Who won’t be there for Detroit Pistons at 7? Weaver’s guess is a list of only 2 for sure

LaMelo Ball
Point guard LaMelo Ball might be one of the two players that Pistons general manager Troy Weaver doesn’t expect to be available with the seventh pick
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Troy Weaver is going to drop fewer clues about his draft impressions over the next seven weeks than Jerry Rice dropped passes from Joe Montana in their 49ers heyday. But he did say something that should have made your ears perk up a little bit last week after the NBA conducted its draft lottery.

“From three to 13,” Weaver said in discussing the tight bunching of prospects atop the draft, “it’s going to be a scramble.”

What that tells us, foremost, is that Weaver thinks there are two prospects who have zero to precious little chance to be available when the Pistons pick at seven.

There is nothing approaching an overwhelming top two in the draft as there clearly was one year ago when everyone knew what the stakes were for the teams that drew the first two picks, New Orleans and Memphis. The Pelicans were getting Zion Williamson, the Grizzlies Ja Morant.

But there seems a loose consensus that the top prospect is Anthony Edwards and the player with the highest ceiling is LaMelo Ball.

So that’s about as close as we’re coming to a best guess as to which players Weaver expects to be gone for certain and unavailable to the Pistons. And – to be clear – that doesn’t mean Weaver sees Edwards and Ball in a tier above everyone else, it’s just a best guess as to the two players he thinks will be gone first.

After that … a scramble, indeed.

James Wiseman is probably the next player most likely to be taken ahead of the seventh pick, but it’s murky enough – the three college games he played before shutting down, the spotty AAU rebounding, the general devaluation of big men – that he’s not a slam dunk to be unavailable.

Then there’s another group – Deni Avdija, Isaac Okoro, Obi Toppin, Tyrese Halliburton – that’s 50-50. But we’re also at seven names, so at least one of them is going to be on the board when it’s Weaver’s turn to exercise his first pick as the captain of an NBA ship.

Then there’s another group of at least six – remember, Weaver said the scramble was from 3 to 13 – that he views similarly. It’s not a certainty that the seven names we’ve divulged are among the 11 players Weaver sees as part of the 3-to-13 scramble, but it’s our best starting point. It gets even cloudier trying to nail down the other six names.

Among the possibilities: Killian Hayes, Cole Anthony, Kira Lewis, Aaron Nesmith, R.J. Hampton, Devin Vasssell, Patrick Williams, Tyrese Maxey, Precious Achiuwa, Theo Maledon and a mystery man or two.

Weaver got to Europe and to Australia before the world shut down, so he’s had eyes on everyone on this list. He’d like the chance to get to meet his winnowed list of those under serious consideration because, as he’s said, Weaver feels it’s critical when drafting high in the lottery to make sure you know the person as well as the player – but he feels as prepared as he’ll need to be for Oct. 16.

“We’d welcome more information, but if we don’t get it then we have to be prepared to go with what we had,” he said. “It would add the puzzle, but we’ll still be ready to go.”

It’s almost certain there won’t be a traditional draft combine where teams get a chance to do medical examinations and meet with top prospects. It’s nearly as unlikely that prospects will be able to visit teams for workouts and interviews as is typically the case. With the seventh pick in a draft with so little clarity, Weaver probably would have been able to attract most of the 11 names from 3 to 13 on his list to the Pistons Performance Center.

The lack of visits will add another layer of mystery to the draft. There were always clues about draft status contained within the list of players that visited which teams – and the players who chose not to visit certain teams. If anyone from the group of Avdija, Okonwgu, Okoro and Halliburton, for instance, would choose not to visit the Pistons in a typical year, then it probably meant his agent had solid evidence that player was going before the seventh pick. That piece of information likely will be missing this year.

So a scramble sounds about right. As with everything else about 2020, we can’t see there from here.

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