What if the Detroit Pistons don’t land Victor Wembanyama?
The Detroit Pistons are tanking this year, whether they mean to or not.
It’s year three of the Detroit Pistons rebuild under Troy Weaver, and it’s hard not to feel like the team is running in place. Faces change, but the formula has pretty much remained the same each season. Find a few solid veterans, surround them with defensively-challenged rookies and washed out lottery picks, and win about 27% of your games.
Most fans understood this was going to be a bit of a process. Hitting the lottery two years ago with Cade Cunningham felt like a huge step in the right direction. But injuries have slowed Cunningham. When healthy he looked like a future all-star, but not like a transformational superstar who will one day lift the Pistons to greatness.
Which brings us to Victor Wembanyama. If you haven’t heard, Victor Wembanyama is literally the next big thing. He’s a 19, he’s 7-foot-3, and he combines elite shot-blocking with the skills of a guard. Just look at this kid:
It’s an absurd package of skills. His floor seems to be Kristaps Porzingis, and his ceiling is an inner-circle Hall-of-Famer. He’s been compared to Ralph Sampson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Just about everyone agrees he’s the best NBA draft prospect since LeBron James. The team that lands him instantly sees its fortunes changed for at least a decade.
There’s just one problem.
The Detroit Pistons probably won’t get him. The math just isn’t in their favor. They can continue to play terrible basketball and finish with the worst record in the NBA, but that only guarantees them a 14% chance to pick first. Head over to Tankathon and give the lottery a few spins to see for yourself.
What if the Detroit Pistons pick 2nd?
Fortunately for Detroit, the second pick this year is no booby prize. Scoot Henderson is the consensus number two player in the draft, and in most years he’d be the top prospect. Henderson is a 6-foot-2 guard, but he’s an explosive athlete with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, tremendous strength, and play-making skills.
There are many similarities in the games of Henderson and Jaden Ivey, but this is a situation where you take the talent and figure out the rest later. The most likely scenario would be the Pistons eventually trading Ivey for a wing or a big who would help balance the roster.
The Sacramento Kings found themselves in a similar situation not long ago. They already had their lead guard in De’Aaron Fox, so they traded point guard Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana for big man Domantas Sabonis. It’s a deal that has worked out pretty well for both sides.
What if the Pistons Don’t Get a Top Two Pick?
This is the nightmare scenario. And, unfortunately, it’s pretty likely. As of right now there doesn’t appear to be a clear third option in this year’s draft. There are a handful of interesting wing options, but they all come with significant question marks.
Alabama freshman Brandon Miller may be the best shooter in the draft. He stands 6-foot-9 and is making nearly 45% of his threes on more than seven attempts per game. He’s a good passer and a solid rebounder, but he’s not terribly strong and he struggles to finish at the rim.
Twin brothers Amen and Ausar Thompson are extremely athletic slasher types. Amen is the more dynamic playmaker, while Ausar has shown signs of being a better shooter, and both could develop into the sort of elite defenders the Pistons desperately need. But the Pistons also need shooting, and neither Thompson brother projects to be a floor-stretching deep threat.
Jarace Walker has an NBA body (a Beef Stew-esque 6-for-8, 240 pounds) and a reputation for being an excellent defender. But, like Isaiah Stewart, he’s a bit of a tweener who doesn’t project to be more than an average shooter.
Villanova’s Cam Whitmore can nearly rival the Thompson twins in terms of athleticism and defensive potential, and he does it while weighing 30 pounds more. He’s among the youngest players in the draft, and he has moderate upside as a shooter. But he can’t come close to matching the Thompson brothers when it comes to making plays for others. He has essentially been a black hole this year, with just 10 assists to 27 turnovers through 14 games.
So that’s it for Detroit Pistons fans. Win the lottery and rejoice. Get the second pick and celebrate.
But if the Pistons pick third or lower? Then it’s back on that treadmill, with fans left to hope Troy Weaver eventually develops the ability to build an actual team.