The 2023 NBA Draft is just mere days away. Detroit Pistons fans will not have to wait too long to see their team selecting a new young prospect.
The Thursday night event kicks off with one of the most telegraphed selections of all time. Victor Wembanyama has been the consensus top pick in this year’s class since before last year’s draft. If he is not a San Antonio Spur on draft night, a lot of betters are placing mortgages on their houses.
While the order of picks two and three are still up in the air, Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller are near locks to land in the top three with either the Charlotte Hornets or Portland Trailblazers.
The fourth pick is where this year’s draft truly gets interesting. The Houston Rockets hold the selection and are the final factor determining how the draft board falls for the Pistons. Anyone can predict Wembanyama, Henderson and Miller going in picks one through three. Four is where a player the Pistons’ front office believes could realistically be available at fifth overall will be taken.
Amen Thompson has emerged as a potential favorite in Houston. The Overtime Elite guard has high athletic upside and would provide the team with a desperately needed point guard. While he is not a lock to land with the Rockets, in this exercise, we will assume Thompson is the pick at No. 4 overall.
The first four prospects off the board leaves Detroit with plenty of intriguing options. The team can take a swing on upside, go for a sure thing or trade back and accrue more assets.
Detroit Pistons could take a swing on upside with Cam Whitmore
If there is anyone in this class outside the top four selections who has All-Star upside, Whitmore is that player. The Villanova product has elite and functional athleticism at the forward position.
Whitmore stands at 6-foot-7 and weighs in at 225 pounds with a long wingspan. He drives to the basket with ease by utilizing a combination of quickness and power. Whitmore finished 64.5 percent of his attempts around the rim in 2022-23. He is one of the most instinctual cutters in this class as well. He shot 73.9 percent on attempts where he cut to the basket.
Whitmore is a work in progress as a shooter, but he should provide adequate spacing as a rookie. He was a 34.3 percent three-point shooter at Villanova, but he shot 40 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts.
The 18-year-old has shown promise on the defensive end of the court, but he suffers through too many mental lapses for that to be considered a strength at this point in his development. Where Whitmore truly struggles is with tunnel vision. His decision-making is poor, and he often forces up highly contested shots instead of finding open teammates. Clearing that up will be a priority upon entering the league.
If the Pistons want to take a swing for the fences, Whitmore makes the most sense of any player available at fifth overall. If Whitmore can lock in on defense and see the court better, he could be something special in this league.
Detroit Pistons can take the sure thing in Jarace Walker
It is not that Walker lacks upside. The Houston product simply projects to have a higher floor than the likes of Whitmore.
Walker hangs his hat on the defensive side of the floor. He does everything necessary to be an impactful defensive playmaker. Walker has a situational awareness that ranks near the top of this class. He plays passing lanes, rotates well, navigates screens well and walls up in the paint.
Walker can defend wings and bigs. He offers a good size and length combination. While he can switch onto guards for short periods of time, he should never find his home guarding backcourt players.
Offensively, Walker is a work in progress. He struggles to finish through contact, shooting only 26.8 percent on drives to the hoop. However, he has shown promise as a floor spacer. He shoots 34.4 percent on catch-and-shoot threes, not a great number, but teams can work with that. Walker is effective as a cutter as well.
Where he shows unique promise is as a facilitator. Walker will never be a primary ball-handler or playmaker, but he sees the court well and can make the right read to find an open shooter or cutter.
Walker’s fit might be a bit awkward at first, especially if the Pistons plan on starting him alongside Isaiah Stewart at the forward position. Walker can play the three, but his most natural position is at the four. It is a transition he can make if needed. While he works on his offensive game, Walker will earn minutes through his high defensive impact
The Detroit Pistons can trade back and target Ausar Thompson or Taylor Hendricks
The Pistons have made it clear they are open to trading back for the right price. It is likely the team tries to stay within the top 10 of this year’s draft in any potential trade-back scenario. Two players who could be on the team’s radar in a trade-back are Thompson and Hendricks.
Thompson is an athletic wing who struggles to shoot but has tertiary playmaker skills. He offers good defense and solid feel as an off-ball player. Thompson’s three-point shot improved as the season progressed, and he shot 38.5 percent from beyond the arc in the playoffs with Overtime Elite. He needs to become more confident in his touch around the rim and with his handle, but he has good upside due to his athletic tools.
If any player will challenge Walker for best wing defender in this class, it is Hendricks. The UCF product makes the most of his size and length to guard multiple positions on the court. He moves well in space on the perimeter, and he can wall up in the paint to guard big men. Hendricks thrives as a three-point shooter. He shot 39.4 percent from beyond the arc in his lone season with UCF. He offers a springy lob threat in transition and off of cuts as well. The rest of his offensive game is a work in progress.
Thompson is the swing on upside option in a trade-back scenario while Hendricks is the higher floor prospect.
If the right trade offer comes along, the Pistons are going to entertain trading back in this year’s draft. Recent reports indicate both Thompson and Hendricks impressed during their individual workouts with the Detroit Pistons. If the front office falls in love with either player, selecting them with the fifth overall pick is in play as well.
For more from the author, Thomas Chavez, check him out on Twitter here: @tlchavez43
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