.

While somewhat limited offensively, Clark has improved his shooting significantly in his first season as a starter. While still a concern, raising his three-point percentage from 25.9% to 32.9% and his free-throw percentage from 54.2% to 69.8% is a promising sign. He has also been efficient on two-point shots throughout his career, converting 54.4% of them. His defense will give him a role in the NBA right away and he would be a great fit on a Pistons team desperately in need of adding high-level defenders on the wing. While his offense is lagging behind, his defensive prowess should ensure that he can be an impactful role player at the next level.

G League Ignite v Texas Legends Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

Leonard Miller, PF, Ignite

A 6-foot-10, 210-pound forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Leonard Miller has been impressive for the G-League Ignite. In 24 games, Miller is playing 30.5 minutes per game, and averaging 18.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 blocks, and 0.9 steals on 55.6/32.7/79.2 shooting splits. His ability to hit free throws is an encouraging sign for his development as an efficient shooter. Even without a consistent three-point shot, Miller has shown to have a developing mid-range game and nice touch around the basket leading to him shooting 60.2% on two-point attempts.

Still a raw prospect in some regards, Miller will have to improve defensively and he has struggled to defend some of the quicker forwards he has faced. Miller certainly has the length and athletic ability to succeed on that end of the floor but has yet to put it together. Still only 19, he has a lot of time to figure things out and offers so much upside as a scorer as well as being a very good rebounder. One of the more intriguing prospects in the draft, potentially on par with guys who might go in the lottery but being projected to be selected in the range of the 20s to 30s.

Reece Beekman, PG, Virginia

Reece Beekman is one of the more overlooked prospects in the draft. At first glance it’s easy to see why. He is a 21-year-old averaging 9.5 points per game, and that doesn’t typically scream “NBA prospect.” What makes Beekman so interesting is the value he brings on the defensive end. As a 6-foot-3 elite point-of-attack defender who is quick and armed with a high basketball IQ, Beekman is one of the best defensive prospects in the draft. He is also an excellent passer and does a great job taking care of the ball, turning it over only 1.6 times per game to his 5.3 assists per game. Generally, an assist to turnover ratio of two or more is considered good, Beekman’s is 3.3.

With mixed opinions on Killian Hayes, Beekman would be a great option if the Pistons decide to move in a different direction at backup PG. Beekman may be a low-volume scorer, but shooting 35.1% from three and 79.3% from the free-throw line is encouraging, and he checks all of the other boxes that you would look for in a PG. He is able to efficiently run your offense, distribute the ball, and defend at a high level. Despite their loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Beekman stepped up and was one of their bright spots, recording 14 points on 9 shots, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks in 37 minutes.

Jordan Walsh, SF, Arkansas

Walsh is an interesting prospect, a 5-star recruit out of high school playing on a loaded Arkansas team with other draft prospects in Anthony Black, Nick Smith, and Ricky Council IV. As a freshman, Walsh’s offensive game is still limited but he stands out as a tremendous defender. His Razorbacks are facing the aforementioned Jalen Wilson’s Jayhawks today at 5:15 p.m. on CBS.

A 6-foot-7 wing with a listed 7-foot-3 wingspan, Walsh currently ranks at No. 20 in the SEC in defensive rating as well as in defensive box plus-minus. With his length, athleticism, and defensive instincts, Walsh has a chance to be really special on that end of the court with versatility to guard close to every position.

His development on the offensive end of the court will ultimately determine his ceiling. Only attempting 6.1 shots per game, Walsh is converting on 51.8% of his 2-point attempts but only 27.5% of his three-point shots. Walsh is a 72.1% free-throw shooter and his overall shooting mechanics are pretty clean so there is hope that he can develop into an at least average shooter. He’s an active rebounder, has a solid handle, is a willing and capable passer, and runs the floor well. I wouldn’t expect major contributions from Walsh early on in his career but he is a project that could be very worthwhile.

Jordan Hawkins, SG, Connecticut

Jordan Hawkins is one of the best shooters in the draft, the 6-foot five-inch shooting guard is connecting on an impressive 37.4% of his threes, but more importantly he is attempting a whopping 7.6 attempts per game. He is good at creating his own shot and is a great movement shooter. He’s also excellent from the line, making 88.4% of his free-throw attempts this season on 3.6 attempts per game. One of the star players on the fourth-seeded seeded UConn Huskies, Hawkins is a top name to watch during the NCAA tournament. His Huskies will face Saint Mary’s on Sunday at 6:10 p.m. ET on TNT. With his draft projection ranging from the late first to early second round, getting someone with the scoring upside of Hawkins seems like it would be a steal.

While his draft stock does seem to be in the range of the Pistons pick, I would be surprised if he makes it this far just because his offensive game is tailor made for the NBA. Defensively, he is at least average and engaged on that end of the floor, though not a lockdown defender and does have some improvements to make. His three-point shooting is what will make an NBA team very happy right away, as either a flamethrower bench scorer or even as a potential starting SG. Jordan Hawkins is one of the most NBA ready players in the draft and has a ceiling as high as his shooting will take him.

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