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NBA Draft Rumors: Did the Pistons make a promise to Ausar Thompson?

Detroit also reportedly intrigued by Taylor Hendricks after strong workout

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Basketball: Overtime Elite-Cold Hearts at City Reapers Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

There is less than one week to go before Thursday’s NBA Draft, and, hopefully, this is also the Detroit Pistons’ last big shot at a difference-making talent with a top-five lottery selection before new coach Monty Williams has them winning plenty more games than they have in recent years.

With some top-end talent already seemingly in place in Cade Cunningham, and last year’s two lottery picks in Jaden Ivey (No. 5) and Jalen Duren (No. 13), there is an open question about whether it makes sense to be more comfortable with Detroit getting a high-end contributor with a lower ceiling but a much higher floor or whether they should take one big mammoth swing on a star.

I say all that to transition to a bit of potentially baseless speculation, with apologies to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Ausar Thompson canceled a scheduled workout with the Indiana Pacers. Now why is that?

The Pacers own the seventh pick in the NBA Draft. If the top three picks go as anticipated with Victor Wembanyama followed by Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller in some order, that means there are just three teams before yo get to the Pacers.

Look, maybe Thompson was sick or tweaked a muscle or just didn’t feel he was at his best. Maybe he will end up working out for the Pacers. But the other options are he either is attempting to avoid landing there or he has a promise from a team in front of the Pacers and is shutting down his workouts.

There have been reports that some franchises view Ausar as superior to twin brother Amen because the shot is a little more effective and cleaner, giving team’s more confidence he can turn in the kind of shooter you need to be in the NBA. So we can’t rule out any of the Rockets, Pistons or Magic as being all-in on Ausar.

Could it be the Pistons that promised to take Ausar at No. 5? Potentially.

James Edwards III at The Athletic has the latest on Detroit’s thinking:

While Detroit must react to the Rockets’ decision at No. 4, I’m hearing the Pistons will be strongly considering five prospects with their selection if they stay put at No. 5: Amen and Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite), Cam Whitmore (Villanova), Jarace Walker (Houston) and Taylor Hendricks (Central Florida).

Edwards notes that Hendricks had a particularly impressive showing in his workout with the team, and Hendricks boosters point to the tantalizing potential to be both a plus stretch big and plus defender at the position — a rare combination of skills.

On Ausar in particular, Edwards writes:

Ausar Thompson also has some big supporters in the Pistons’ front office, according to those league sources, and very well could be who Detroit takes in Thursday’s draft. The 20-year-old Ausar is more of a wing than his brother, but both are supreme athletes with good size. In his 2023 NBA Draft Guide, colleague Sam Vecenie wrote that Ausar Thompson reminds him most of Andre Iguodala. I couldn’t agree more. The potential Ausar Thompson has a secondary or tertiary creator for others really drives that home, as do his physical gifts, finishing ability and questionable jump shooting.

Side note: subscribe to The Athletic, read the Draft Guide, support quality journlism.

Anyway, back to Ausar. This is not a slam dunk pick at No. 5. Thompson definitely falls into the category of a big swing. Thompson could be an All-NBA defender who works as an elite connector on the wing. Or he could be a spot-minute player who can’t crack a real rotation because of offensive limitations that can be exploited at the NBA level.

I encourage everyone to read Blake Silverman’s new draft profile of Ausar.

If Amen is chosen by the Houston Rockets with the fourth pick, the Pistons have a really interesting decision to make between Jarace Walker, Cam Whitmore, and Ausar. All three prospects can play the wing, and bring different benefits with their style of play. Ausar may be the best defender of the group, and brings playmaking potential along with his ability to find exciting ways to put the ball in the hoop. Should the Rockets favor Whitmore at four, I think there is a real chance that Detroit could lean towards Ausar with the next pick, even over his twin brother.

Would the Pistons really take Ausar at five? Would they trade down and still try make it happen. Or is it still a stiff competition between the Thompson twins (don’t forget Amen!), Cam Whitmore, Jarace Walker, and Taylor Hendricks at No. 5?