Sleeper Slippers

At 36, Pistons hope to find a gem who drops to them

Oklahoma's Willie Warren and Xavier's Jordan Crawford are two players the Pistons could take with the No. 36 pick.
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMI
Editor’s note: Pistons.com continues its draft series with a look at second-round perimeter players who could be under consideration when the Pistons pick at No. 36 in Thursday’s draft. Next: Pistons.com’s mock draft.

Joe Dumars has made no secret of his desire to add depth and quality to the Pistons’ frontcourt this summer. But if he lands a big man at No. 7 he feels capable of offering immediate help, then at No. 36 in the second round – with free agency and what could be an active trade market still to come to further address the frontcourt – he’s more likely to take whoever’s there he feels has the best chance to become a roster asset, regardless of position.

And if other teams picking in the 20s and early 30s are looking to scoop up some size from a deep crop of centers and power forwards, then a talented perimeter player could unexpectedly slip to the Pistons.

Who might they be?

Perhaps a point guard like Armon Johnson, Willie Warren or Sherron Collins.

Johnson, 6-foot-3 and 195 at the Chicago draft combine, isn’t a dynamic playmaker or a great shooter, but he does have terrific athleticism to go with plus size at his position and he tested very well in Chicago. A three-year starter at Nevada, Johnson averaged 15.7 points and 5.6 assists and made nearly half his shots.

Warren was talked about as a top-10 pick after his freshman season at Oklahoma, but returned to school in a gamble to show he could be the No. 1 option with Blake Griffin gone and push into the discussion for the top pick overall. It failed spectacularly. His numbers were down and the Sooners were a disaster. But Warren still has all the tangibles that stirred scouts a year ago. At 20, with great size (6-foot-4), he’s been compared to Rodney Stuckey.

Collins has seen his stock sink since the Chicago combine, where he weighed a chunky 217 on a 5-foot-11¾ frame. A minor injury prevented him from working out, and a few weeks later he’d ballooned to 229. But somebody is going to fall for him for his competitiveness, leadership and big-game experience on a stacked Kansas team.

If the Pistons find a scorer more appealing at 36, some of the players who could fall to them include Detroit native Jordan Crawford of Xavier, South Florida’s Dominique Jones or Mississippi’s Terrico White.

Crawford, who grew up a Pistons fan, has been called a poor man’s Vinnie Johnson for the potential some teams see in him as a scoring sixth man. A classic gunner, Crawford, 6-foot-4½, nearly shot Xavier into the Final Four.

“I think in the NBA, (my role) is probably somebody who is instant offense off the bench,” he said in Chicago. “Whatever a coach will give me. If I can compete for a starting job, I’ll take that in a heartbeat. I think I would be instant offense, work myself in, but down the road I want to be a point guard.”

Jones emerged as one of the Big East’s dominant scorers last season, carrying undermanned South Florida to unexpected success. A pure scorer if not a great shooter, Jones has been compared to a surprise second-rounder from the 2009 draft, Marcus Thornton. At 6-foot-5 and 216 pounds with a 6-foot-9¼ wing span, Jones also tested well athletically in running, jumping and strength measurements. He seems a fast riser as the draft approaches and could be the least likely of this group to still be there.

“People are saying first round, but I just want to go to the right situation,” he said. “I want to be put in the situation where I can go out there and play. … Scoring, getting into the lane, getting fouls on the other team, playing good defense.”

White had the best vertical leap in Chicago, 40 inches, and with great size (6-foot-5, 203) scouts see a combo guard who has lottery talent. He might have been better served heading back to Ole Miss for his junior year, but he’s got enough potential to slip into the first round. If he drops to 36, he figures to be on the short list for the Pistons.

Three small forwards went back to college for their senior years, hoping to improve their draft stock, and all had superb college seasons. Will one of Quincy Pondexter, Stanley Robinson or Damian James fall to 36? There’s a chance. And even though the Pistons don’t have a glaring need at that spot, the sheer athleticism of Pondexter and Robinson and the sheer toughness of James would make them tempting, given their NBA readiness.

James, 6-foot-7¾ and 227, could go as high as 20 to San Antonio, which reportedly likes him very much. James, the Big 12’s all-time leading rebounder at Texas, is similar to Pitt’s Sam Young, who was taken between DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko in last year’s draft.

Pondexter, whose father and uncle both played professionally, was dynamic as a senior for Washington, averaging 19.3 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting .528. Robinson was similarly good for UConn, averaging 14.5 and 7.6 while shooting .525.

Five more names to consider:

  • French point guard Thomas Huertel. He was named MVP at the recent Adidas Eurocamp, attended by Pistons personnel director George David. Huertel, 21, has good size (6-foot-3), shooting range and the ability to get to the basket.

  • Alabama point guard Mikhail Torrance has great size (6-foot-5) for the position and is a unique player who uses both hands equally well and could project into a disruptive defender.

  • Da’Sean Butler tore his ACL when West Virginia lost in the Final Four and it’s unlikely he’ll be ready for training camp, but he draws huge positive marks for character and is the type of guy who’ll be a terrific teammate and role player for a decade.

  • Nemanja Bjelica is a 6-foot-10 Serb who projects as a small forward with the ability to play shooting guard. Scouts rave about his ballhandling and offensive creativity but wonder about his strength and ability to defend.

  • Charles Garcia is a similarly unique player at 6-foot-9¼. He came out of nowhere early in the season at Seattle University, generating some buzz as a potential lottery pick. He won’t go that high, but his potential as a point forward puts him in play starting in the 30s.

    Chat live with Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois during Thursday's NBA Draft.