How Valentine, Davis, Felder, LeVert would fit with Pistons
In a good year for local college basketball programs, four players could be selected in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
And they’re not all from Michigan State or Michigan.
MSU forward Deyonta Davis and guard Denzel Valentine are regarded as potential lottery picks, with Michigan guard Caris LeVert and Oakland guard Kay Felder likely second-round selections.
The Pistons have the No. 18 pick in the first round and No. 49 in the second round, but could they end up with one (or more) of the local prospects? The Pistons’ roster needs are backup point guard and backup power forward, so there is a loose fit for any of the four.
With rumors of Valentine’s knee issues concerning some NBA general managers, his stock in mock drafts has slipped a bit, with some having him going to the Pistons in the first round. Because of uncertainty and comparable talent in the middle of the first round, Davis also could fall.
For LeVert and Felder, their hopes reside in getting a shot in the second round and being able to make an impression in summer league or training camp and being able to stick on the roster.
Here’s how each of the four local products could fit with the Pistons:
Denzel Valentine, 6-5, G/F
The Pistons covet a backup point guard, but at No. 18 Valentine could be too good a talent to pass up. With four years at MSU, he has more experience than most of the other prospects in this range and he has an NBA skill set that would allow him to play immediately. Valentine has point-guard skills and vision and also has the size and shooting ability to be an effective combo guard. The biggest question is whether he would be able to be an effective two-way player.
“The offensive part of it is you can do that a lot more easily than you can at the defensive end of the floor,” Pistons president Stan Van Gundy said this week, when asked about versatile players handling point-guard responsibilities. “Guarding the great point guards in our league becomes a problem.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Stanley Johnson potentially could defend the point guard instead of Valentine, in some situations. It’s an intriguing possibility, but with his upside and versatility, it’s unlikely that Valentine still will be around when the Pistons pick.
Deyonta Davis, 6-10, PF
A lot of needy teams would have to pass on Davis for him to fall to 18th, but the Pistons would love to have him. Davis didn’t get to show much on the offensive end in his one year with the Spartans, but he could add some rim protection coming off the bench for the Pistons. He’s not the stretch power forward that Van Gundy covets, but he could add some size and bulk to the reserve group. Van Gundy said he doesn’t expect the Pistons to land a player that could jump into the rotation immediately, but Davis could be an exception.
Kay Felder, 5-9, PG
While there are plenty of questions about Felder’s size, there surely aren’t as many about his heart. If Felder were 6-2, he’d likely be a lottery pick. With a 44-inch vertical at the combine, plus some good showing in workouts with teams, Felder could be an early-second-round selection — even before Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis — and stick with a team. The biggest concerns have been over Felder’s defensive skills, but he’s shown that those are unfounded and he can guard on the ball and on switches.
He had a workout with the Pistons last week and if they pick him, he’d be a dual threat to score and pass and would fit well if he could generate a fast pace with the reserve group. The Pistons likely need two guards, either through free agency or the draft, and they could do a lot worse than Felder.
Caris LeVert, 6-7, PG/SG
After missing most of his last two years at Michigan, LeVert became a wild card, with teams having serious concerns about his foot surgeries. They’re the same concerns that Kevin Durant had — and LeVert had the same surgeon who fixed Durant’s foot — but he was unable to participate at the combine and didn’t work out for teams ahead of the draft. If a team can get past those concerns, LeVert would be a prototypical wing, with excellent size, shooting and passing ability and defense.
He’d be a bargain for a team at the end of the first round, but likely will slide into the second round, with a non-guaranteed contract. Teams could want him to play in the D-League to show that the foot is healthy and allow him to get back to basketball speed before bringing him to the NBA.
He might not be available still at No. 49, but it might be worth it for the Pistons to trade up and get him early in the second round. He fits all the needs they have as a backup shooting guard, and if they can’t keep Caldwell-Pope beyond next year, he could be in their plans.