If Pistons move 8th pick, top small forwards could be targeted
Based mostly on Joe Dumars’ contention after the lottery process bumped the Pistons down one spot to No. 8 on May 17, the common assumption heading into Thursday’s NBA draft is that the Pistons will be looking for a frontcourt partner for Greg Monroe.
But Dumars merely said it was likely that the Pistons would go big with their lottery pick, not definite. And five critical weeks have passed since then – weeks Dumars and his front-office staff have spent parsing every aspect of the resumes and potential of dozens of prospects.
It has been reported, for instance, that the Pistons worked out a number of highly regarded guards in that time, including Kemba Walker, junior star of UConn’s national championship run, and Colorado’s Alec Burks, considered by most the top shooting guard prospect.
Earlier this week, Kansas combo forward Marcus Morris – he sees himself as more of a small forward, where twin brother Markieff is a power forward – reported via Twitter that he was headed for a Pistons workout, which reportedly included Kawhi Leonard and other highly rated small forwards.
With rumblings that some teams, including the Knicks (17th pick) and Rockets (14th) are aggressively looking to trade up, it’s possible that the Pistons – especially if the big men they value most are off the board at eight – will be inclined to trade down several spots and address an overlooked need at small forward, where Tayshaun Prince and Tracy McGrady are pending free agents and Austin Daye’s readiness to assume starter’s minutes is still uncertain.
Here’s a look at some sleeper candidates for the No. 8 pick – or players the Pistons could target if they find an attractive offer to move down.
- Markieff Morris – Some see Markieff Morris as a poor man’s Rasheed Wallace. Both Philadelphia natives, Morris has the potential to develop into the type of deep shooter Wallace became as his NBA career evolved, though Morris doesn’t have Wallace’s length, isn’t the athlete the young Wallace was and almost certainly doesn’t possess the rare basketball IQ he had.
Still, there’s lots to like in a player who measured 6-foot-9¼ and weighed a solid 241 pounds – that’s one-half inch taller and 11 pounds heavier than Marcus – at the Chicago draft combine and has displayed refined offensive skills during individual workouts.
Most mock drafts have Markieff falling out of the lottery and going in the late teens. It’s not likely the Pistons would take him at No. 8, but if they view Markieff as a comparable talent to some of the big men who are still on the board at their pick – players like Bismack Biyombo, Tristan Thompson or Jan Vesely, perhaps – then trading down and pocketing another asset while picking up Morris is a potential alternative.
- Kawhi Leonard – Some glowing early reports from individual workouts appeared to boost Leonard’s stock dramatically in the time since the lottery drawing. Once thought to be a mid-round pick, Leonard has been linked to teams as high as Cleveland at No. 4, Toronto at No. 5, Washington at No. 6 and Sacramento at No. 7.
Leonard – who canceled a scheduled workout with Milwaukee, picking 10th, after Monday’s workout with the Pistons, fueling speculation he had gotten a strong indication from the Pistons that he would be their pick – isn’t likely a player the Pistons would have in mind if they were interested in moving down. But would they take him at No. 8? It’s possible, especially if the front office is uncertain of what Prince’s future holds.
Leonard played a power forward style at San Diego State, but he’s shown since the college season ended the promise of shooting range and perimeter skills. Though just 6-foot-7 in shoes, Leonard’s massive wing span (7-foot-3, superior to most centers and power forwards at the Chicago draft combine) and hands, coupled with his rugged playing style, suggest he could have matchup advantages many nights.
- Chris Singleton – Singleton has been linked to Utah with the second of its lottery picks, No. 12, so it’s not likely the Pistons would draft him eighth. Defensively, Singleton looks like an ideal candidate to replace what Prince has provided the Pistons over the years with his superior size (6-foot-9, 7-foot-1 wing span) and athleticism at small forward.
Singleton’s weakness is his unrefined offensive game. He’s flashed a good perimeter jumper and made spectacular plays in his three years at Florida State, but Singleton is not a polished offensive player. His ballhandling is iffy and he’s turnover prone, but a Singelton-Austin Daye tandem at small forward would provide the next Pistons coaching staff with matchup options – Daye’s offensive potential balancing Singleton’s defensive promise.
- Tobias Harris – Harris is one of the more enigmatic first-round prospects, leaving Tennessee after a freshman season that saw him average 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds. He’s a classic tweener at 6-foot-7¾ with a skill set that could lend itself to either power forward or small forward as his body and game mature.
Harris is more basketball player than explosive athlete with a craftiness to his game that belies his age – at 18 on draft night, Harris will be one of the youngest rookies next season – whether it’s with his back to the basket or facing up from the perimeter. Ultimately, Harris’ position more than likely will be determined by whether he’s best suited to guard power forwards in the post or chase small forwards on the perimeter – something it doesn’t seem most teams yet know.
That could be why there appear to be wild splits over where Harris might wind up going in the draft. The consensus is that he probably won’t go in the top 20, meaning the Pistons – if they fall in the camp that believes Harris’ basketball smarts will allow him to find a niche and be a productive pro – could pick up an asset or assets of significance for moving down a dozen or more spots to draft Harris.
- Jordan Hamilton – There are very few players in the draft that NBA scout feel have the potential to develop into 20-point scorers. Hamilton is one of them.
A sophomore out of Texas, Hamilton has an ideal small forward’s frame – he checked out at 6-foot-8½ and 228 pounds in Chicago – and a gorgeous shooting stroke. Hamilton shows the promise to be one of the game’s premier inventive shotmakers, taking and making shots others wouldn’t dare try.
That type of ability led to an erratic freshman season at Texas, when Hamilton did very little other than score and often with less than stellar efficiency. But he made great strides as a sophomore, averaging 18.6 points and 7.7 rebounds a game while shooting 44 percent – not bad, considering Hamilton attempted more than six 3-point shots a game.
Hamilton’s status suggests the Pistons wouldn’t be maximizing the value of the No. 8 pick by taking him there, but trading down a half-dozen spots or so could yield Hamilton plus something else with impact potential.
- Alec Burks – Burks has been frequently projected as going at No. 10 to Milwaukee, so if the Pistons were to trade down with Burks in mind, they wouldn’t be falling very far – though late news that Burks’ camp offered to work out for the Knicks, with the 17th pick, indicates his agent isn’t hearing what he likes from teams picking in the lottery.
A Colorado sophomore, Burks was not considered a McDonald’s All-American type coming out of high school but he’s harnessed his athleticism and become a prolific scorer despite not being a consistent perimeter shooter. Only 19, Burks averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists as Colorado’s undisputed star.
He shot 47 percent, doing most of his work off the dribble. Burks attempted less than one 3-point shot per game for the Buffaloes.