The Pistons enter this offseason with the 5th-worst record in the NBA and looking at a complete rebuild heading forward. The Blake Griffin experiment did not experience the success that Detroit had hoped for when they traded for him halfway through 2018 and will look to the draft to begin the rebuild. They have some young talent on the roster as is, but none of the players on the team are capable of making that large of an impact for a team in contention.
The Pistons have not been good in the draft in the last 10 years which is the reason that Detroit has to hit the hard reset button right now. The last 4 first-round draft picks, Stanley Johnson in 2015, Henry Ellenson in ‘16, Luke Kennard in ‘17, and Sekou Doumbouya in’19, have not made the difference that was expected of them yet in their careers. For the first two, they did not last in Detroit for the length of their rookie deal. Ellenson is out of the NBA and Stanley Johnson did not play off the bench for Toronto this year.
Kennard has been solid so far in his career but has not shown the potential to be anything more than a solid role player who can shoot. Doumbouya had an interesting rookie year split between the G-League and the NBA. At the top level, Doumbouya showed flashes of excellence at times as he could finish athletically around the rim with authority and hit from deep. However, Doumbouya was inconsistent and very bad defensively. He is still only 19, and will only get better with time and potentially become a star that Detroit desperately needs.
The Pistons have been mediocre in drafting recently and that is a big part of the team’s struggles and need for a rebuild. They must improve under new GM Troy Weaver if they want to have a more successful decade than the last.
Prior to the halt of the NBA season, the Pistons were one of the worst teams in the league and were trending to be a bottom 4 team in the league, however they stopped at 5th from the bottom. The starting 5 of those teams were Brandon Knight, Svi Mykhailiuk, Tony Snell, Christian Wood, and Thon Maker. Not exactly a starting 5 that can lead a franchise to success, outside of Wood and Mykhailiuk.
The bench beyond them ranked towards the bottom of the league as players such as John Henson, Tim Frazier, Bruce Brown, and Langston Galloway making up the second unit. Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard, who were bright spots early in the season, got injured and were out for an extended period of time. Rose was most likely going to miss the rest of the season regardless.
The Pistons only lose 3 player total in Free Agency this offseason, Brandon Knight, John Henson, and Christian Wood. The Piston’s number one priority this offseason must be to resign Christian Wood because of the surge he had at the end of the season. Wood was signed by Detroit off waivers entering the season, and he battled for the last roster spot and won. Since then, Wood has been transcendent in his first real chance in the NBA.
Since the Pistons traded Andre Drummond, Wood averaged 24.2 points, 9.8 boards, and 1.4 blocks per game, showing that he can be the next starting center for Detroit. Wood can stretch the floor and hit the 3 at a high clip, and take his defenders off the dribble, making him a perfect center for the modern offenses of the NBA. The Pistons must include him in their rebuilding plans as a key piece and should be willing to give him a contract that mirrors other key role players such as Robert Covington in Houston or Caris Levert in Brooklyn. Both players make between $17-$20 million annually, and I think the market for Wood will be similar. The Pistons have the cap space and need Wood, so they should do whatever it takes to keep him.
The Pistons currently have the 5th worst record in the NBA with a 12.5% chance to get the first overall pick. The Pistons should take the best player available, as there is not much talent on the roster overall. They also have the 36th pick of the draft, in the second round.
The Pistons are in dire need of assistance across the board, with needs at every position except for possibly center if Wood resigns.
The Pistons lack the firepower from the guard and wing position that has driven so many of the successful NBA teams in recent years. I think they need to look for someone that thrives as a playmaker for others and can create their own shot as well, as the Pistons do not have a good shot creator on the roster. At the top of the draft, there are lots of players that could fill the Pistons’ needs wherever they fall between 1 and 8.
Prospects to Target
Why not start at the top of the list, shall we? It’s not inconceivable that Detroit winds up with a top 3 pick or even the first overall pick. And it just so happens that arguably the best prospect in the draft this year is exactly what Detroit needs. Ball is a pure playmaker that has the best passing ability of any prospect in the draft. Also, Ball stands at 6’7 as a point guard, giving him the ability to shoot over others easily and be versatile on defense.
For the Pistons, he would slide into the starting point guard spot instantly and be The Guy from day one. He has a tight handle and is quick enough to beat defenders consistently off the dribble, and can either finish strong at the rim or find a teammate for a wide-open shot. Ball has experience playing pro ball too, so the gap to the NBA will not be too big for Ball like it is for some prospects.
