This past season for the Detroit Pistons was a season filled with hope. With the organization in the process of a rebuild, and rookie point guard Cade Cunningham leading the way, there wasn’t much to expect from the deteriorating franchise.
The player leading the Pistons is a 20-year-old rookie, newly introduced to a league with seasoned veterans and legends who put up 30 points a night like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and more. Those big names are hard to overcome.
The only expectation to be met for the Pistons? Be better than the previous year, and that, they did.
Amid a rebuild, the Pistons finished with a 23-win season, having the third-worst record in the league, a minor improvement from the season prior, where they finished with the second-worst record in the league, allowing them to obtain a generational-type talent in Cade Cunningham.
Now, the Pistons sit in a similar position as they earned the fifth overall selection in this year’s upcoming NBA Draft. And although it isn’t the first overall pick, it’s still a top-5 lottery pick that will give the Pistons a chance to find an up-and-coming, young player that will shape as a dangerous duo with Cunningham for years to come.
This year’s draft is filled with talent within each position, but it's the big men who are headlining and expected to be taken first, something that Detroit is seeking. Auburn’s Jabari Smith (F), Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren (PF/C), and Duke’s Paolo Banchero (F) are the top-3 prospects in this year’s draft, and are projected to be off the board by the time the Pistons are on the clock.
The draft this year is also speculated to be one of the most unpredictable drafts. Now, assuming that happens, (Smith, Holmgren, and Banchero going top-3), the Pistons will be forced to look towards a perimeter-player that can play on and off the ball, potentially create better spacing, and ultimately take some of the pressure off of Cunningham. Prospects like Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, or Kentucky’s Shadeon Sharpe.
Detroit could also go in somewhat of a different direction and select Iowa’s Keegan Murray, or even Arizona's Bennedict Mathurin.
Let’s take a look at each prospect and break down the type of player the Pistons would be getting, whoever it is they choose. Oh yea, and my choice on who they should pick!
Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
Jaden Ivey is easily the best athlete in this draft class, but he also has one of the highest ceilings. Standing at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Ivey is an aggressive and explosive guard who is a nightmare in the open court. His outstanding burst and speed allow for his slashing specialty to come into play, as he can finish around the rim, no matter who is in front of him. Ivey loves grabbing the rebound off an opponent’s miss and applying pressure to the defense in transition, resulting in fastbreak points for him or his teammates. He’s also a pretty good spot-up shooter. On the defensive side, Ivey defends very well along the perimeter. He played strong on-ball defense throughout his college career, showing he is an active, quick-handed defender.
What’s pretty cool about Ivey, and something many isn’t aware of, is that he has ties to Detroit and the Pistons’ franchise. Niele Ivey, Jaden Ivey’s mother and current head coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team, played in the WNBA for the Detroit Shock in 2005. James Hunter, who is Jaden Ivey’s grandfather, played in the NFL for the Detroit Lions.
Now, it might just be because Ivey is a flashy and explosive guard, and that’s my cup of tea, but this is who I believe the Pistons should select on draft night. This guy has showtime written all over him and matching that up with a player like Cade, it could be pretty special. Problem is, there are some projections that say Ivey will be gone by the time the Pistons are on the clock. I guess we will see on draft night.
NBA Comparisons: John Wall, Derrick Rose, shades of Ja Morant, and Russell Westbrook.
Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
Murray was an exceptional player at Iowa, and also a guy that burst onto the scene just this year. Keegan can flat out score the basketball, while also playing efficiently. He loves to post guys up in the paint, back them down, and make a move for a tough bucket, but be careful because he can also scorch you from behind the arc. His ability to score the basketball on all three levels of the floor allowed him to finish in the top five for PPG (23.5). He’s also a major threat in transition, as he handles and scores the ball well on fastbreaks. He’s a very good floor spacer, which is something that would be great for Detroit with Cade. He can rebound the ball very well, especially offensive rebounding, and moves actively without the ball. The cuts he makes to the basket are crisp, usually resulting in points or free throws.
Murray is the most complete player in this draft class. He even got praise on Twitter from Cade Cunningham’s cousin and lifelong personal trainer, Ashton Bennings, who is an NBA player development coach. In the tweet on Bennings’ Twitter account, @AshtonDaTrainer, Bennings wrote “Sorry guys but Keegan Murray is the most complete player in this draft.” Now, he could be joking because it is Twitter, but it’s something worth noting.
I wasn't very high on Murray in the beginning of this whole thing, but he’s started to come around for me. He could very well end up in Detroit, and although he isn’t a fan favorite, I think if Murray is in a Pistons uniform it will be a solid choice.
NBA Comparisons: Otto Porter, Pascal Siakam
Shadeon Sharpe, G, Kentucky
Shadeon Sharpe is the biggest question mark in this year’s draft. The 6-foot-4, 18-year-old guard didn’t play a game at Kentucky, but based on the film, he’s got game. I’ve watched some of his film from the EYBL, and his ability to create his own shot, and his very quick first step, will allow him to be pretty special in the big leagues. Sharpe has great power in being able to break off the defender and cashing a stepback three-pointer, or midrange pull-up, while also having a great range from three. He can also jump out of the gym, as his athleticism usually results in flashy dunks and tough alley-oops.
I believe Sharpe can be a dangerous force in this league. Of course, we must see him play an actual game first, but Sharpe has great potential to be something very special in this league. I believe Sharpe should be the guy they look towards if Ivey is off the board, but Sharpe has a great chance to be taken at #4 by the Sacramento Kings.
NBA Comparisons: Paul George, Anthony Edwards, shades of Bradley Beal.
Bennedict Mathurin, G/F, Arizona
Mathurin plays with a force that is difficult to avoid. His quick first step and leaping ability allow for him to blow by defenders and finish at or above the rim. He also is a dangerous shooter, as he can pull up from three, creates his shot, or hit you with a quick step-back. His range is pretty deep too, a guy who you will see hit some of those logo threes.
To me, Mathurin has the highest bust potential out of these four, which is why I don’t think the Pistons should go this way, but hey I would love to be proved wrong.
NBA Comparisons: Jason Richardson
It is talked about that this draft selection will so far be the most important choice of the career of newly hired general manager Troy Weaver, and although my choice is Jaden Ivey, all of these prospects can fit well within the Pistons system and should have great NBA careers.