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Category → Draft Dreams

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Aaron Craft

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-2, 195 lbs, senior point guard from Ohio State
  • Key Stats: 9.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.6 turnovers, 2.5 steals per game, 47 FG%, 30 3pt% and 74 FT%
  • Projected: Second round

Matters to No One But Me …

OK … so I will admit that I wasn’t exactly pumped when Aaron Craft was one of the prospects readers chose in the informal poll I did before starting this season’s Draft Dreams series. As I’ve written before, I’m not a fan of the way basketball is played in the NCAA. One of my biggest complaints is that offenses choke the life out of the ball, college officials seem to have no clue how to call a charge (often rewarding guys for diving under players in the air, for flopping on minor off-arm contact from the ball-handler or, my personal biggest grievance, giving charge calls to defenders who stand around and take a bump from someone long after that player has passed the ball) and the rules are basically geared to help less talented teams even the playing field against more talented ones. Ridiculous zones that allow teams to just keep multiple defenders under the basket along with way to much clutching and grabbing allowed for perimeter defenders.

Which brings me to Aaron Craft. For all of the positive attention Craft received for maximizing his talent, for hustling, for defending his ass off, during his college career, he also got a tremendous amount of leeway to be ultra physical that not every guard in the country received. Personally, I’m a Michigan State fan, so I’ve spent the last four years watching Craft play clutch and grab (and, admittedly, effective) defense on the much faster, more athletic and more talented Keith Appling. But it’s not just my bias speaking here — ask a Michigan fan what they thought of how Craft defended Trey Burke, for example.

It’s not that I hate physical defense — as a Pistons fan, I pretty clearly don’t. It’s just that Craft’s … we’ll say, handsiness … doesn’t exactly have me sold that his reputation as an elite defender will carry over to the pros.

Fits with the Pistons because …

The pros of Craft are easy — he’s tough, he’s strong, he understands not only one-on-one defense but team defense, he’s passionate, he plays hard all the time and he’s willing to throw his body all over the court to make plays. Those attributes are sorely lacking from this version of the Pistons, with a roster that often plays passive, soft and disinterested basketball.

The Pistons would consider drafting a player like Craft for many of the same reasons they took Peyton Siva last season — defense, intelligence, experience and intangibles. Second round choices don’t stand a great chance at making a roster. If they do make it, most don’t hang around particularly long. So if there’s no prospect you’re in love with when you choose in the second round, why not take a proven player who you know will work hard, push the players on your roster and challenge them with physical play in practice?

Craft’s claim to fame is defense. He’s not the quickest player in the world, but he moves his feet well, he beats guys to spots, he’s strong and he’s willing to step in front of anyone to take a charge. The Pistons currently have maybe the worst combination of defensive point guards in the league with Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum. If nothing else, bringing in Craft as a third point guard (assuming the Pistons have the same top two next season) (please don’t have the same top two next season) gives them a more viable defensive option to cool off opposing PGs who find things too easy against Jennings/Bynum.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

As I mentioned above, Craft is a college star whose reputation allowed him some luxuries with officials. That’s great for his college team, but he will have to adjust his physicality if he’s going to carve out a NBA role. Hand-checks and upper body contact as an impediment to driving guards are called much more regularly in the NBA, and both were part of Craft’s repertoire to help nullify the quickness of opposing guards.

I think he’ll figure out the defense though. My much larger issue with Craft is that he can’t shoot. For all of the coverage (and he got a TON of coverage) praising his work ethic and desire during his career, the fact that he never really improved much in four years always seems to escape the narrative. In fact, his three-point shooting got worse — from 38 percent as a freshman to 30 percent each of the last two seasons. On top of that, he has a wonky looking shot that suggests he has quite a bit of work to do if he’s ever going to add a reliable spot-up jumper to his repertoire, something that will be vital to him sticking in the league.

Also, somewhat contrary to his rep as the ultimate heady player, he is not opposed to being a bit of a risk taker at times, occasionally throwing low-percentage passes into traffic or taking bad shots.

Craft’s defense is good enough to get him in the second round conversation. His offense is not NBA-caliber, and the fact that he’s played four years of college with little offensive improvement makes it a longshot that he has much room to grow there.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

Craft isn’t your traditional NBA point guard by almost any standard. But his toughness and defense have led many NBA scouts to contend that he’ll find a way to make and stick on a team. He’s a likely second-round pick to undrafted, but so many scouts admire the way he plays that someone will give him a chance.

DraftExpress:

One area Craft will have to focus on to stick in the NBA is his ability to create out of the pick and roll. Craft has shown he can be a distributor in this area, but he often doesn’t have a passing lane because the defense goes under the screen, daring him to take a jump shot. Craft looks uncomfortable shooting off the dribble (27% FG%), as he struggles to get balanced and has a slow release that will allow NBA defenders to recover and challenge the shot when they see him prepare to shoot. Craft took only 1.8 three point attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted,third lowest among point guards in our top 100. He shot only 30% on these three pointers, on par with the rest of his career and not high enough to make defenses guard him at this distance. If he doesn’t develop a passable jump shot, it will be harder for him to stay in the league because defenses will not need to guard him in this area, making it harder for him to create for his teammates.

Highlights

Previously:

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Zach LaVine

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-5, 180 lbs, freshman point guard from UCLA
  • Key Stats: 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 turnovers per game, 44 FG%, 37 3pt% and 69 FT%
  • Projected: Top 15-20

Matters to No One But Me …

I watch college basketball because I am way too into basketball, basically. But my dislike the NCAA coupled with my dislike the college game in general — it’s officiated terribly inconsistently, teams run awful iso systems that choke the life out of the ball and the way the game is played is set up to limit the impact of the most athletic, physically gifted players on the court by allowing teams to play gimmicky defenses, double and triple team players without the ball, pack guys in the lane and never move them and just generally make the beautiful sport into a brutish cluster. OK, rant over. That’s basically my way of saying I watch college basketball with some self-hatred for supporting a product I’m not a huge fan of.

