5 guards for the Pistons: Shooter could be had at No. 12
With just a couple of days remaining until Thursday’s NBA Draft, there’s still plenty of intrigue.
And it’s not just about Lonzo Ball and his father any more.
Beyond the normal mock-draft projections of where players might land, there’s a simmering cauldron of trade talk and potential moves that could alter the balance of power among the teams chasing the champion Warriors.
The Sixers and Celtics busted things open with their blockbuster swap of the No. 1 and No. 3 picks and that could have a ripple effect on the rest of the top half of the first round. If the Lakers choose to go in any other direction besides Ball, it could make another tidal wave.
The Pistons have the 12th pick, which could yield a player who could become part of the rotation. Among the prospects they worked out were several first-round possibilities, some of whom could still be around when they pick.
While the Pistons have said they have no clear roster spots that need to be filled through the draft, they could take a look at some of the promising guards who are available. That could include a potential third point guard behind Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith or a shooting guard who could go along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Stanley Johnson.
Here’s a look at five guards who could be around when the Pistons pick at No. 12:
Donovan Mitchell (6-3), Louisville
He worked out for the Pistons on Sunday and seems to be one of the most likely choices, given some of the recent mock drafts.
At 6-foot-3, he could play either of the guard positions, but his defensive acumen — with a 6-foot-10 wingspan — sets him apart from the other options. He shot 35.4 percent from the college 3-point line last season and has outstanding athletic measurables.
Mitchell has risen up draft boards since he decided last month to keep his name in the draft. He might not be the answer to all the Pistons’ needs at the guard positions, but he’s a very good fill-in from a draft that isn’t filled with shooters.
There’s a chance that Mitchell won’t be around, possibly with the Hornets taking him at No. 11.
Luke Kennard (6-6), Duke
The Pistons got to see Kennard up close in a workout last week and he looks to be one of the best 3-point shooters in the draft, hitting 43.8 percent as a sophomore last season.
He has good size at 6-6 and addresses the Pistons’ greatest need from last season. But his value is not just in spot-up shooting; he’s also an excellent creator off the dribble and driving to the basket.
The questions abound about his athleticism and defense but his offense might be hard to overlook, given the lack of outside shooting last season.
Dennis Smith (6-2), North Carolina State
Long thought to be out of the Pistons’ reach at No. 12, it’s becoming a little more plausible as the top half of the first round shifts around, with players such as Zach Collins, Kennard and Mitchell pushing their way into the top 10.
Someone has to drop out, and there’s at least a possibility the Pistons could land Smith.
He was regarded as one of the top point guards after Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox, but there could be plenty of odd things happening if one or two picks go a certain way.
Frank Ntilikina (6-5), France
It’s another player who likely is out of the Pistons’ reach, especially with the Mavericks picking at No. 9. They’ve been high on Ntilikina, who is just 18 years old, and have invested a lot of resources in scouting him.
The Knicks also are interested, but the Mavericks hired Ntilikina’s Euroleague coach to head their summer league team in Orlando. That’s maybe a sign of what’s to come.
Malik Monk (6-3), Kentucky
Monk is probably the most unlikely to fall to the Pistons at 12th — but if he did, they’d take him in a heartbeat. He’s regarded as one of the best scorers and was rated among the top five just a few weeks ago.
Like Mitchell, he’s 6-3, without the same athleticism or reach, which could cause some teams to pass.
Again, the Hornets could be more interested at this spot, which could drop one of the other prospects to 12th.
NBA Draft preview
Thursday: Rod Beard’s mock draft 3.0
When: 7, Thursday
Where: Barclays Center, New York
Pistons: They have the No. 12 pick in the first round, but they do not have a second-round pick.