After suffering through a league-worst 17-65 record, Detroit Pistons fans endured the worst-case scenario at the NBA Draft Lottery. Tied for the best odds to land the No. 1 pick in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, the Pistons could fall no further than the fifth overall pick in the lottery. As fate would have it, that is exactly where Detroit fell to.
A desire to rip the lottery system to shreds came over most Pistons fans after the lottery, but the team’s general manager was unfazed. Troy Weaver made it clear he was never going to rely on a lottery to determine the future success of this team. The GM said he will entertain the idea of trading the fifth pick. Wembanyama is no longer a possibility for the Pistons. Neither is Scoot Henderson, and Brandon Miller is a longshot. , but there are plenty of enticing prospects still available with the selection.
One of those prospects is Villanova’s Cam Whitmore. The 18-year-old forward played well on an underperforming Wildcats team in 2022-23. After missing the first seven games of the season with a thumb injury, Whitmore posted solid numbers. He averaged 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game during his lone season with Villanova.
Whitmore will have to slip past the Houston Rockets with the fourth pick, which is certainly a reasonable possibility, but he will definitely be a player on the Detroit Pistons’ radar during draft night.
Cam Whitmore can be a dynamic offensive threat for the Detroit Pistons
Whitmore stands at 6-foot-7 and weighs in at 225 pounds. He offers a wide wingspan and is one of the best pure athletes in this draft class.
His athletic abilities are functional and versatile at the NBA level. Whitmore combines his size, strength and athleticism to drive to the basket. He blends a quick first step to blow past defenders and a powerful drive to create separation or finish through contact. He connected on 64.5 percent of his attempts around the rim this past season.
Whitmore pushes the pace in transition and showed flashes of self-creation ability outside the arc. There is plenty of room to grow as a self-creator, but the potential is there. His ability to put that part of his game together could be the difference between him becoming an All-Star caliber player or a reliable starter.
With Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey already serving as heavy on-ball guards, the Pistons need a prospect who can be effective without the ball in his hands. Whitmore showed that ability at Villanova. He is a very effective cutter. Whitmore shot 73.9 percent on cuts to the basket in 2022-23. He has good timing and feel for the right time to make his move toward the rim. His athletic tools make him a dangerous above-the-rim finisher off a Cunningham or Ivey lob to the hoop.
Some have posed questions about Whitmore’s effectiveness as a shooter. He shot 34.3 percent from beyond the arc overall as a Wildcat, but that does not tell the whole story. On catch-and-shoot three-pointers, Whitmore shot 40 percent, significantly more efficient than his isolation three-pointers or pull-up threes. His spot-up shooting numbers suggest he should be a serviceable floor spacer early with room to grow as his career progresses.
Cam Whitmore has the tools to be a good defender for the Detroit Pistons, but he needs to piece things together
Whitmore makes the most of his athletic tools on the defensive end of the court. His solid foot speed helps him stay in front of ball handlers on the perimeter, and his size and strength help him wall up closer to the paint. He offers some switchability, but should not be expected to guard centers or quicker guards.
Whitmore utilizes his wingspan to disrupt passing lanes and poke the ball free. He is able to steal the ball through traffic and quickly take it the other way in transition.
As an on-ball defender, there is good reason to believe Whitmore can be serviceable early on in his career, but as an off-ball defender, he has plenty of room to grow.
He has mental lapses where he loses his man and gives up easy passes or shots. He does not close out to perimeter shooters well. Opponents can easily sidestep his reckless closeouts or pump fake and drive to the rim. Whitmore’s screen navigation is a work in progress too.
Many of these issues can be solved just by getting Whitmore more engaged on defense. A coaching staff can easily teach him the proper way to close out on shooters. Coaching and experience will help him in navigating screens. However, the lapses will only go away if he can get engaged as an off-ball defender.
Cam Whitmore’s tunnel vision problems
Whitmore is not much of a playmaker. He only averaged 0.7 assists per game this past season. He makes some poorly-timed passes and can be a ball-stopper at times. Whitmore gets tunnel vision when driving to the hoop and does not see the open man when he draws a double team. Instead, he often forces up a highly contested shot.
How much of this is due to Villanova’s struggles as a team this past season is up for debate. Whitmore was not exactly surrounded by high-quality talent, but these bad habits could be a hindrance to him in the NBA if he does not shake them.
Cam Whitmore’s fit with the Detroit Pistons
Of the remaining players outside Wembanyama, Henderson and Miller, Whitmore may have the highest upside of the bunch. He has the scoring upside, the tools to be an effective defender and the off-ball offensive skillset to succeed at the NBA level. If everything goes right, he could be an All-Star talent.
The Pistons could use a third star to pair with Cunningham and Ivey. Whitmore’s game complements the backcourt duo nicely. His effective cutting and reliable spot-up shooting will pair nicely with such a ball-dominant pair of guards. His upside as a self-creator will be interesting to see develop as a potential tertiary ball-handler.
With Bojan Bogdanovic currently on the roster, there would be no pressure to force Whitmore into the starting lineup right away. He could take the time needed to adjust to the level and pace of NBA play.
There is no guarantee Whitmore is available at pick No. 5, but if he is, his athletic tools and off-ball instincts on the offensive side of the ball make him worth a swing.
For more from the author, Thomas Chavez, check him out on Twitter here: @tlchavez43
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