Anyway, that’s some context for why I am a big Zach LaVine fan. From Yahoo!’s Jeff Eisenberg:

Paul LaVine told the Los Angeles Daily News late Thursday night that his son will declare for the NBA draft because the family thinks LaVine will be a first-round pick and because they aren’t happy with how UCLA has used him. UCLA coach Steve Alford has played LaVine almost exclusively off ball, handing the starting point guard job to all-conference Kyle Anderson and giving backup responsibilities to his son, Bryce Alford.

Love that. “Oh, you’re not going to play me and let me develop where I’m most comfortable while you find minutes for your son? OK, well I will just go to the NBA and get paid then. We’re done here.”

I also loved that the immediate reaction to LaVine leaving from NCAA media was, “He’s not ready for the NBA!” (see Eisenberg’s analysis in the link above), but the immediate reaction from Chad Ford, for example, was, “he’s a top 15 player in this draft!

Fits with the Pistons because …

The last time UCLA had a prospect entering the draft who was super athletic and whose NBA position was somewhat of a question, things worked out pretty well for Russell Westbrook. LaVine doesn’t have Westbrook’s massive build, but he can jump out of the gym and finish like Westbrook, and he has the added bonus of having a better 3-point shooting touch.

He was right to want to play more point guard at UCLA. If he can learn to play the position, at his size, with his athleticism, that significantly enhances his NBA value as he’d be among a select few PGs in the league with those physical tools. If he turns out to be more of a shooting guard, his size and athleticism are a bit more average among NBA wings. That’s why the Pistons tried so hard for many years to make Rodney Stuckey into a full-time point guard. Obviously that didn’t work out as intended, but the thinking behind attempting to make him learn the position was sound.

The Pistons still need a point guard and they also need shooting. I’m not convinced LaVine can come in and be a full-time point guard from day one, but his shooting would be enough to earn him minutes on a team like the Pistons, his athleticism would be a fun addition to the lineup and his passing ability would certainly be enhanced by the fact that the Pistons have strong finishers like Andre Drummond and Josh Smith on the roster and good cutters like Drummond, Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko. LaVine is likely a project, but at the back of the lottery where the most likely prospects available are bigs like Noah Vonleh or Aaron Gordon, where guards like Gary Harris or Nik Stauskas might be a bit of a reach, taking a high upside player like LaVine who could pay off with Westbrook-like improvements is an intriguing option.

LaVine’s long arms and quickness also make him an intriguing perimeter defender. He could create a lot of steals and bother a lot of shots against opposing guards, which would be a major upgrade over the Brandon Jennings/Will Bynum combination, which might be the worst defensive point guard duo ever assembled.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

If Tom Gores continues his “win right now here’s all my money spend it on whoever” mantra, taking a project like LaVine over a player who more immediately addresses Detroit’s deficiencies on the wing and shooting the ball is probably not preferable. LaVine also struggled down the stretch of the season, either out of frustrations with his diminishing role or possibly just fatigue (he is young, after all). He also needs to add strength.

The biggest issue is that, as mentioned above, the Pistons already know what happens when you take a prospect with insane physical tools but no real defined position and said player doesn’t turn into Russell Westbrook. Not that Stuckey is a useless player by any stretch, but the Pistons need production. Stuckey is a free agent, Chauncey Billups looks like the end is near, Peyton Siva hasn’t shown in a late season audition that he can be counted on as a rotation player, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hasn’t been a major contributor and Kyle Singler playing any minutes at shooting guard for a third straight season is something no one, Singler included probably, wants to see. If LaVine needs time to develop, that’s completely fine, but it also might put him off the Pistons’ radar as they search for more immediate contributions.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

LaVine is still a controversial prospect. Some NBA GMs and scouts love him, thanks to his upside (he’s an explosive athlete with good size for his position who can really shoot the rock). Others point to his frail body, poor shot selection and inconsistent play in Pac-12 competition as they question how ready he is for the NBA. He’s not. But that hasn’t stopped teams in the past from drafting players almost exclusively on upside. His draft stock is all over the place, but I continue to hear that teams in the late lottery are looking at him hard.

DraftExpress:

The appeal around LaVine revolves heavily around his tremendous athleticism, as he’s one of the most explosive open court dunkers in college basketball. He’s an amazing leaper off one foot, and also possesses a dynamic first step and great quickness in the open floor. LaVine will likely test about as well as any player athletically at the NBA Combine, which undoubtedly gives him significant potential to continue to improve as his career moves on.

LaVine is also an impressive shot-maker, sporting unorthodox mechanics but looking very confident in his shooting stroke, be it with his feet set, pulling up off the dribble, or even coming off screens. The ball comes out of his hand very smoothly and he has deep range and a quick release on his jumper. LaVine started off the season in very impressive fashion, making 42 of his 97 3-point attempts (43%) in the first three and a half months, but then tallied off quite a bit in his final month in college, making just 6 of his last 31 attempts (19%), which brought down his season percentage to a still decent 37.5%.

Highlights

Previously:

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Joel Embiid

Info

  • Measurables: 7-foot-0, 250 lbs, freshman center from Kansas
  • Key Stats: 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks per game, 63 FG% and 69 FT%
  • Projected: Top three

Matters to No One But Me …

I know there are injury red flags. I know he doesn’t fill a need. But watch this Dream Shake and tell me you wouldn’t be all in on an Embiid-Drummond-Monroe frontcourt rotation:

Also worth loving: according to his Twitter page, his name is actually Joel-Hans Embiid. You’re telling me you wouldn’t love rooting for a guy named Joel-Hans?

