5 frontcourt players for Pistons: Help wanted now

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

As the Pistons continue to prepare for Thursday’s NBA Draft, they’re focusing on ways to improve the squad, from a draft position that hasn’t yielded a lot of success in recent years.

While the Pistons’ spot at No. 12 is a good one, most of the premier talent in this year’s stocked draft will be off the board by the time their selection comes around. And while they’re committed to getting more depth on the roster, they’re also looking for players who will fit into the playing rotation.

Last year’s first-round pick, Henry Ellenson, taken 18th, found more playing time with the Grand Rapids Drive in the Development League than with the Pistons.

That’s why some of the prospects they’re considering in the draft are either centers or small forwards, leaving enough room for Ellenson to continue to develop at power forward.

It’s not clear whether the Pistons will keep the pick or potentially trade it to try to get a “win-now” veteran, but there could be more developments that give a glimpse of their longer-term plan.

Here’s a look at some forwards and centers the Pistons could be considering with the No. 12 pick:

Zach Collins (7-0), Gonzaga

Long thought to be one of the best all-around bigs in the draft, the 7-foot center could be gone by the time the Pistons’ pick comes around. He’s been projected to go as high as No. 7 to the Minnesota Timberwolves or to the Sacramento Kings at No. 10. He is skilled both in the paint and outside the 3-point arc, two coveted assets.

There are other good bigs in the draft, and with the Kings picking 10th there are plenty of wild cards as to which direction they could go.

The fit for the Pistons would be as the third center, possibly getting some minutes as he fills out to an NBA body.

OG Anunoby (6-8), Indiana

There are question marks surrounding Anunoby, who left Indiana after his sophomore season.

He could be an asset as a premium defender and mismatch on the floor, but he’s not at a great position of need for the Pistons. Anunoby has struggled with injuries and likely would struggle to find a fit and playing time with the Pistons.

At 6-8 and 230 pounds, Anunoby is a physical specimen, with a 7-2 wingspan, but this would be more of a luxury pick — with some clear risk — than one of need.

Harry Giles (6-10), Duke

If Anunoby is a risk, this is twice the risk, as Giles is coming off two ACL surgeries.

He played only one season with the Blue Devils — and missed the first 11 games — but was one of the top recruits coming out of high school.

In his workout with the Pistons, the 6-10 Giles said he was at 100 percent but teams continued to have questions about his health. It’s clearly a risk, but at No. 12, it might be too much for the Pistons to wager. He could turn out to be the biggest steal of the draft for whoever is willing to roll the dice on his knees.

John Collins (6-10), Wake Forest

He’ll be available at 12th, but this is where the Pistons might actually might be reaching to get a player. He’s projected as a mid-first-rounder, at 6-10, 225.

Collins provides good rebounding skill and said at his Pistons workout that he’s been working on showing teams that his jumper is good out near the 3-point line.

But like Giles and Anunoby, it’s not a clear need that the Pistons have on the roster.

There might not be much difference between Collins and Ellenson — not to mention Jon Leuer, Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris — who are ahead of him at this point on the depth chart at forward.

Justin Jackson (6-8), North Carolina

If Kennard is gone and the Pistons still covet a shooter, Jackson could be next on the board for them. He’s a top-level shooter and scorer and at 6-8, could play the small forward for the Pistons. There are questions, though, about his athleticism and where he could fit on the roster now.

He’s projected to be lower in the first round — maybe as low as the 20s — and that’s a lot to overcome for a player who isn’t a perfect fit.

NBA Draft preview

Tuesday: Backcourt

Today: Frontcourt

Thursday: Rod Beard’s Mock Draft 3.0

NBA Draft

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.