Big Projects

Even in 2nd round, Pistons could land frontcourt help

This year's draft is deep through the 30s and 40s with big men who fall more into the 'project' camp, including Clemson's Trevor Booker and Iowa State's Craig Brackins.
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Editor’s note: continues its draft series with a look at second-round big men who could be under consideration when the Pistons pick at No. 36 in Thursday’s draft. Next: second-round perimeter candidates.

The Pistons expect to land an instant impact player with the No. 7 pick – somebody good enough to force his way into the rotation from day one – but they also expect the player they get at No. 36 to be good enough to have a fighting chance to compete for early minutes, as well.

“I do feel like we will get a guy with that pick who will be able to help us and who will have the impact on our team that we feel we need with that pick,” Pistons personnel director George David said last week. “Sometimes you don’t have confidence in that, but as we’ve gotten farther along into this process, at least I’m personally beginning to become more and more confident in that.”

While the focus is likely to be on landing a center or power forward with their pick at No. 7, the Pistons are more likely to take the player, regardless of position, they feel is a fit, physically and mentally, at No. 36.

But that could very easily mean grabbing another big man, because just as the draft is strong at the top with centers and power forwards, it’s also deep through the 30s and 40s with big men who fall more into the “project” camp – players with perhaps one or two strong tools but holes elsewhere.

Among that group – and there are perhaps two handfuls of big men who could go anywhere from the late first round to the middle of the second – probably the two who’ve put themselves in best position to be taken before the Pistons get a chance at them are Craig Brackins of Iowa State and Trevor Booker of Clemson.

Brackins was considered a lottery candidate a year ago after nearly averaging 20 and 10 for Iowa State as a sophomore. He came back and saw his numbers dip slightly to 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds, but few big men of his size – Brackins measured 6-foot-9¾ with a set of the biggest hands at the Chicago draft combine – have his offensive versatility or his record of college productivity.

Brackins said in Chicago that he was scheduled to work out for the Pistons, but didn’t believe he’d still be there at 36.

“If I go and prove what I can do, show my game, I think I’m a first-rounder,” said Brackins, who compared his style to that of Rasheed Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Garnett for his ability to face up or play out of the block. “I think (the Pistons) like to spread the floor and like power forwards who can shoot, that can go inside or outside. I think I’d fit well with that organization.”

Booker is a tad undersized for a power forward, measuring 6-foot-7½ and a bull-strong (his 22 reps on the bench press finished second, one behind Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody) 236 in Chicago, but his 36-inch vertical jump and 3.1 three-quarters court sprint time – tying Wesley Johnson, Avery Bradley and John Wall for best – make him perhaps the best athlete among big men who’ll be available at 36. The question for the Pistons: Is he too similar, in size and style, to Jason Maxiell, if he’s available?

One of the most intriguing candidates if 6-foot-11 Englishman Ryan Richards, who has a scant resume after playing two years of low-level pro basketball in Europe, mostly in Belgium and Switzerland. He’s barely 19 and has the length and athleticism that could make him a special player one day – or could have him washing out quickly. Richards revealed in Chicago that his first NBA workout was for the Pistons.

“I was in their first workout with a bunch of guys and that workout went pretty well,” he said. “I got positive feedback, so we’ll see how it goes. I sat down with Joe Dumars. He liked my game a lot, told me I need to work on my strength and game experience, but apart from that he told me I did a good job.”

One other international prospect to keep in mind: Miroslav Raduljica. A 7-foot Serb, Raduljica had a breakout season in the Adriatic League and was generating tremendous buzz prior to the recent Adidas Eurocamp, where he stood up NBA scouts expecting a workout and threw a cloud over his draft status. Some feel he’d be a steal late in the first round, while others think he could sink into the late second.

Two prospects from the fractured Big 12 represent physical risks because of conditioning issues, Texas’ Dexter Pittman and Oklahoma’s Tiny Gallon.

Pittman had to leave the Chicago draft combine after one day when his brother was murdered in Texas, so he missed athletic testing but was there to be measured, revealing a wildly mixed bag: a sobering 20.8 percent body fat reading on the downside, but a massive frame (6-foot-11½, 303 pounds and extremely large hands) to the good. Taking Pittman will be a leap of faith in his willingness and ability to manage his weight, which had ballooned to somewhere around 400 pounds before enrolling at Texas.

Gallon weighs nearly as much (302) on a shorter frame (6-foot-9½), yet his body fat was a more acceptable 15.1 at Chicago. Like Pittman and most heavy big men, foul trouble is a constant issue. Unlike Pittman, Gallon is a superb outside shooter. There are also character issues that could scare many teams away. Gallon clashed in his one season at Oklahoma with coach Jeff Capel. Yet when he was motivated, as he was in a late-season loss to highly regarded Baylor when he put up 23 points and 15 boards, Gallon is an enticing prospect who, at 19, has plenty of time to figure things out.

The Pistons held a May workout that involved four college 7-footers: Radford’s Art Parakhouski, St. Mary’s Omar Samhan, Cornell’s Jeff Foote and Tulsa’s Jerome Jordan. Of them, Jordan is the one most likely to be in play at 36. The rest are likely to fall into the 40s, 50s or go undrafted. Jordan, a Jamaican native who is relatively new to the sport, is long and athletic at 7-foot-¾ with a 7-foot-5¼ wing span, and shows flashes offensively. But is he tough and strong enough? Will he compete at a high enough level? Scouts aren’t sure on those counts.

Gani Lawal came very close to entering the 2009 draft after his sophomore season at Georgia Tech, but pulled out when it didn’t look like he was going in the first round. After a year where he had to fight for time with freshman lottery pick Derrick Favors and Zach Peacock, Lawal is again projected as a second-rounder.

Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado has been the most acclaimed shot-blocker in college basketball the past three seasons – he’s averaged a steady 4.6, 4.7 and 4.7 per game – but at 6-foot-10 and only 210 pounds, how much weight he can gain and carry is a concern. That makes him 5 pounds heavier than Austin Daye at nearly the same height – except Varnado is strictly an interior player who’ll have to contend with power forwards looking to overpower him. If you project him as a backup, then you probably figure there aren’t many players on anybody’s bench who will be the focal point of an offense and take a chance.

"Metro PCS Pistons Draft Special" premieres at midnight this Sunday on WDIV-TV 4 and will air on Fox Sports Detroit at 7 p.m. June 21 and 10:30 p.m. June 23. The show will be hosted by Eli Zaret with a special report from George Blaha, and contributions from's Keith Langlois.