They say acceptance is the fifth and final step of grief. Oh, the irony.
Pistons fans around the world are still recovering from last week’s NBA Draft Lottery, one that saw the league’s worst team fall to the fifth pick when the real thing happened in June. Since the NBA changed its lottery, Detroit became the first team with the worst record to fall all the way to No. 5. Someone had to do it, eventually. The piston fan, surely, asks, “Why us?”
The show, however, must go on, and if Detroit doesn’t end up trading the No. 5 pick, it will have a lot of good players to choose from. Not Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson good, but good.
Here, I’ll list who I believe will be on the Pistons’ big board at No. 5, with Wembanyama and Henderson out of the picture. Enjoy; or at least try to.
1. Brandon Miller | 6-9 wings | 20 years old | Alabama
Listen, I wouldn’t put money on Miller being available at No. 5. He shouldn’t have gone down that far. However, I will not be shocked if he did.
For starters, teams will do their due diligence on the incident involving Miller while at Alabama. Second, there are reports he doesn’t interview well with NBA teams and not in good shape. Finally, the consensus on Miller is that he is the “safest” pick of the prospects behind Wembanyama. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing who can shoot, isn’t a liability on defense, can pass in the pick-and-roll but isn’t super athletic, isn’t an elite finisher and doesn’t have a Paul George-esque touch either. There are many things to like about Miller as a ball player. A lot. There are also drawbacks, though. There’s a world where, when you put all three of those things together, *I* could see teams rating Villanova’s Cam Whitmore or Overtime Elite’s Amen Thompson higher. Teams have a history of gambling upside down.
Again, I don’t think it’s going to happen but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did, so I’d rather have Miller on this particularly big board than leave him.
The Pistons are very high on Miller. If he was there at No. 5, he will be chosen, assuming all background checks matter. He fits a glaring need on the roster and, at the same time, he has upside beyond being “safe.”
Of course, Detroit wants Wembanyama, but it’s just asking the basketball gods for a top-3 pick. Miller or Henderson would be welcomed into the Motor City with open arms. I think there’s a non-zero chance Miller could still end up a Piston.
2. Jarace Walker | 6-8 forward | 19 years old | Houston
If the Pistons want to hone the defensive side of the ball and continue to build their foundation that way, Walker is the pick.
He is 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, has great defensive instincts, is athletic and switchable all over the court. The question for NBA teams to ask themselves, however, is this: How good is he offensively?
Walker is a great passer and playmaker, his shooting from distance has improved this season and I believe he has more on-ball creation in him than he showed in Houston. There is a world where I can see Walker being an effective small forward in the NBA if everything breaks down with his shot and his ballhandling becomes better than the consensus believes. Until that happens, though, he’s a power forward who can also play small-ball 5.
Defensively, a Jalen Duren–Isaiah Stewart-Walker frontcourt would be a lot of fun to watch as an observer and annoying score for opponents. Offensively, it could have hiccups if Stewart isn’t the floor spacer I think he will be and Walker’s shot or ballhandling doesn’t immediately translate.
3. Cam Whitmore | 6-7 wings | 18 years old | Villanova
Whitmore has a lot to like for the Pistons at No. 5, assuming he is available.
He brings great upside primarily because of his athleticism and ability to attack the rim. He has a strong and compact frame to go along with his burst that will, surely, prevent defenders from second-guessing him. Whitmore can create his own shot and has a jumper I believe, despite shooting just 34 percent from 3 last season at Villanova.
Whitmore’s feel for the game, however, raises many questions. He averaged less than an assist per game as a freshman. There was a lot of tunnel vision. NBA teams need to figure out who he is or if the lack of help on the Wildcats contributed to a lot of that. Defensively, Whitmore is a solid defender due to his size and foot speed. He’s better on the ball than this.
It’s easy to see how Whitmore combines Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, but Detroit will benefit greatly from having as many high-IQ basketball players as possible during this rebuilding phase if the goal is to move forward. Whitmore needs to prove to teams that he can do more offensively than just put the ball in the basket.
4. Taylor Hendricks | 6-9 forward | 19 years old | UCF
Hendricks is a fraud because NBA teams really have to buy into him as a ballhandler and playmaker to see upside, but if those things come, man, we could be talking about one of the better ones. player in this class five years from now.
Hendricks has a 7-foot-plus wingspan and can be all over the court. Defensively, he moves his feet well, has good switchability and has great chops as a weak rim protector. Offensively, as I said before, his ceiling will depend on his growth as a ballhandler and playmaker, but he should step in and be an impactful 3-and-D player right away, as he shot 39.4 percent from 3 as a freshman. He’s a good rebounder for his size, too.
Hendricks checks a lot of boxes for the Pistons, both in terms of team need and upside potential.
5. Amen Thompson | 6-7 lead guard | 20 years old | Overtime Elite
I wouldn’t be surprised if Thompson is off the board when the Pistons pick at No. 5, but his alone merits consideration if he’s there, despite the imperfect roster fit.
Thompson is a lead guard. That will be his next level to reach his peak as a prospect. Thompson is a very good athlete who attacks the rim with power and has great body control. He really got up. Furthermore, Thompson sees the game very well with the ball in his hands and makes some high-level reads. Shooting is his biggest concern on offense. The mechanics are, um, not great. However, to be fair, Thompson spent his time in Overtime Elite shooting from NBA 3-point range, while college prospects have to make that adjustment. Will that help him? Of course. He may also be far from being a decent NBA shooter, if he ever gets there.
Defensively, Thompson isn’t the cleanest player in terms of discipline and mechanics, but his size and athleticism give him real upside on that side of the floor. He makes some defensive plays that make you stop and say, “Wow!”
As for the Pistons, the league’s worst team shouldn’t be picking for fit. If decision makers consider Thompson the best prospect on the board at No. 5, he should choose. However, it’s hard to see how Thompson, a lead ballhandler who can’t shoot, works with Cunningham and Ivey, both in the short and long term Detroit really needs to believe in Thompson’s shooting to come and/or believe in his upside will pass. in Ivey’s advancement.
I believe there are other prospects to be had at No. 5 cleaner for Detroit AND still has massive upside, but the question that needs to be answered is … do any of those players have the upside of Thompson if everything breaks right?
I’m glad I don’t have to answer that question.
(Top photo of Taylor Hendricks: Jerome Miron / USA Today)