Saturday, June 20, 2015

Pre-Draft Tidbits

We're less than 10 days away from the 2015 NBA Draft and, as usual, it's not really clear what anybody is going to do.  It sure looks like the Wolves will go with Karl Towns, but there's been talk that Flip Saunders is enamored with Jahlil Okafor, and also that Emmanuel Mudiay is under consideration in the top slot.  What the Lakers may do after that is anybody's best guess, and so on, and so forth.  Kristaps Porzingis, once the subject of some debate about being the Pistons' pick at 8, looks like he'll definitely be off the board, with speculation that he could go as high as #2 to the Lakers or #3 to the Sixers.  This is the time of the year where every GM is in love with any player possibly within 10 picks of where they're set to draft and that speculation is rampant is the only true thing you can say about speculation.  The wild-ass guessing hasn't missed the Pistons, as there has been plenty of talk about what the Pistons might do between now and the end of the draft on Thursday.  Here's a roundup of that talk...

Tidbit #1: The Pistons are looking to trade the 8th pick for a veteran

This one has been fairly prevalent, as it does make some sense from a broad viewpoint.  More specifically, this rumor is that the franchise is looking to accelerate the rebuild by moving the 8th pick for a veteran SF.  Again, that would make sense, but I'm not sure you can find a deal that really works for both teams.  By my count, the following SFs are guys who are A) under contract next season, and B) available in the right deal:
  • Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
  • Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets
  • Robert Covington, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Nic Batum, Portland TrailBlazers
  • Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets
  • Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves
It's probably generous to even include the last three, as they aren't as actively involved in trade rumors as the first three.  Even with that list, none of those players are truly worth sacrificing the long-term value of the 8th pick.  Muhammad could justify the cost at some point, but I think Wolves fans would be thrilled to trade him straight up for #8.  The point here is that any potential deal would have to include additional assets beyond just a veteran.  If the pick gets dealt straight up for any of the above-mentioned names, I'm shutting the blog down and I'll have to find something else to watch from November to April.  It might have been legitimate to worry about that happening under the previous regime.  Since SVG has been in town, he's shown that he's competent enough that we shouldn't have to worry about something like this happening.  If the 8th pick is going to get traded, the Pistons will get fair value for it, and I wouldn't expect anything to happen until the front office knows who will be available when they pick.  Van Gundy and his crew have made three trades since taking over, and all three have provided the Pistons with spectacular value.

Tidbit #2: I think there's a good chance the Pistons will trade down

You'll see in the next section that the Pistons have worked out more guys who are slated for the late lottery than they have guys who may go in the 6-10 range.  While this may indicate that the organization could choose to reach for a guy, or that they're simply doing their due diligence, I take it to mean that there's a significant chance that they'll trade down into the teens while picking up additional picks or assets.  Boston's the only team who has two first round picks after #8, and the 16 and 28 that they own probably isn't worth enough to swap straight up for #8.  Finding a fair deal where Detroit lands two picks in the 13-20 range would require three teams being involved, but I'm certainly not ruling it out.  Why spend the time necessary to scout guys like Portis, Kaminsky, Oubre, Dekker and Looney if you aren't truly considering getting into the range where those guys are projected?  You could definitely take these workouts to mean that the Pistons are prepared to reach if Winslow or Hezonja isn't available, but I don't see it that way.  I won't go as far as to guarantee a trade down, and it's dependent on who's available at 8, but I would peg the odds around 45-50% if Winslow and Hezonja are both gone.

Tidbit #3: Guys the Pistons have worked out or interviewed

By my record, which was mostly noted using Hoops Rumors, the Pistons have had, or will have, workouts or interviews with the following players in the time leading up to the draft (roughly listed in my order of preference for each slot):

Candidates for the 8th pick:
  • Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
  • Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
  • Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
  • Myles Turner, F/C, Texas
If the Pistons trade down from 8 into the teens:
  • Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
  • Frank Kaminsky, F/C, Wisconsin
  • Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
  • Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
  • Kevon Looney, F, UCLA
Candidates for the 38th pick:
  • Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV (Interview, no workout, slated to go in the 1st)
  • Anthony Brown, SF, Stanford
  • Rakeem Christmas, PF, Syracuse
  • JP Tokoto, G/F, North Carolina
  • Michael Frazier, SG, Florida
  • Jordan Mickey, PF, LSU (Interview, no workout)
  • Jonathan Holmes, PF, Texas
  • Terry Rozier, G, Louisville (Interview, no workout)
  • Terran Petteway, SF, Nebraska (x2)
If the Pistons acquire a late 2nd round pick/Priority undrafted free agent (UDFA) types
  • Cady Lalanne, PF, UMass
  • Aaron White, F, Iowa
  • Olivier Hanlan, G, Boston College
  • LaDontae Henton, G/F, Providence
  • DJ Newbill, SG, Penn State
  • Dez Wells, SG, Maryland
Guys definitely worth an Orlando Summer League "tryout"/D-League roster spot
  • Royce O'Neale, G/F, Baylor
  • Tyler Kalinoski, SG, Davidson
  • Treveon Graham, G, VCU
  • Le'Bryan Nash, F, Oklahoma State
  • Levi Randolph, SG, Alabama
  • Sir'Dominic Pointer, G, St. John's
  • Will Cummings, SG, Temple
  • Trevor Lacey, G, NC State
  • Branden Dawsen, F, Michigan Staee
  • Travis Trice, G, Michigan Staee
  • Kendall Gray, C, Delaware State
  • Juwan Howard Jr., F, Detroit
Maybe you know something about him that I don't:
  • Aaron Thomas, SG, Florida State
  • Rayvonte Rice, SG, Illinois
  • Wayne Blackshear, SG, Louisville
  • Bryce Dejean-Jones, SG, Iowa State
  • Jabril Trawick, SG, Georgetown
  • Dustin Hogue, SF, Iowa State
  • Darion Atkins, PF, Virginia
  • Greg Whittington, SF, Georgetown
  • Marcus Thornton, G, William & Mary
  • Karrington Ward, F, Eastern Michigan
  • Pierria Henry, G, Charlotte
I looked pretty hard to find all the names I could, but it's not unlikely that I missed someone.  If you know of someone else who has worked out or interviewed with the Pistons, leave it in the comments below.  There are a surprising number of SGs on the list, including one (Devin Booker) in the top group of prospects.  Most, including myself, have assumed that the Pistons won't make any big changes at SG this off-season, so it's refreshing to see that the front office doesn't appear afraid of shaking things up.  If Booker is clearly the best player left on the board at 8, and the trade options aren't adequate, why not grab an 18 year old who can stretch the floor?  The move would free up the Pistons to trade one of KCP or Jodie Meeks and, if nothing else, make the remainder of this offseason much more interesting.
It's also encouraging to see that Justise Winslow squeezed a workout with the Pistons into his schedule.  After Winslow's solid freshman season and phenomenal NCAA tournament performances, it had been assumed that he would be off the board.  Winslow's camp agreeing to a workout with the Pistons makes sense with Porzingis' stock on the rise and the possibility that the Kings do something weird with their pick and grab a guy who isn't projected in the top 6.  After that, it's likely up to the Nuggets to snag whoever's left over among Hezonja, Winslow or maybe Porzingis, but probably not Porzingis.