Fits with the Pistons because …

Positionally speaking, he doesn’t. Until a new regime tells us otherwise, the Pistons appear committed to Drummond and Monroe as their two building blocks, which doesn’t leave an immediate opening for Embiid.

But Embiid does do something that neither current promising young big does — he defends. He was the Big 12′s Defensive Player of the Year, a great shot blocker and, most importantly, he has great footwork, timing and instincts. The Pistons hope Drummond, who is already arguably the league’s best rebounder and among the best shot blockers, becomes a game-changing defensive presence. But as we’ve seen this season, Drummond lacks the awareness and instincts on that end of the floor (as evidenced by his tendency to never meet a pump fake he won’t bite on). Those things should come to Drummond, who has proven to be hard-working and coachable.

Monroe doesn’t have the upside on defense that Drummond does, and he compounds the issue by also clearly lacking the timing, strength and footwork to excel as a one-on-one defender. He’s also had a longer period of time in the league to develop those skills with little improvement as a defender. Embiid is already clearly further along than both, and if the Pistons land in the top three and are truly committed to building a dominant defensive team, he’d merit consideration.

There are many other positives for Embiid — his per-minute rebounding and shot-blocking numbers were fantastic, his attitude and work ethic were praised at Kansas, he has a midrange game (which Monroe and Drummond also lack) and he can handle the ball well for a big (something Monroe has gotten better at and a skill that Drummond hasn’t shown that much). Despite getting on the NBA radar a little later than players like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, Embiid has every bit the upside (if not more) than either of those more established prospects.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

Along with positional fit question specific to the Pistons, the big red flag with Embiid is injury concerns. He didn’t play late in the season for Kansas due to a back injury. Deadpsin’s Regressing site took an in-depth look at Embiid’s injury if you’re interested in that sort of thing. If you’d like the condensed version: teams are understandably leery of young, possibly still growing, bigs who have injury problems because very team is terrified of being the next to use a top pick on the next Sam Bowie or Greg Oden while the next Michael Jordan or Kevin Durant goes shortly after (sorry, Portland fans … I would dig for better examples, but yours are too illustrative to not use).

A team drafting Embiid first overall would have to be relatively secure feeling that, 1. his injury concerns aren’t going to be a long-term issue, and 2. that his upside is greater than that of Wiggins or Parker, the two other players most discussed as potential No. 1 picks.

Aside from the injury, Embiid does have to get much stronger to contend with NBA bigs. Oh, and the last time the Pistons picked a young center in the top three who struggled to drive a car, that did not turn out so well.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

However, a recent spate of back injuries has put his draft status in question. We won’t really know how it affects his draft stock until NBA doctors get a look at him during the pre-draft camp in Chicago in May.

As a prospect, however, Embiid has so much going for him. He has elite NBA size, is a fluid athlete and has shown major improvements on the offensive end. He projects to be a big man who can score both with his back to the basket and on the perimeter. He’s also an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker. The only real knock against him this season has been his relative inexperience and his back issues.

If he gets a clean bill of health, Embiid will be back in the discussion as the No. 1 pick. If it’s a minor issue, he’s still probably a top-three pick. If it’s something more serious with longer ramifications, then his stock might slide out of the lottery.

DraftExpress:

Embiid looks the part of a NBA center. Very new to the game of basketball, the Kansas commit has a limited feel for how to make his presence felt consistently, and doesn’t always know his limitations, but flashed some intriguing tools on both ends of the floor, even though he wasn’t at 100%. Knocking down a 20-foot jump shot, making a nifty move to score a left handed hook shot in the post, and putting in some impressive efforts on the offensive glass, Embiid has some unique skills for a player only beginning to pick up the nuances of the game.

On the defensive end, Embiid is a talented shot-blocker who has the tools to become an excellent defender on the ball and rotating over from the weak-side down the road. The Basketball Without Borders product is a bit foul prone and could stand to be more aggressive pursuing the ball off the rim, but his timing was impeccable at certain moments in practice.

Highlights

Previously:

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Patric Young

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-9, 240 lbs, senior center from Florida
  • Key Stats: 11.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game, 54  FG% and 60 FT%
  • Projected: Second round

Matters to No One But Me …

Patric Young is the type of player NCAA mythologizers love. Despite opportunities to leave college for the NBA, Young has stayed at Florida for four years. That leads to quotes like this from his assistant coach:

“You take Tim Tebow and you take the Heisman Trophy and all that, and I get that,” McCall said. “But if we are able to win a national championship, I think you have to put Patric Young in that same type of category just because of the type of human being he is.”

I don’t know if staying in college four years ultimately helped or hurt Young’s NBA chances. I do think, luckily for him, that his talents translate to pro basketball a little better than Mr. Tebow’s translate to pro football.

Fits with the Pistons because …

First and foremost, defense. Young has had great physical tools — size, athleticism and an impressive physique — since virtually the second he arrived on campus at Florida. Though there is a wealth of data available that shows he probably should’ve left for the NBA much sooner, I also don’t discount that fact that Young undoubtedly became a better, smarter basketball player while at Florida, most notably on the defensive end. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, he moves his feet well, he’s a decent rebounder and a decent shot-blocker. And that impressive physique he had as a freshman? That’s only got more impressive as he’s matured.

Young’s probably not a starting-caliber NBA player. But Young has been an integral part of winning teams at Florida, he’s hard-working, he’s been well-coached, he’s defensive-minded, he’s strong, he’s athletic and he plays hard and with intensity. Anyone the Pistons take in the second round won’t necessarily be a lock to make the roster, so they could do worse than taking a player like Young, who will undoubtedly work and push everyone in the summer and in camp for a spot. And if he does make the team, his ability to defend might eventually allow him to break into a rotation that includes too few players who are adequate defensively at this point.

