The Detroit Pistons took one more big NBA Draft day swing by selecting Overtime Elite wing Ausar Thompson over more established prospects at the college level like Jarace Walker, Taylor Hendricks, and Cam Whitmore. The Pistons were banking on the elite upside Thompson possesses as a wing defender, connector, and transition threat. His upside surpassed anyone else on the board, and if the Pistons are serious about improving their won-loss record this offseason, this is conceivably their final shot at a top-5 pick and the chance to draft someone with such enticing potential.
You’d think that with such a big bet on a player from a maligned league, and with so many people having polarized opinions that the post-draft reaction would be pretty volatile. Instead, by reading reactions and looking at draft grades, everyone is sort of shrugging their shoulders and saying, “yeah, I guess it could work.”
The Pistons got pretty consistent B’s around the board for not just the selection of Thompson but also their second first-round pick of Marcus Sasser, a 6-foot-1 guard out of Houston. Everyone appreciates the defensive tenacity of the four-year player out of Houston, but there are quibbles about upside and where he fits in a crowded Detroit backcourt rotation.
Here is a roundup of NBA Draft grades for the Detroit Pistons’ selections of Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser.
5. Detroit Pistons - Ausar Thompson, G, Overtime Elite
Ausar isn’t quite as explosive as his twin brother Amen, but he might have a more well-rounded game. Ausar is a more disciplined and effective defender, a tighter ball-handler, and a superior shooter — even if his three-point stroke remains a major work in progress. This is a bit of a strange fit for the Pistons given that the team’s biggest weakness is shooting next to Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Jalen Duren. Ausar isn’t going to help them in that area. At the same time, Ausar should provide an instant injection of athleticism and connective passing while acting as a super versatile defender. Detroit is loaded with high upside talent, but Ivey and Thompson need to improve as shooters to really make the pieces fit.
25. Detroit Pistons - Marcus Sasser, G, Houston
This feels like a surprising pick for Detroit after trading up with Boston. The Pistons are already built around two guards in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, and just drafted another big guard in Ausar Thompson at No. 5. Sasser brings volume shooting and tough defense, but he’s a bit small for an NBA guard going with a top-25 pick. Detroit could have used a wing shooter here, and there were some good ones still on the board.
Ausar ThompsonOvertime Elite, USA
DETROIT PISTONS A-
This is the best possible way that the Thompson twins’ NBA journey could have started, being drafted one after the other. This pick is a swing for the fences, giving the Pistons yet another phenomenal athlete (along with last season’s haul in Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren) to run alongside Cade Cunningham and his cerebral gifts. Of the twins, Ausar was always the easier Thompson to project, despite having run-of-the-mill elite athleticism rather than the Kryptonian-on-Earth type that Amen boasts. Ausar has a jumble of skills—a great handle, lockdown defensive tools, passing vision, and stupid hops—in need of ironing and reprioritizing. Continued improvement to his shot will be crucial on a team that desperately needs shooters, and could determine just how much of his considerable potential he unlocks.
Marcus Sasser, Houston, Senior
DETROIT PISTONS B
After drafting for potential and athleticism with Ausar Thompson at no. 5, the Pistons are zeroing in on reliability by trading for another first-rounder and selecting Sasser. Despite being undersized, Sasser has ineffable qualities that will endear himself to Monty Williams’s coaching staff. He is a ruthless, tireless defender at the point of attack who will fight for every inch of real estate on the floor. He’s also a very good shooter who averaged seven 3-point attempts per game over his four-year college career. Sasser will make his presence felt in the locker room; Detroit is betting on tenacity at the end of the first round.
5. Detroit Pistons: SF Ausar Thompson, Overtime Elite
This possibly was a reach for the other Thompson twin, who is less regarded as a prospect than Amen and might have been available with a trade back. However, he’s a well-rounded player who seems to be further along as a shooter than his brother. Thompson is a true athletic wing and potential defensive stopper, one of the best in the draft class at that end. Here’s my concern in Detroit: Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey already are weak shooters, so there’s pressure to see Thompson help space the floor. Grade: B+
25. Detroit Pistons (via Grizzlies and Celtics): SG Marcus Sasser, Houston
The trade is that the Celtics, who acquired the pick in the Marcus Smart deal yesterday, are moving down to 31 for a future second. Detroit needs perimeter shooting and Sasser is a combo guard who can score. He could fit nicely next to Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. He’s also the kind of tough baller that Detroit wants. It’s interesting that Celtics traded this because they don’t add much. Grade: B
5. Detroit Pistons: Ausar Thompson (SG/SF, Overtime Elite)
Back-to-back picks for the Thompson twins. You love to see it, and you love to think about the open-court potential of a young Pistons team with Jaden Ivey, Cade Cunningham and now Ausar Thompson leading the break.
Like his identical twin brother, Amen, Ausar Thompson is another elite athlete. He is a quarter-step behind his brother but still absurdly explosive. He is also a willing passer, but he is better as a finisher than a creator. He is a good rebounder for his position and a potentially great defender, both on and off the ball.
He is technically the better-shooting twin, but really that just makes him the least worse shooter of the two. He has cleaner mechanics and therefore a better chance of solving this puzzle, but his shot still needs serious work. And if he can’t shoot, he’ll have trouble finding a fit.
The modern NBA doesn’t have a lot of openings for non-shooting wings who play off the ball, and Detroit doesn’t really have a stretch big to alleviate the spacing concerns. Thompson’s shooting is a huge swing skill in this draft, but there’s a lot to like about this pick regardless.
Overall Draft Grade
With the No. 5 pick, Detroit landed a prospect that will be a perfect fit in Ausar Thompson. In fact, we could look back on this draft and wonder how he didn’t go even higher. Alongside a talented trio of guards in Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Killian Hayes, Thompson is the ideal wing for this roster.
From there, the Pistons moved up into the first round using a package containing their early second rounder. In what was a surprising pick, Marcus Sasser was added to the already crowded Detroit backcourt. While there’s no question he’s a really good player, it will be interesting to see where his playing time comes from early in his career. Even if the team plans on running quite a few multi-guard lineups, Sasser is somewhat limited in terms of versatility due to his size.
13. Detroit Pistons
Picks: Ausar Thompson (#5), Marcus Sasser (#25)
I thought the Pistons should have targeted Walker with the No. 5 pick, but they decided to shore up their perimeter with an athletic defender and slashing scorer like Thompson. He’ll fit nicely next to Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, bringing a much-needed tenacious presence on defense.
Detroit also traded into the late first round to select Sasser, which was a confusing pick considering it already had the aforementioned guards and Killian Hayes, who it selected with the No. 7 pick in 2020.
Detroit Pistons (A-)
Ausar Thompson (5), Marcus Sasser (25)
I know there are concerns here with Thompson. But I think this was a good pick.
Roster Needs: 3-and-D wing, Frontcourt clarity, Point guard depth
Ausar Thompson (No. 5 overall), B-: For many evaluators, the No. 5 spot represents the first slot with real, tangible uncertainty. Ausar doesn’t quite match the obscene athleticism of his brother, Amen, but he is a tremendous athlete in his own right with size and versatility. At this juncture, Ausar plays more like a wing and could provide key flexibility for Detroit on both ends of the floor.
Marcus Sasser (No. 25 overall), B: This isn’t a flashy selection by any means, but it’s an appropriate landing spot on the board for Sasser. His pull-up shooting is intriguing on offense, and Sasser is a very strong on-ball defender. He’s limited in size and won’t give much in terms of penetration, but Sasser profiles as a rotation guard.