Hoping for Anthony Bennett, debating Shabazz Muhammad/Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

At this point, Noel, Burke, Porter, McLemore and Oladipo are pipe dreams for the Pistons.

That makes Bennett, ranked by some in a group with the aforementioned five players, Detroit’s dream pick.

Bennett, a freshman forward from UNLV, is an explosive athlete whose ball skills and mobility make him a matchup issue for opposing power forwards. There’s a chance he can transition to small forward, but I wouldn’t count on it. Obviously, that’s not ideal with Monroe and Drummond — and neither is Bennett’s defensive indifference at UNLV nor the rotator-cuff surgery he had that will keep him out until the fall — but Bennett is so far ahead of the next prospect that if he’s there, he should be the pick.

[C.J. McCollum] scored very well at Lehigh, but he didn’t show the passing skills his height (6-feet-3) will require in the NBA. Lehigh needed McCollum to score, and it’s possible he has playmaking skills the system never allowed him to showcase, but it’s a risk to draft a player who didn’t prove himself, regardless of the reason. Another question is whether he and Brandon Knight are big enough to defend in tandem, but at this point, I wouldn’t let Knight’s presence influence any draft decisions.

UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad is probably the best fit in this tier, considering the Pistons need another wing player. Muhammad has taken more criticism than anyone in this draft — both deserved (lies about his age) and undeserved (NCAA scrutiny, backpack). But he works hard and always plays hard, and those traits should get more consideration than they have.

Maryland’s Alex Len is skilled and tall, but maybe soft. Indiana’s Cody Zeller produced very well in the nation’s best conference, but his wingspan and tendency to get pushed around leaves questions. But both big men can add only so much value to a team that already has Monroe and Drummond.

Syracuse’s Michel Carter-Williams makes excellent passes, but he also turns the ball over too much and is a terrible shooter. He and Knight would complement each other well in the backcourt (besides combining for too many turnovers), but there’s no guarantee either will become good enough to start in the NBA.

Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has seen his draft stock rise quickly. He’s a good shooter and defender, an important combination, though question marks about his ballhandling limit his perceived upside.

He fits as well as Muhammad, so that leads to the question that has a very good chance of determining Detroit’s pick: Is Shabazz Muhammad or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a better prospect?

Click through to the Free Press to see my early top-seven mock draft. I’ll share my current prediction for the Pistons’ No. 8 pick in a post here later today.

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Tags: Alex Len Anthony Bennett Ben McLemore C.J. McCollum Cody Zeller Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Michael Carter-Williams Nerlens Noel Otto Porter Shabazz Muhammad Trey Burke Victor Oladipo

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