Also, the Pistons once had an offensively-limited center who was great defensively, was a monster in the weight room and was extremely hard-working. That profile resulted in a pretty successful NBA career for Ben Wallace, so if Young is going to follow a best-case scenario, that might be the guy to model. Young has light years to go as a rebounder and shot blocker before the Wallace comparison is close to apt, but their physiques, athleticism and defensive ability make them somewhat comparable if absolutely everything goes right for Young at the next level.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

Young was remarkably consistent during his four years at Florida. That’s both a testament to his readiness for college basketball right out of high school and a red flag that he may already be close to maximizing his upside as a prospect. In a deep draft, the Pistons should be picking low enough in the second round that prospects with more upside still should be available. Young might be a good test case for whoever the Pistons’ new regime ends up being — do they go with a surer, albeit more limited, prospect like Young in the second round or do they go after a less productive, high risk/high reward player with more upside?

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

Young does nothing flashy, but he has an NBA body, is a warrior in the paint, plays great defense and rarely makes mistakes. He’s never going to be a scorer (though he has improved in that area), but he has the makings of a decent backup big in the NBA.

DraftExpress:

Defensively, Young’s physical tools alone – his top-tier explosiveness, strength, lateral quickness, and length, in particular – allow him to be a competitive defender at this level, even if he is undersized for the NBA center position. Luckily, he also shows solid focus and energy on defense, guarding a variety of variety of NBA caliber post players and doing a fairly good job of holding his position and denying his man the ball. He is not outstanding guarding perimeter oriented big men, where he oftentimes fails to maintain his stance when taken off the dribble and struggles to close out on shooters. He also could stand to improve guarding the pick-and-roll, as he sometimes loses track of his man and allows open jump shots.

Highlights

Previously:

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Rodney Hood

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-8, 215 lbs, sophomore forward from Duke
  • Key Stats: 16.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game, 46  FG%, 42 3P% and 818 FT%
  • Projected: Top 15

Matters to No One But Me …

Rodney Hood has already show great decision-making once in his college career — getting away from the infamous Renardo Sidney-led Mississippi State basketball team in favor of Duke. Instead of toiling as a talented player in a directionless program, Hood spent a year leading Duke’s scout team and educating his teammates on the merits of soul food before excelling on the court this season:

“They haven’t tried it, being from different places of the country, and they miss out on good food, so I just try to share it with them,” Hood said. “They still can’t get over the name, but if they tried the food, they’d like it.”

Junior guard Quinn Cook has had a plate.

Hood sat out last season as a transfer from Mississippi State, so while the Blue Devils played in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving break, he went home to Meridian, Miss.

Cook and Hood have been roommates the past two seasons and don’t exactly cook for themselves often. So Hood brought back to school his leftovers, which included an entree that was foreign to Cook.

“So I ate some chitterlings for the first time in my life,” said Cook, a Washington, D.C., native. “It was good. It was good.”

Fits with the Pistons because …

Picture this: a perimeter player who takes a lot of shots from 3-point range. This shouldn’t be hard — we’ve seen players doing this a lot this season. Only now picture those shots being A. good looks at the basket and B. going in.

Hood doesn’t just fill a need for the Pistons. He fills the most overwhelmingly glaring deficiency on the team as a great 3-point shooter who also happens to be 6-foot-8, meaning (if he adds a bit more strength) he has the ability to play small forward and provide competent floor spacing. He also runs the floor well, he’s athletic and, after playing this season next to star Jabari Parker, he’s comfortable contributing in a complementary role, meaning he could still get shots naturally while the Pistons run their offense through Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond next season. Or, if you’re a masochist, if they run it through Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.

In addition to his shooting, Hood is smart, doesn’t turn the ball over much, can get a shot off the dribble and runs the floor and finishes well. All of those sound like the exact qualities the Pistons would want in a wing to complement their young bigs offensively.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

Hood’s biggest question mark is on defense. He’s part of a Duke team that was not particularly good on defense this season. He’s tall and athletic enough to potentially improve on that end (although Draftexpress points out that Hood doesn’t have long arms), particularly if Drummond can add “not biting on all the pump fakes ever” to his arsenal and Monroe can add “moving feet on defense” to his next season. He’s also not particularly strong yet, so some of the league’s bigger wings could bully him.

Hood also plays with a laid back demeanor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for a Pistons team that frequently for … oh … five years or so now … has played with little to no intensity, it would be nice to come out of this draft with a player who adds a little fire to their lineup.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

Hood is a little more one-dimensional, but his great size for his position and effortless stroke from long range have earned him a lot of fans in the late lottery to mid-first round.

DraftExpress:

Hood is generally an efficient player offensively, as he takes what the defense gives him and rarely looks out of control. He’s a solid straight-line ball-handler, particularly attacking closeouts, but was also given some ball-handling responsibilities in the half-court. Duke relied primarily on small-ball lineups this year, with Hood seeing a good amount of minutes at the power forward position, where he can be very effective as a mismatch threat against slower collegiate big men, particularly with the terrific spacing his team displayed. 32.5% of his offense came off isolation plays and on the pick and roll, even if it remains to be seen how much of a shot-creator he’ll be in the NBA when he’s asked to move down one or two positions and is guarded by legit wing defenders.