For me, the most exciting part of his game is his court vision and awareness. Ball knows exactly where all 9 other players are at all moments, and he knows where the ball needs to go to properly attack the defense. Just take a look below at how Ball has the ball on a string and make the defense move to create an open shot for his teammate.
LaMelo Ball is my #1 prospect of the 2020 class
Has the most “you can’t teach that” stuff to his game
(Of all the top prospects he also has the most technical basketball stuff that has to be polished as well) pic.twitter.com/fdBUZZA3TJ
— Jason Maples (@JJMaples55_MST) May 5, 2020
Hayes could be placed on any team in the NBA and instantly find success. He’s the quintessential point guard that every franchise needs – playmaking, shooting, and defense – at the position. His ceiling is out of this world and should easily contribute to the success of the Pistons going forward.
I was impressed with Hayes’s shooting ability. With a remarkable 90 percent free throw percentage, Hayes is a natural shooter. In addition, Hayes shot 39 percent from three. He’s shown an ability to be an elite perimeter shooter in the Eurocup which will translate to the NBA. Furthermore, his mechanics are nearly perfect. He keeps his elbows to his side, releases the ball at its highest point, and finishes with fluidity. With his passing and shooting ability, Hayes will keep coaches up at night.
Speaking of passing ability, Hayes’ vision is extraordinary and accurate. He knows where his guys should be before they get there. His passes are pinpoint accurate, catching guys right in stride. I love the touch he puts on his passes, it just seems so smooth when watching his tape. Overall, he’s a creative playmaker that will constantly destroy defenders that fall asleep and force the opposing offense to stay on their toes. Take a look at his offensive arsenal below.
Killian Hayes is one of my favorite draft prospects in the 2020 class. Crafty scorer, good playmaker, lethal stepback. Feel like he’s just scratching the surface pic.twitter.com/p61vUvmPEz
— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) March 24, 2020
The Pistons could make a lot of fans happy if they take the Detroit native with their second-round pick. Winston is a crafty playmaker who thrived in college creating for others and running an offense, which is something that Detroit lacks and desperately needs. Winstons holds the record for career assists in the Big 10 and averaged 10 assists a game for nearly 2 years straight, making him one of the best passers in college basketball history.
For the Pistons, he could be a cheap option at point guard that has a known value as a shooter and a playmaker on offense. Winston is below average on defense, but his astute point guard plays more than makes up for it. Look at these passes.
— Nate Schmidt (@NSchmidty2) October 6, 2017
Malachi Flynn is another point guard that the Pistons could take with their second-round pick. Flynn is not a pure point guard like Winston but brings scoring that the Pistons need from the guard spot. Flynn is exceptional at creating for himself and uses his quick release to get his shot off before defenders can get close enough to hinder him. Flynn was successful in college relying on his dribbling ability and shooting ability, which can help him succeed in the NBA.
If the Pistons are seeking more of a scorer rather than a distributor, Flynn would be a great option. He is also a much stronger defender than Winston but does not have that insane feel for the game that separates Winston from others.
Malachi Flynn (@malachi_flynn3)
6-1 San Diego State
The only NCAA player w/:
BPM > 10
AST% > 30
USG% > 25
TO% < 15
— Derek Murray (@dmurrayNBA) May 11, 2020
The Pistons must walk away from this draft with an upgrade at either the point guard or wing position. The secondary guard role is filled with Kennard and Mykhailiuk, and the center could be set with Wood, so the Pistons need to fill in the holes elsewhere. I think with their first pick, the Pistons will target one of the premier point guards in the draft such as Lamelo Ball or Killian Hayes. If the Pistons drop and cannot take them, a player such as Tyrese Haliburton or Deni Advija could be an option for Detroit.
In the second round in recent years, the Pistons have often opted to take players who have exceptional defensive talent and projects on offense. I think they should look for another guard such as Cassius Winston or Malachi Flynn, but the Pistons could go for a 3 and D player on the wing instead. They could look to target someone like Elijah Hughes, Cassius Stanley, or Jahmi’us Ramsey to give them depth on the wing. All of these players are boom or bust prospects and could be worth the investment if they hit on their potential as a wing player in the NBA.