After solidifying their frontcourt when Andre Drummond fell to them at No. 9 in the first round, the Pistons beefed up their perimeter in the second round by taking Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton and Missouri’s Kim English.
Middleton, 6-foot-8½, is a junior out of Texas A&M who averaged 13.2 points and 5.0 rebounds last season. He’d put up a strong sophomore season, averaging 14.4 points and shooting 36 percent from the 3-point line, but struggled a little in the adjustment to a new coaching staff in his junior year and missing 12 games with a knee injury.
English had a tremendous senior season at Missouri and had been impressive according to various reports during individual workouts for NBA teams. English averaged 14.5 points and grabbed 4.2 rebounds in shooting 46 percent from the 3-point line.
“All three of our picks tonight, we feel extremely lucky to get them,” Pistons personnel director George David said. “I don’t know if we’ve had a draft here where that many guys, three guys we had ranked higher, fell to us like that. We’ve been pretty fortunate here the last three years.”
Middleton and English give the Pistons terrific size and shooting ability at their positions. English also brings toughness and defensive versatility. Both players, David said, impressed the front office with their maturity and solid foundations.
“Middleton is a guy we valued very, very highly early on in his career,” David said. “We valued him as a first-round talent because he can flat-out shoot the basketball. He’s one of the better shooters in this draft and with his size, we feel he’s a very, very valuable asset. He’s a guy who had a couple of tough breaks in his career. Had those things not happened, there’s no way he would have been there where we took him.”
Middleton caused a stir after his sophomore season at A&M when he was invited to Kevin Durant’s Skills Camp in Chicago and held his own against the NBA’s three-time scoring champion in a scrimmage.
“It was a great experience going against the best scorer in the game right now, a scoring champion,” Middleton said in Chicago. “He’s a great player and I just tried to take on that challenge to guard him and I tried to hold my own.”
When I told Middleton I’d heard he played well, he smiled and said, “That’s what I’ve heard.”
The Pistons selected Kim English with the 44th pick.
Jamie Squire (Getty Images)
“He was a strong consideration at 39,” David said. “We really, really feel lucky to get English at 44. He brings what I would call extreme toughness, a motor, to our team that we really value. He brings a perseverance, a determination and a toughness that fits everything we’re about and everything we’re trying to be about.”
When I talked to English in Chicago, he rattled off a string of Pistons facts and got into a little roster analysis without any prompting.
“Some shooters could help them out a lot,” he said. “I think they’re close. Detroit is on their way. They had 25 wins this year in a 66-game season and only 27 wins in 82 games (the previous season). I watch a lot of basketball. Detroit is close.”
David said English could guard multiple positions defensively. During his workout for the Pistons, he said they were struck by how physical and competitive he defended on the perimeter. On Missouri’s undersized team, English often guarded opposition power forwards.
“We’ve been really wanting a guy that can really be a strong perimeter defender,” David said. “When Kim came in here and worked out and we watched him, the thing that really grabbed our attention was his ability to be a strong perimeter defender.”