Highlights

Previously:

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Marcus Smart

Guest writer and occasional PistonPowered commenter Pardeep Toor on his favorite NCAA player

Info

  • Measurables: 6’4, 220 lbs, Sophomore Guard from Oklahoma State
  • Key Stats: 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.9 steals, 8.1 Free Throw Attempts, 42.2  FG%, 29.9 3P% and 72.8 FT%
  • Projected: Top-five overall

Matters to No One But Me …

What do we know about Marcus Smart? No, seriously, I have no idea. I usually rely on Patty and Daniel on this here site to equip me with knowledge and jokes. Without their guidance, here’s what I think we know about Smart’s intangibles:

- Boogie Cousins’ temper
- Rajon Rondo’s shooting range
- Russell Westbrook’s FIRE
- Dirk’s ability to mutilate inanimate objects
- Manu Ginobili’s flopping ability

By drafting Marcus Smart you are embracing unpredictability. You are welcoming combustibility as a force for good. There’s an on-court passion and intensity to Smart that is impossible to quantify but we are sure of its existence because it radiates the basketball court  as either a dominant performance or a complete meltdown. It’s the same mentality that makes Russell Westbrook a polarizing figure and made Allen Iverson oblivious to his deteriorating abilities and circumstances late in his career. There’s an unwavering stubbornness to Smart  that is simultaneously a prerequisite for greatness and catastrophe.

I love Marcus Smart for the same reason that I enjoy Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and Demarcus Cousins  - lingering volatility that promises a  break in the basketball monotony (or because I have horrible taste in basketball players). After years of uninspired hoop from Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Rodney Stuckey and Josh Smith, it would be refreshing to infuse this organization with the most passionate player in this draft class, who if nothing else, promises a change from the apathy of the past five years.

Fits with the Pistons because …

Big secret: Marcus Smart is going to fall to the Pistons at the 7th or 8th pick in this year’s draft because athletes approaching seven-feet like Noah Voneleh, Aaron Gordon and Willie Cauley-Stein are going to enchant general managers in empty gyms all spring. The organization’s only responsibility from now until the draft is to determine what they do when he’s sitting there, in a bowtie, I’m guessing. Do you trade down to a team who values him more (Bulls for 16/19, Suns for 14 (Gary Harris!)/17(Nik Stauskas!))? Do you take Smart and beg another  team to take Brandon Jennings? Do you take Smart and hope that he does something so many coaches have failed to do before, yell at Josh Smith for being awful? I sure hope so.

Marcus Smart doesn’t fit with the current Pistons roster but he’s worthy of the opportunity to become a fit. His ability to put pressure on opposing defenses by attacking and finishing at the rim, getting to the free throw line at a high rate and generating ball pressure and turnovers on the defensive end is going is to make him a franchise guard in the league. He possesses an NBA-ready build which should seamlessly translate his strengths to the next level.

This team needs talent and this is the last realistic opportunity to get it in the draft since they are almost certain to lose their 2015 first round pick (top-one protected) to Charlotte. A Marcus Smart/Andre Drummond future is enough talent to restore faith in the organization in the exact same way that a Trey Burke/Drummond core would have done last June. Let’s hope the Pistons get it right this year and take one of the most talented guys in the draft rather than falling for Chad Ford’s latest fast riser.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

If we are going to get technical about it then he doesn’t fit with the current Pistons core of Greg Monroe , Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith. He doesn’t help the team’s spacing issues (instead he adds to the weakness), or the gaping hole at the shooting guard/small forward positions. Pairing a ball dominant guard beside Brandon Jennings would create the same clutter in the backcourt that the Pistons have this season and will inevitably end with each guy taking turns trying to make plays (see: Jennings/Monta Ellis in 2012-13). It’s not an impossible situation. Orlando has creatively assimilated Victor Oladipo at both guard spots either as a starter or off the bench without hurting his development despite the presence of veterans Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo. But that assumes a level of coaching competency and long-term vision that has been lacking in this organization for the past many years.

The poor outside shooting is an issue that is more difficult to resolve than I used to think. Seeing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist struggle to find any range in his shot and ultimately give up shooting altogether (5.8 field goal attempts this year) is the worst case scenario for Smart’s jumper. Teams will sag on Smart from the opening day of Vegas League, pack the paint to limit working space for Monroe and Drummond and (*GASP*) probably result in more long jumpers for Smith. That’s a nightmare nobody is interested in reliving next season.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

Smart shocked everyone last season by returning to school for his sophomore year despite the fact that he was slated to be a top-3 pick. He wanted to show scouts that he could improve his jumper and handle, and he really wanted to lead the Cowboys to an NCAA title. None of that has happened. The team has struggled, Smart has had issues with his shot and turnovers again, and his frustration has boiled over, dinging his rep as a high-character player. Despite all of that, though, most NBA GMs and scouts still believe there is greatness with Smart.

DraftExpress:

Smart makes a living inside the paint, as he relishes contact and gets to the free throw line nearly ten times per-40 minutes, while finishing 57% of his shots around the basket in the half-court. The role he will play in the NBA appears to be well defined, as he’s very good in transition and on the pick and roll, and is more than capable of creating shots for himself and others, something he appears to have improved on in his sophomore year. Smart’s assist to turnover and pure point ratio both increased notably this past season, particularly his ability to avoid coughing the ball up, as his turnover percentage decreased from an alarming 19% as a freshman to a much more manageable 14%.

Another area Smart is likely to excel in very early in the NBA is on the defensive end. With his size, strength and length, Smart is capable of guarding multiple positions, which gives his coach nice versatility to take advantage of in different schemes. He even proved strong enough to put a body on big men in certain stretches, showing the type of toughness and competitiveness NBA executives love. On top of that, he brings terrific anticipation skills for blocks, steals and rebounds, hauling in seven boards per-40 minutes and over three steals thanks to the intensity level and timing he displays.

