As draft nears, it appears these 5 names will be off the board for Pistons pick at 7

It would be a stretch to say there is now clarity to the strangest draft in NBA history as it nears to within 23 days from taking place, but it at least is revealing something of a fuzzy shape to itself off in the distance.

Troy Weaver put a fine point on the relative weirdness of a draft that will take place nearly a month after the NBA anticipated tipping off the 2020-21 season back in August, when the lottery results bumped the Pistons down two spots from fifth to seventh: “Always felt like this draft was about 14 or 15 deep. Felt like you could probably get the same quality player between three and 13.”

So on August 20, as Weaver looked at his draft board, he probably had precious little feel for what would happen with the four picks directly ahead of the Pistons.

Today? Well, there is at least a growing sense that two has become three has become four has become five. We can’t be certain which players Weaver felt were the clear top two talents, though there’s been a loose consensus for months of a top three consisting of Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball.

Push those three off to the side and all but rule them out as being available for the Pistons with the seventh pick. It now seems more likely than ever that two other players, Obi Toppin and Deni Avdija, also will go before the Pistons pick. Since the NBA has decided to allow teams 10 in-person interviews and those have begun, a little more intelligence has come to light and what it’s pointed at is Toppin and Avdija solidifying their status as likely high lottery picks.

A trade could shake things up and you never know what curveball might get thrown to tip common sense on its ear, but that looks like the top five at this point.

Which means Atlanta, scheduled to pick sixth, will shape the options available to the Pistons assuming no surprises ahead of the Hawks.

And it’s entirely possible that Weaver isn’t sweating Atlanta’s decision. If he truly believes the talent pool is relatively flat over an unusually wide range, three to 13, and assuming he has an order of preference among them, he’s still going to be picking from above the mid-point of his list.

For all the talk about trading up or down, those are pretty rare deals for teams picking in the middle of the lottery. Trading up usually takes more than a lottery team can reasonably afford to offer. If Weaver thinks a player can be had with the seventh pick who represents roughly equal value with the player taken third, then it stands to reason he’d be only interested in trading into the top two. Maybe a top-two pick is more attainable this season, when Zion Williamson and Ja Morant aren’t the plums, but it probably costs more than the Pistons would be willing to give up.

Trading down would be a more realistic option, but how far? Weaver isn’t saying he likes every player equally between three and 13, only that he thinks the consensus opinion of his peers of the players who’ll get taken with those picks give the picks relatively equal value. I’d bet there are one or two or three of them he wouldn’t take in the lottery at all.

If he’d be willing to trade down but only by three or fewer spots, then that limits the pool of trade partners to a degree that makes it unlikely they’d find a fit. What’s it worth to the Knicks, Wizards or Suns – the teams picking immediately after the Pistons – to trade up to seven? You can bet Weaver is having loose discussions about such matters, but chances aren’t great that anyone will be sufficiently motivated to swap picks.

So if the gathering clouds paint an accurate picture, then the Pistons front office can probably narrow their focus by crossing five names off of their big board. Only one other will be out of reach for them on draft night.