You'll notice that Terran Petteway is the only prospect who has had two workouts with the team so far. As Vince Ellis notes on Twitter, that's usually an indication that a team has a strong interest. If Petteway hadn't worked out twice, I'd have listed him in the second-to-last column. It's a bit concerning to me that Petteway could be in consideration at 38 after shooting below 40% as a junior at Nebraska this past season. His shot selection is poor and he's not an efficient scorer from anywhere on the floor. I trust this front office much more than the last one, but if Petteway were selected at all, let alone at 38, I'd feel inclined to question how much thought was put into the move. I see him as a guy who you try to sign for a Summer League stint, not a guy who you take with a pick that has opportunity cost.

There are some notable names missing from the above list, including Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja in the 8th slot.  Both have been scouted by the Pistons overseas, and in the case of Hezonja, he hasn't worked out for anybody, because he's still playing in the ACB Finals in Spain.  Porzingis has only offered a limited amount of showings, a smart move for a guy who has been gathering steam in open gyms for the past month.  It would be a shock if Porzingis were even on the board when Detroit picks, because rumor has it that Orlando won't let him get by the 5th pick.  It's draft season, so rumors are definitely RUMORS, but nonetheless, don't expect Porzingis to be there when Adam Silver puts the Pistons on the clock.

One of my favorite parts of the offseason is the Orlando Summer League, so I'll be watching closely in the day or two following the draft to see who the Pistons scoop up to add to the roster.  Last summer the Pistons rolled with a few veterans, such as Brian Cook, DeAndre Liggins, Damion James and Tim Ohlbrecht.  This summer, I'm hoping the team is 100% composed of guys under the age of 25.  If you're going to play games that don't matter, I'd rather figure out what young guys can do, rather than fully evaluate guys who have shown nothing and are already in their prime.  I expect Spencer Dinwiddie and Quincy Miller to be on the roster, as well as the 8th and 38th picks.  Some other guys I'd really like to see get scooped up as UDFAs are Tyler Kalinoski, Royce O'Neale, Juwan Howard Jr. and Kendall Gray.  O'Neale and Kalinoski are both fantastic outside shooters, and exactly the types of guys you can hold in the D-League for a couple years to see if they're worth a spot at the end of the roster.  Juwan Howard Jr. filled up the scoring column in his last two seasons at the University of Detroit, albeit inefficiently, and showed some promise as an outside shooter as a senior.  Again, he's the kind of guy you want to evaluate for a potential D-League roster spot.  Gray is almost certainly the longest shot included, but he averaged a double-double for Delaware State as a senior and looks like a fairly mobile big body on tape.  Also, he posted a 33 point, 30 rebound game against Coppin State this year.  Why not give a guy like that a shot with very little on the line?

Tidbit #4: I have no clue what's going to happen with the 38th pick

What looked like a strong list of candidates for Detroit's second round pick has been whittled down by several international prospects withdrawing their names from the draft.  Aleksandar Vezenkov, Timothe Luwawu and Moussa Diagne, all three guys the Pistons may have been targeting, withdrew their names, weakening the selection at #38 directly.  The options also shrank with the withdrawal of several prospects the Pistons weren't targeting, but guys that were slated to go ahead of the 38th pick, such as George Lucas de Paula.  Among the players listed above as candidates for the 38th pick, Vaughn is an unrealistic option, as he could be drafted in the teens, and who knows if Brown, Christmas, Mickey or Holmes will still be on the board.  In my eyes, the best case scenario for that pick is either Dakari Johnson, Robert Upshaw or Richaun Holmes, with Holmes being my top preference.  Seeing as none of those three have worked out for the team so far, it's unlikely that they're prime candidates.  If you were forcing me to guess who the pick is at 38, I would probably have to say it'll be Anthony Brown if available, with Cady Lalanne as a dark horse guess.  Hopefully there's some more clarity in the coming week, and hopefully that clarity includes Terran Petteway being debunked as a serious option.  If you think it's just me who dislikes Petteway, DraftExpress has him ranked 82nd in his Top 100.  My biggest hope for draft night is that I don't have to hold back my anger if a fairly valuable pick is used on a mediocre volume scorer.

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