Kevin Durant (11/20/13)

“… I like his demeanor. I like how he handles his teammates. A player like him, he always can burst out and get 30 or 40 points … He is poised.”

Highlights

Previously:

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Nik Stauskas

REMINDER: Voting is still open to pick some of this year’s #DraftDreams profiles.

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-6, 190 pounds, sophomore guard from Michigan
  • Key Stats: 17.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists while shooting 48 percent and 45 percent from three
  • Projected: Mid-first round

Matters to No One But Me …

Stauskas attends Michigan. I attended Michigan.

There’s no question I have a stronger allegiance to Stauskas than other draft prospects because of that, though doesn’t mean I want the Pistons to pass over better prospects to draft him. I just wouldn’t mind him being the best prospect available when Detroit picks. See: Burke, Trey.

I also said Stauskas should have turned pro last season, because screw the NCAA, and I believed his skills would get him drafted, maybe even late in the first-round. Patrick gets full credit for seeing Draymond Green’s NBA potential before anyone else did, and I want one of those on my record. Patrick nails something like that at least once per year, though. I’ll gladly take just getting Stauskas correct for bragging rights.

Also, so much swag. I smile a lot while watching Stauskas play. Actually, that should matter to you, too. See more in the next section.

Fits with the Pistons because …

Shooter, shooter, shooter.

The Pistons are one of the NBA’s 3-point shooting teams, and Stauskas is one of the best shooters in college basketball. His range definitely extends to the NBA arc, so he should translate fairly well.

He has also increased his athleticism since last season, working out hard over the summer and then taking advantage of his newly chiseled form during the season. He can run the pick-and-roll and attack off the dribble, and he’s an underrated passer. Without Trey Burke, he’s really blossomed into an all-around player.

Stauskas is most definitely not just a shooter at the college level, which should help him in the NBA.

Players who just stand around and shoot in college generally don’t succeed at the top level. Stauskas will probably never be the center of an NBA offense like he is at Michigan, but those complementary skills should help get him on the court and do what he does best: shoot.

Stauskas also plays with tremendous swagger, blowing kisses and such. Despite all their athleticism, the Pistons have gotten stale as bad shots and mangled defense have become their defining characteristics. Rookies, even those who were exuberant in college, tend to fade into the background. But the potential for Stauskas to be really fun down the road certainly exists. That shouldn’t affect whether the Pistons draft him, but it’s a nice bonus.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

The Pistons can’t pick lower than eighth – if their pick falls after that, it goes to the Bobcats – and No. 8 might be too high to take Stauskas.

This is a stacked draft, and he’s just not up to level of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart. That’s six players right there.

With a strong NCAA tournament and workouts, Stauskas could work his way into the next tier, but that’s a small margin for error. Tyler Ennis, Gary Harris, Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleh already make strong cases for that range.

Also, even though he’s improved on that end, Stauskas is a questionable college defender. Those concerns only get magnified at the next level, when opponents get bigger and faster. Can Stauskas make another leap forward athletically? There have to be diminishing returns at some point.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

Positives

  • Versatile scoring guard
  • Excellent shooter with deep range
  • Incredible free throw shooter

Negatives

  • Needs to add strength
  • Not an elite athlete

DraftExpress:

While his draft stock has undoubtedly increased substantially as the year has moved on, concerns still exist among scouts regarding his lack of upside defensively, due to his unappealing combination of poor length, average frame and mediocre lateral quickness.

Additionally, it remains to be seen the extent of which he will be able to create his own shot and finish around the basket against NBA caliber defenders, although he has made significant strides in dispelling those doubts this season.

Nevertheless, the premium that teams are placing on perimeter shooting in today’s NBA has put Stauskas in an enviable position as a draft prospect, should he decide to capitalize on his increased stock this upcoming fall.

Highlights


Previously

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Devyn Marble

REMINDER: Voting is still open to pick some of this year’s #DraftDreams profiles.

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, senior guard from Iowa
  • Key Stats: 17.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals per game while shooting 43 percent and 37 percent from three
  • Projected: Second round

Matters to No One But Me …

Marble played in one of my favorite high school games I’ve ever covered when he was a senior at Southfield Lathrup. The game itself wasn’t particularly compelling — an experienced Lathrup team that featured Marble and Bryan Coleman (who went on to play at Wayne State) pulled away from an inexperienced Beecher team that would eventually develop into a state powerhouse. Instead, the history surrounding the game was the draw. Marble’s dad, Roy Marble, was a Beecher legend in the 1980s before going on to become Iowa’s all-time leading scorer and becoming a first round pick in the NBA Draft. He got to watch his son play in his old high school gym, in front of his old coach (Moses Lacy) and with his former teammate, former NFL player and current Beecher athletic director Courtney Hawkins putting together a nice program featuring the school’s impressive basketball history.

The well-rounded game Devyn Marble has shown at Iowa was on display in the game, and he had surprising competition from a freshman named Monte Morris who went on to become Michigan’s Mr. Basketball winner and is currently one of the top freshmen in the country at Iowa State (seriously … I’ll be doing a Draft Dreams on Morris in a year or two). The game was both a nice glimpse at a bygone era when Flint, Michigan, was one of the top basketball talent producing cities in the country as well as a nice reminder that despite many critics who think those days of great city sports are over, there were two players on that court who could both be legitimate NBA players.

Fits with the Pistons because …

First and foremost, Marble’s size and position (6-foot-6 wing) make him a fit for the Pistons, who will likely lose Rodney Stuckey and possibly Chauncey Billups if he retires from an already thin perimeter. The biggest thing to like about Marble is simply his work ethic. He’s improved immensely at Iowa, and his development is a big reason Iowa has once again become a solid, tough team in an always competitive Big Ten. More impressively, he’s handled what could’ve been impossible expectations, playing where his father is the all-time leading scorer. Here’s how he handled it, from the Des Moines Register:

“I was concerned,” Joi said. “But I think he had the absolute personality to deal with that kind of pressure. He didn’t really take it on as a challenge. He decided to be himself and knew he could be successful doing just that.”

