Pistons' draft plotters look at plans and backup plans
Auburn Hills — By the time the 15th pick rolls around in the NBA draft, the Pistons could be faced with a quandary.
If the players they covet already are gone, what would they do?
Most mock drafts have the Pistons selecting a wing player such as Southern California’s Kevin Porter Jr., North Carolina’s Nassir Little or Indiana’s Romeo Langford.
If none of those players is available, they could go in a different direction and take the best player available or remain focused on their positional need and select a player who is projected to go in the twenties — or even trade down.
There will be some intrigue in the few picks before theirs, but the Pistons seem to be focused on wings, with a group of potential first-round picks among Friday’s participants at a predraft workout.
That included Little and Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who bring different skill sets. Little measured 6-foot-4 1/2 without shoes at the combine — but with an eye-popping 7-foot-1 1/4 wingspan.
Little is regarded as a good two-way player who didn’t have spectacular numbers (9.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and just 27 percent on 3-pointers) but could be as good an all-around package as any of the other choices.
Holding his own
Because of his versatile skill set, Little might have to work harder to show all the facets of his game but he said the wingspan has been a big asset.
“It’s doing whatever that moment requires and making the right reads. In one setting, if you need to show you can shoot the ball and hit an open shot, you do that; if you want to show your athleticism, you see an open lane and drive and attack,” Little said. “It’s picking your spots of when to show what.”
Pitted against Alexander-Walker, Little said he’s held his own — “I’ve done well,” — and that might be the distinguishing characteristic, a quiet confidence in knowing that maybe his role at North Carolina wasn’t as big as it could have been.
With star point guard Coby White and another potential first-round pick in Cameron Johnson, Little might have been lost in the shuffle some with the Tar Heels. Being selected in the draft and getting in the right situation might provide the opportunity for a coming-out party to show that he has more than he was able to exhibit in his single season at North Carolina.
The biggest question about his game is the 3-point shooting — especially for the Pistons, who struggled to get consistent outside shooting from their wings in different parts of the season. That’s an area of his game that Little has been working to improve since the end of the college season and into his predraft workouts.
“Throughout the season, I’ve worked on that part of my game. In this process, I’ve done it a lot and improved a lot,” Little said. “I think I shot better at UNC than what people think. Even throughout this process, I’ve improved the consistency and I’ll continue to show it going forward.”
Little said he will work out for the Hawks, who have the eighth and 10th picks and are reportedly getting the 17th pick form the Nets in a proposed trade. Some projections have him being picked before the Pistons’ selection at 15, but they’ll have some other options.
A good fit
Alexander-Walker is a dynamic wing who was pushed into playing point guard because of injuries at Virginia Tech last season. He’s projected to be a lottery pick as well, but draft night often provides a curveball when teams trade up or another takes a big risk and upsets the predicted picks.
In his workouts, Alexander-Walker is looking to give a good impression of his game and why he fits.
“Just show them who I am. You can only be the real you and play confidently and show them what you bring to the table,” Alexander-Walker said. “Don’t try to do too much and show that you’ve improved from the season you just had and try to make a strong case for yourself.”
At 6-5, Alexander-Walker has good size and can score. He posted 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4 assists in his second season at Virginia Tech and shot 37 percent from beyond the arc — all numbers that have scouts salivating at the possibilities.
Alexander-Walker, a Toronto native, got a kick out of meeting Pistons coach Dwane Casey, who was at the helm of the Raptors during the wing’s formative years.
“I never got the chance to meet him until today. I’ve been a huge Raptors fan since I was young, so just getting to meet him was pretty cool, especially with him coaching in the era when I was learning basketball,” Alexander-Walker said. “He made a joke about coming from Canada and basketball there but we talked about the city and everything that’s happening.”