As the 2023 NBA Draft draws closer, the Detroit Pistons front office narrows its board for top targets with the fifth overall pick.
Pistons general manager Troy Weaver has made it clear the team is open to trading the pick, but the return has to outweigh the talent available to the team. It would not be shocking if Detroit waited to see how the board fell with the first four picks before making a decision on trading pick No. 5 or not.
At fifth overall, the likes of Villanova’s Cam Whitmore and Houston’s Jarace Walker have received a lot of attention as potential fits in Detroit. In an episode of The Bun & Cardigan Show, Detroit Pistons beat writer James Edwards III said he believed the Pistons decision at fifth overall will come down to four players. Whitmore and Walker were the first two names Edwards mentioned. The other two were the Thompson twins.
Playing for Overtime Elite, the Thompson twins have received plenty of hype entering the NBA Draft. Amen Thompson has often received the most attention as a primary ball-handler and playmaker. However, Ausar Thompson could be the better fit with the Pistons if the team decides to select someone other than Whitmore or Walker.
The 20-year-old averaged 16.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.3 blocks and 2.7 steals during his time with Overtime Elite. Ausar Thompson has the athletic upside to be a good NBA player, and, unlike his brother, he has a more proven track record of producing as an off-ball player.
Ausar Thompson provides another top defensive prospect for the Detroit Pistons
Thompson’s defensive impact is possibly his most developed trait entering the NBA. The 6-foot-7 wing makes the most of his length and athleticism to shadow opposing ball-handlers.
Thompson combines good lateral quickness and hand usage to disrupt the offense. He possesses good instincts and is able to anticipate opponents’ movements. He often beats ball-handlers to their spots. His speed and length should allow him to guard ones through threes consistently at the NBA level effectively. Against larger players, he makes an impact as a help-side defender. Thompson rotates well and utilizes good timing and verticality to block attempts at the rim.
He is not without his mental lapses on defense, and he can be overly aggressive at times when attempting a steal or block. But when Thompson is locked in, he can be a game-changer on the defensive end of the court. Coaching will clean up some of the sloppy defense that can plague Thompson at times, but his aggressiveness will be something teams will covet once he learns when to use it.
Ausar Thompson turns defense into offense and would provide the Detroit Pistons with a solid off-ball player
Thompson forces turnovers, and he thrives when he can take the ball in transition. He pushes the pace and makes the most of his speed to get up the court fast.
While he is not a primary ball-handler by any means, Thompson has proven himself to be a reliable playmaker from the wing. He is consistently aware of his outlet options when driving to the rim and when pushing the ball in transition. He has a good feel for where the ball should go and will make the extra pass.
Thompson works well off-ball. He is one of the best cutters in this year’s draft class. He reads defenses well and finds opportunities to catch his man off guard and get open for an easy lob or layup at the rim.
Ausar Thompson’s offensive game is a work in progress
One major knock on both Thompson twins is that they struggle to shoot the ball with consistency, especially from beyond the arc. In that respect, Ausar is a bit further along in his development than Amen.
Ausar Thompson has shown significant improvement as a shooter during his time with Overtime Elite. While he was tracked as a 30 percent three-point shooter, Thompson ended the season shooting better than he started. His shooting mechanics transformed during this time, and he started to have a more consistent and clean jump shot. In the OTE playoffs, he shot 38.5 percent from beyond the arc. Thompson still has a ways to go in improving his shot, but the progress he has shown provides promise that he can become at least an average three-point shooter in the NBA.
Creating for himself is something Thompson needs to figure out. He struggles to finish around the rim on drives, and he is not comfortable when attempting pull-up jumpers. Some of his issues around the rim could be alleviated with better spacing. Thompson was often trying to finish through a clogged lane, but he needs to become more confident in his touch and handle.
Thompson’s cutting is already good. His shooting is a work it progress, but he has shown marked improvement. If he can put these two aspects together alongside his defense and tertiary playmaking, he will be a good starting NBA player. If he can piece together self-creation and consistent finishing around the rim, then he starts to enter the potential All-Star conversation.
Ausar Thompson’s potential fit on the Detroit Pistons
The Pistons do not need another ball-dominant player in their starting lineup. Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey have already established themselves as the team’s two primary ball-handlers. While Amen Thompson has a lot of upside at the NBA level, he needs the ball in his hands to thrive. That potential fit makes things difficult. Ausar Thompson, on the other hand, provides a better fit due to his proven ability to play off-ball.
Assuming Bojan Bogdanovic remains on the roster, there is no need to start Thompson right away. However, with Cunningham and Ivey it is easy to envision Thompson providing a quick option to kick the ball to in transition. His cutting and verticality also make him a legitimate lob threat for Ivey and Cunningham to get the ball to.
Thompson’s offensive upside may not be as high as Whitmore’s, but his defense will instantly be more impactful than the Villanova product’s. His defense may not be as consistent as Walker’s, but he provides an easier fit at the three than the Houston product provides. Whitmore and Walker are understandably the favorites to land with Detroit, but Thompson should not be counted out.
For more from the author, Thomas Chavez, check him out on Twitter here: @tlchavez43
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