Devyn will be playing his 135th career game for the Hawkeyes on Thursday, one more than his dad did, when they face Northwestern at 8 p.m. in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Marble brings 1,662 career points into the game and needs 14 more to pass Ronnie Lester and move into Iowa’s Top 5.

The freshly-minted first-team all-Big Ten selection has stepped out of his father’s shadow with his own personality and his own game.

“I didn’t feel like I had to do the complete opposite of what he did, or anything like that,” Marble said. “I’m a different person.”

Marble’s become a decent three-point shooter (27 percent as a freshman to 37 percent as a senior), he’s a good passer, he handles the ball well and he’s solid defensively, with long arms that allow him to bother other guards even when he’s beaten off the dribble. As the obvious top option for Iowa and a focus of opposing defenses, Marble has remained very productive and was in the conversation with Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris as the top wings in the Big Ten this season.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

There’s an argument (not necessarily one that I buy, but an argument nonetheless) that teams shy away from four-year college players because there’s not as much potential for improvement as underclassmen who enter the draft, so that could be the reason Marble is slotted as a second rounder by most respected draft outlets. Marble is also one of those versatile players who gets the “solid at a lot of things, not off the charts good at any one thing” label, which probably hurts his stock.

As far as weaknesses in his game, he’s a good shooter but also a player who has had to work at it — he didn’t have a great shot when he arrived at Iowa, relying on his size and athleticism to dominate at the high school level. He’s a decent athlete, but not quite as explosive as some of the wings projected in the top of the first round, which could make it hard for him to defend faster NBA guards. Other than that, he has prototypical size for a NBA wing, he’s shown that he works hard at his game and there’s no denying his production as a senior. All of those things could make him a sleeper if he stays slotted in that mid-second round territory.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

Positives
  • Versatile wing
  • Can score from anywhere on the floor
  • Good defender
  • Great motor
Negatives
  • Just a so-so athlete
  • Doesn’t do any one thing at an elite level

DraftExpress:

It’s worth pointing out that while Marble is likely not a point guard at this or the next level, he was thesecond best passing wingin our database last season, averaging 4.8 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted and his 2.07 assist/turnover ratiostacks up well even amongst point guard prospects. For a wing, he has an excellent basketball IQ, exemplified in his court vision and excellent instincts with the ball in his hands. He makes the right pass without hesitation, makes crisp entry passes, and can even run the pick-and-roll at times. He is a willing passer and an unselfish teammate, which will only make him a more attractive prospect if he improves as a scorer.

Highlights

)

Previously

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Jabari Parker

REMINDER: Voting is still open to pick some of this year’s #DraftDreams profiles.

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-8,235 pounds, freshman forward from Duke
  • Key Stats: 19.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 49 percent and 37 percent from three
  • Projected: Top five

Matters to No One But Me …

Although I certainly don’t think it’s anything more than the remotest of possibilities, I do think if the Pistons were to offer Michigan State coach Tom Izzo a nice deal and some influence on the roster, now might be as good a time as any for him to consider making the jump to the NBA. There are a host of reasons I think he’d at least consider — home state team, MSU alum as supportive team owner, potential franchise player in Andre Drummond in place, etc. — but foremost amongthem is simply the grind of college recruiting. Izzo and MSU recruited a lot of prized recruits extremely hard, seemed to get close to a few, and have come up relatively empty (although I do think they picked up some solid under the radar guys both prior to this season and coming in next season). Anyway, the one that hurt the most was probably Jabari Parker:

After being recruited by Spartans coach Tom Izzo since his freshman year at Simeon Career Academy, the 6-foot-8 Parker said the main reason for deciding not to go to East Lansing came down to the presence of star sophomore Branden Dawson.

“Branden Dawson, me and him play the same position, and it’d kind of be a controversy if me and him were on the same floor running into each other,” Parker said Thursday at a press conference following his televised announcement at his high school gym. “So I just wanted to go to a school that was fitting.

“I don’t want to mess up his thing. Me coming in there would be kind of disrespectful. I just want him to do well.”

If that was indeed a key reason for picking Duke over MSU, that’s a very nice gesture by Parker, who very obviously was and is a better player and prospect than Dawson. But perhaps the Pistons luck into top-three selection. Might the opportunity to draft Parker who, by all accounts, developed a strong relationship with Izzo on the recruiting trail, also be another carrot to dangle in front of Izzo if Gores really is interested in making a huge offer to lure him away from the comforts of East Lansing?

Fits with the Pistons because …

First and foremost, he’s a prototypical NBA wing, right? He can hit the three, right? Those two descriptors alone, no matter who they are directed toward, probably qualify you to start and be an upgrade for the Pistons at shooting guard or small forward.

