The drama of Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery featured several teams moving up from their projected position into top spots. The Pistons weren’t one of them, having secured the No. 15 pick by virtue of their 41-41 record and making a brief appearance in the playoffs.
As the Pelicans (first), Grizzlies (second) and Lakers (fourth) improved their standings, the Pistons will have to address their myriad needs from outside the lottery, where discerning between the selections is more difficult and the talent pales in comparison to the top slots.
For the Pistons, the offseason needs are many: taller wings, point guards and a backup center. Their resources are limited, with slim financial flexibility and little trade bait to swing a deal to shore up their roster. They’ve cast their lot with building around Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, and the logical choice is a wing in the draft and looking to find a suitable set of point guards in free agency.
With Glenn Robinson III on a team option for next season, the Pistons’ main wing options are Luke Kennard and rookies Bruce Brown, Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk. That could lend to the thinking that the Pistons will look to improve at the wing through free agency.
Many of the top targets will be gone by the time the Pistons’ first pick comes at No. 15, but they can take a broader approach by simply taking the best player available, such as 7-foot-2 Oregon center Bol Bol or several of the second-tier point guards.
More than likely, they’ll look at the wings available in the middle of the opening round. Here’s a look at some of the wings they could consider taking at No. 15.
►Nassir Little, North Carolina, 6-6, 220: His good size and 7-foot-1 wingspan make Little a big deal around the middle of the first round. Like many in this group, his 3-point shooting could be a turn-off for the Dwane Casey system, which relies heavily on outside shooting. He could be the two-way asset the Pistons seek, but whether that physical ability carries over to the NBA could be a question mark.
►Kevin Porter Jr., Southern California, 6-6, 220: Porter has the build and talent to be a lottery pick, but with various concerns about his character and behavior — he was suspended during the season at USC because of “conduct issues” — will weigh heavily in where he ultimately is drafted. Teams will be willing to take a chance on him because of his lofty upside, including shooting 41 percent on 3-pointers, will make him a tantalizing option. The questions about his mindset will be huge.
►KZ Okpala, Stanford, 6-8, 195: After trading their two tallest wings at midseason, the Pistons are lacking size at the position and Okpala might be the best combination of height and scoring ability in the middle of the first round. He had a dramatic improvement in his 3-point shooting, going from 23 percent as a freshman to 37 percent after his sophomore season. At only 195 pounds, he’d need to add some bulk
►Keldon Johnson, Kentucky, 6-6, 215: Players’ talents can get lost in Kentucky’s system, surrounded by other stars and that could be the case with Johnson. He shot 38 percent on 3-pointers and added 5.9 rebounds in his only season there. He’s valued as a wing defender and with a wingspan of almost 6-foot-9, he could take up a lot of space in the passing lanes. He could be the safe choice if the others on this list are gone before the Pistons pick.
►Tyler Herro, Kentucky, 6-5, 195: He was one of the Wildcats’ go-to players and has some good offensive instincts. For the Pistons’ needs, he’s not a particularly big wing and could replicate the small frames of Kennard, Brown and the others. They’ll need a defensive stopper and Herro didn’t show that ability consistently at Kentucky, nor of being an adept ball-handler.
►Romeo Langford, Indiana, 6-6, 215: Many of the mock drafts put Langford in the Pistons’ sights, but there are plenty of questions after one mediocre season at Indiana. Beyond the questions about his desire and mental engagement, he struggles beyond the 3-point arc (27 percent). He has a good frame, but how many question marks and red flags can be overlooked before a player looks like too big of a risk?
►Cameron Johnson, North Carolina, 6-9, 210: Johnson has plenty of positives, but the biggest concern seems to be that he’s already 23 years old, which lowers his ceiling. He shot 46 percent on 3-pointers last season and 34 percent the year before, so his production from there can fluctuate, as can his rebounding, at 5.8 per game. If he adds some muscle, he can be a better post option, but he could be one of the better choices at this point in the first round.