When you're a Pistons fan, it's never too early to start looking ahead to the draft. This offseason figures to be busy, with a new GM and coach likely being appointed, so, scouting draft options won't be the sole topic as it is in most off-seasons. The Pistons have been doing great work lately to make sure they don't lose their 1st round pick, but until it's certain, options in the 2nd round will be the main focus. Most posts on 2nd round guys won't be quite this long, but as a Michigan fan, I have more to go off of.
MITCH McGARY - MICHIGAN - F/C - 6'10, 250
Mitch McGary showed up at Michigan as a consensus five start recruit and one of the top players in the high school class of 2012. He was eased into the rotation as a freshman, not playing more than 20 minutes in a game until the season had reached Big Ten play in January. McGary's results were a mixed bag through conference play as he only managed to score in double figures four times in regular season conference play. Then came postseason play and McGary exploded into what everybody thought he would be: a versatile big man who unleashed havoc with his combination of size, quickness, speed and effort. McGary posted a double-double in the Big Ten Tournament opener against Penn State, and would go on to record three more on Michigan's trek to the National Championship game. McGary ended the national tournament with averages of 14.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG and even posted 6 assists in the Final Four matchup against Syracuse.
This season held what seemed to be even more promise for McGary as he decided to return to school to play for a national championship, and to improve his draft stock. However, as the offseason progressed, news of a back injury got out and it was eventually announced that he would miss some time. McGary sat out Michigan's first few games against cupcakes to prepare for a showdown with Iowa State. He made his return to the court in Ames, playing 22 minutes and scoring 9 points to go with 6 rebounds and 4 steals in a loss. He would go on to play in the next seven games, producing double-doubles in games against Duke and Florida State. On December 21st, it was announced that McGary would have back surgery, almost certainly ending his season. He finished the year playing in 8 games, averaging 24.6 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 1.5 APG and shooting 54.5% from the field. McGary is now running again as part of his rehab, but it is highly unlikely that he will play in Michigan's tournament run.
McGary isn't a lock to enter the draft, but seeing as he'll be 22 years old at the time of the draft, it will be something he has to consider. Had McGary stayed healthy this season and played up to expectations, he almost certainly would've been a lottery pick. Instead, it looks like he'll have a hard time even getting drafted in the 1st round. Assuming he does enter, McGary projects into the 2nd round for a team willing to take a flier on a guy with really good upside, despite his injury risk. Personally, I think it's encouraging that he's sat out so long, as it's more likely that his back is fully healed.
Best Case Scenario: 1st round, 25-30 range
Worst Case Scenario: 2nd round, 50-60 range
I think it would take an awful lot for McGary to move into the first round. First, he would likely have to play in the NCAA tournament and show that he's healthy and in shape. The next step would be to show off improved physical abilities and pass medical tests on his back during workouts leading up to the draft. Finally, he's going to need some of the international prospects who are fringe first round picks to either fall off or not enter the draft. Guys like Clint Capela, Jusuf Nurkic and Bogdan Bogdanovic who are fringe first round picks will be part of what determines the fate of Mitch McGary. If all goes right, and he can show that he's healthy, he has the skillset and physical stature to warrant a first round pick. The more likely scenario, is that all of the questions about his back won't be answered, and somebody will be taking a calculated risk on him. I don't think he'd fall to the end of the 2nd round, and it's really hard to see him going undrafted without something devastating happening.
McGary does his best work on the glass, specifically on the offensive end, and is great at forcing turnovers. His quickness and motor allow him to get out in the open floor and showcase both his speed and his surprising ball-handling/passing. Steals are often an indicator of athletic ability and if that's the case then McGary, with a 3.7% steal rate, is a good athlete. For every bit of energy and quickness he has, McGary won't blow scouts away with his vertical leaping ability. McGary uses his motor and quickness to succeed on the offensive glass. Over 47 career games, McGary has posted a 15.8 OReb%, a figure which would rank him 18th in the nation this season. However, most of the NBA's top offensive rebounders are great leapers, so time will only tell if McGary's efforts on the offensive glass will translate.
As a scorer, McGary isn't the most efficient player out there. He's posted a 58.2 TS% in his career at UofM, but figures to be well below that mark in the NBA unless he can truly develop a mid-range jump shot. Even if he can't develop a jumper, McGary will likely still be serviceable as a scorer due to his presence on the offensive glass with second chance points. McGary also has a good reputation as a passer and showcased his talents both from the elbow and the baseline in Michigan's offense. He has good court vision and is accurate with his passes. Relatively speaking, this figures to be the strongest part of his offensive game, with his offensive rebounding.
McGary would fit perfectly with the Pistons as the first or second big man off the bench, depending on what happens with Josh Smith and Greg Monroe. McGary just might develop into a starting quality big man, but it seems more likely at this point that he'll serve well as the first big off the bench. His size and versatility should provide him the opportunity to play both Power Forward and Center. Assuming one of Smith or Monroe is gone, McGary could play with Drummond as the PF, or he could play with Smith/Monroe as the C. His post defense doesn't figure to be a plus at either position, but he should balance that out with his ability to defend pick and rolls and create turnovers.
Currently, the Pistons don't need a prominent big off the bench due to the three big man rotation in the starting lineup. However, that figures to change this offseason, and if one of Smith/Monroe is gone, the Pistons will need a big man who can play 20-25 minutes off the bench. If McGary can stay healthy, I think he would prove to be a steal in the 2nd round as the Pistons' backup PF/C.