Parker, however, brings more to the table than just his NBA-ready build and shooting ability. He handles the ball reasonably well and has also handled the pressure of stepping in as the primary scorer in the Duke offense well. Credit where it’s due — which may be hard since hating Duke is a pretty common hobby these days — Coach K has assembled a really fun team to watch (Duke and Michigan are my two favorite offenses to watch in the country this season) by finding players who perfectly complement Parker’s skillset. Duke has shooters who open driving lanes for Parker, they have bigs who can move and not clog the lane and Parker essentially has free reign as the focal point of their offense. He’s done well with that responsibility, playing efficiently, pushing the ball at times and playing unselfishly and deferring to teammates rather than forcing his shot. He’s also a good rebounder (although that number is helped by him sometimes playing more of a frontcourt position than a perimeter one depending on Duke’s lineup) and averages more than a block and  a steal per game, giving hope that he could develop into a solid defender down the road.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

So … about that defense. Note the “offensively” qualification above when I wrote about loving to watch Michigan and Duke, because there is really no comparison to those two teams at the other end of the court. Michigan mixes their fun, unselfish, pass-happy offense with a strong defense. Duke … not so much. EDIT: Yeah, so no idea why I thought Michigan was a good defensive team. I think all of the complaining I read yesterday about Caris LeVert and Jordan Morgan getting left off the All-Big Ten Defense team clouded my thinking. Michigan is pretty much the same as Duke — beautiful offense, defenders who struggle to stay in front of people. Maybe I was hypnotized by all of those Nik Stauskas celebratory twirls. The lesson here is to never doubt my own interpretation ever again.

Parker has not yet developed much defensively, although his size, athleticism and intelligence suggest he could. Playing with a shot-blocking center like Andre Drummond (if he can develop better defensive instincts) would help, but as a rookie, it is highly likely that Parker would not do anything to help the Pistons fix their defensive shortcomings.

Parker’s assist total is also relatively low. With talented players around him (Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon), and with Parker’s ability off the dribble, I would expect that he’d find open teammates for buckets a little more regularly. Parker also, despite his strong percentages, went through some shooting droughts throughout the season, so he could be a bit streakier than a shooting-desperate team like the Pistons might like.

And, although this is being nitpicky, his free throw percentage (currently 74 percent) could be a bit higher considering how good a shooter he is overall.

At any rate, Parker is no longer considered the top prospect in this draft, but he’s still clearly a potential All-Star and maybe more if he develops.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

The longer the season goes on, the more scouts are switching their allegiances to Parker as their favorite to go No. 1. He’s a scoring machine. He has a high basketball IQ. He can play multiple positions on the floor, and his lack of elite defensive abilities combined with the occasional struggle against long, athletic defenders are the only real knocks on him at the moment.

Sports Illustrated:

And perhaps we can use that as a hint as to where Parker’s game is headed. In some ways, he’s similar to Paul Pierce: Parker lacks a lean frame, but has tremendous strength and surprising athleticism. He’s unafraid as a scorer and can bully smaller wings on the block.

If Parker can develop the same sort of craftiness on the defensive end to compensate for his lack of elite quickness, he could pester talented players the same way Pierce has in the NBA. What’s more, Parker willingly competes on both ends and has been a solid help defender and shot-blocker down low.

DraftExpress:

Strengths:
-Terrific size at 6-9
-Strong frame
-Very advanced scoring instincts
-Outstanding shooter with feet set, as well as off the dribble
-Capable of generating good looks in mid-range area with size, high release point and ability to fade and create separation
-High basketball IQ. Plays under control. Makes the extra pass
-Can post up a bit, mostly to shoot a turnaround jumper
-Good anticipation skills for rebounds/blocks. Shows good instincts tracking offensive rebounds coming off the glass
-Has a go-to mentality. Very confident in his abilities

Weaknesses:
-Allowed himself to get extremely out of shape during injury, gaining a substantial amount of weight
-Body still looks very loose
-Struggles to get all the way to the basket in the half-court
-Doesn’t have the first step needed to turn the corner against better defenders
-Tends to settle for a lot of low percentage shots, contested pull-up jumpers with a high degree of difficulty
-Lacks great lateral quickness. May struggle to contain explosive small forwards off the dribble
-Effort on defense looks questionable at times

Highlights

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams debuts this week, this time with more reader influence

For the fifth straight year, I’ll be doing the internet’s foremost amateurish Detroit Pistons draft prospect evaluation for PistonPowered. But after five years (see 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 versions), how do we keep things fresh? Well, mostly by doing everything the same. But also, reader interactivity! In the past, we’ve just unveiled these one by one, but this year, I don’t want to pick all of the prospects we feature myself. So here’s how it will work:

  • We will write about 32 total prospects (two per week through the week of the draft in June, 16 weeks from this week).
  • I have picked 20 to write about — Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Devyn Marble, Nik Stauskas, Patric Young, Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott, Glenn Robinson III, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle, Dario Saric, Aaron Gordon, P.J. Hairston, Adreian Payne, James Young, Noah Vonleh, Keith Appling, Tyler Ennis and Gary Harris.
  • You guys are going to pick the other 12 we feature, simply by voting in the comments of this post. Of the guys I haven’t named above, you can vote simply by typing the name of a prospect you’d like to see written up in the comments. You can vote today through Friday (I’ll tally up total votes at the end of the week and the top 12 vote getters will be written up).
  • Seriously, lots of people please vote for Travis Bader (sidenote: I will probably write Bader up anyway even if you don’t vote for him).

Honestly, this series each year is my favorite thing to write for PistonPowered. Gauging the pro potential of college prospects always leads to a wide range of opinions, and with the hype of this year’s potential draft class, there should be a lot of spirited debate. I’m certainly not any better at predicting success than anyone else (although I will take credit for claiming Draymond Green had a legit NBA future earlier than anyone else on the internet thought it was possible and totally calling Reggie Jackson’s potential … we won’t talk about my Charles Jenkins prediction), but my hope is these profiles give insight to a wide range of opinions on the prospects, not just my thoughts.

Unfortunately, the best part of the season for Pistons fans for far too long has been the lead-up to the draft. So everyone try and pretend that the Pistons aren’t in danger of losing a lottery pick and hopefully these profiles can allow everyone to have a distraction from the Pistons scoring 35 points in a quarter and still LOSING THE QUARTER and similar shenanigans as the season winds down.