Troy Weaver was a newcomer to Detroit two years ago, but not to the concept of what it meant to be a Piston. He laid out his vision for team building at his introductory press conference – a team that not only its fans but the Hall of Fame players and championship teams that established the template would see, recognize and appreciate for its adherence to the principles they made famous. Toughness. Teamwork. Defense.
There might not be a player more dialed in to those traits in this draft than Jeremy Sochan. Watch Sochan bounce around the court, crashing for rebounds, diving for loose balls, swarming on defense, arms and legs pumping furiously in transition – all under a mop of hair tinged in a color-of-the-month dye – and see if your mind’s eye can erase the memory of vintage Dennis Rodman.
Sochan isn’t an athlete of that caliber – good luck finding one – but he can fill the same role as the younger version of Rodman perfected with the Pistons as a defensive stopper on the wing with the versatility to guard up or down lineups and create extra possessions offensively with his manic movement skills and nose for the ball. Here’s a look at the Baylor freshman:
FIRST-ROUND CANDIDATE: JEREMY SOCHAN
ID CARD: 6-foot-9 forward, Baylor, 19 years old
DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 6th by The Athletic, 15th by ESPN.com, 13th by The Ringer, 8th by Bleacher Report, 7th by SI.com
SCOUTS LOVE: Sochan is likely the lottery prospect who comes in more ready to make an impact defensively than any other for his size, strength and agility. And it all comes with an ideal temperament to be a defensive wrecking ball. Sochan is the rare player who truly projects to have the capacity to guard any position, making him someone who fits with every team. If he gets drafted in the lottery, he’s not very likely going to a team ready to play deep into the postseason but Sochan projects to be the type of player that playoff teams highly value to guard the big, playmaking wings around whom most high-powered offenses function. Sochan’s per-40 minutes numbers of 10.1 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.1 blocks – he ranked in the top 10 in the Big 12 in both steals and blocks percentages – makes only some of the case for his impact. On offense, while Sochan is not yet and may never be a player who’ll have plays designed for him, he can nevertheless have heavy impact as a cutter, offensive rebounder and screener. Sochan shows enough ballhandling potential to become a threat off the dribble where his strength and athleticism are enough to pose a threat to put pressure on the rim.
SCOUTS WONDER: Sochan wasn’t a reluctant 3-point shooter at Baylor, where he came off the bench in all but one game as a freshman, taking 38 percent of his shots, 2.7 attempts a game, from the 3-point line. He made just 29.6 percent compared to nearly twice the efficiency rate on 2-pointers of 58.5 percent. He also hit just 58.9 percent of his free throws. The mechanics don’t look hopeless, only inconsistent. Having a better sense of shot selection and aligning with development coaches to embark on a disciplined shooting regimen could well allow Sochan to approach league average in short order. Even at the defensive end, where Sochan’s impact potential is intoxicating, there are instances of Sochan making impulsive decisions that underscore how raw he still is on many levels. You can make the case that Sochan’s ability to have such obvious impact at the highest levels of college basketball despite being so raw in many respects only speaks to his potential once those rough edges get rounded off. But there’s a fair amount of projection required to get to that conclusion.
NUMBER TO NOTE: 89.8 – That was Sochan’s defensive rating as a college freshman who spent the entire season as an 18-year-old. Mikal Bridges, a first-team All-Defense selection in 2021-22 now regarded as perhaps the best defensive wing in the NBA, spent three seasons at Villanova and never posted a defensive rating below the 90s.
MONEY QUOTE: “Tremendous defensive versatility. You can make a case for him guarding all three frontcourt positions. Switchability should be there, which is a key factor with the big guys today. To me, (he’s) more of a defense/athlete/energy/versatility guy first more than offense right now. But the offense can come. … He can be a secondary scorer who’s a primary defender with size and mobility. … He’s a modern player in that sense.” – Anonymous Western Conference executive to David Aldridge of The Athletic
PISTONS FIT: As long as a reasonable amount is put on Sochan’s plate early in his development, he’d fit anywhere. A reasonable role to start with for the Pistons would be as the defensive stopper of the second unit and, from there, ascending to a spot on the closing unit. That would be enough value to justify spending the fifth pick on Sochan even if it takes a while to figure out the rest of it. Sochan’s cutting, hustle and nose for the ball are things that Cade Cunningham, with his basketball IQ, would be able to amplify to full effect. He’d give Cunningham and Killian Hayes a potent transition weapon for finishes. Dwane Casey emphatically believes that a player willing to work and willing to accept coaching – two different things – can absolutely improve his shooting. Sochan’s character reports are likely to lend confidence to the team that drafts him that he’ll make concrete strides as a shooter and in other areas where he needs polish.
BOTTOM LINE: The Pistons want shooting to complement Cade Cunningham and Sochan doesn’t move the needle there – not yet, at least. But you’re not going to get every desirable attribute wrapped up in the same package very often, whether it’s with the fifth pick or not. Sochan would almost instantly raise the defensive ceiling of the Pistons, a surer outcome than at least some, if not most, of the likely candidates to be taken. Sochan appears to be gaining some steam in the pre-draft process, initially slotted by most as perhaps late in the lottery or beyond. Now he’s seen as more likely a top-10 pick. Sochan worked out for Sacramento, which holds the fourth pick, and would have worked out for Indiana, picking sixth, but for flight issues. There are others more likely to be taken by the Pistons at No. 5 and all of them are probably more rounded players today. But maybe none of them do anything quite as well as Sochan projects to play defense walking through the door.