Detroit Pistons Draft Dreams: Tristan Thompson


Last season, with the Pistons picking seventh overall, most experts believed the Pistons would end up with North Carolina’s Ed Davis, a solid but decidedly unsexy pick. We of course know that instead, fate (and the braintrust of the Golden State Warriors) intervened and allowed Greg Monroe to fall to that seven spot. This season, with the Pistons picking eighth, a consensus seems to be building that the team will end up with Tristan Thompson, a fine player out of Texas but, like Davis, not a particularly well-known one. We’ll see if it actually plays out that way, but we might as well take a look at Thompson with his name so heavily associated with Detroit over the last week.


Measurables: 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, freshman F from Texas

Key stats: 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocks per game while shooting 55 percent

Projected: Lottery

How would he help the Pistons?

Thompson is one of a handful of lottery-level frontcourt players who would compliment Monroe simply because of athleticism. As we saw with Monroe last season, he’s a crafty player with quick hands, but he’s not a leaper or shot-blocker and he doesn’t have a lot of lateral quickness on defense. Finding a player who can jump, protect the rim, run the floor and finish would add a much-needed dimension to the Pistons. Thompson has a long wingspan, which allows him to block shots despite being a bit undersized (he measured just under 6-foot-9 at the combine). The fact that he’s left-handed like Monroe would also make the Pistons potential starting frontcourt a unique matchup problem if both Thompson and Monroe developed as post players on offense.

Thompson isn’t the most refined player on offense, but the good part about his game is he doesn’t try to do too much. He doesn’t over-dribble, he has an extremely quick first-step and he typically just makes a quick, decisive move and uses that explosion to get to the basket. Thompson is really active without the ball on offense, and as we saw last season with the Monroe and Chris Wilcox combo, Monroe frequently found the active Wilcox cutting to the basket. Adding Thompson and a healthy Jonas Jerebko around Monroe next year should ensure that the Pistons’ cutters are always being found for easy shots.

How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?

Along with his height, Thompson has some definite areas to improve. He has very little range as most of his points come right around the basket. In fact, he might not even have range out to the free throw line. He only shot about 49 percent there for the season. He’s also too light for the NBA paint and needs to add some bulk, which would help him back down opponents easier and not have to rely solely on trying to explode past everyone.

What are others saying?

From DraftExpress:

"His ability to move without the ball, in particular, is promising to his early NBA prospects, as he will not likely have many plays run for him until he develops further. He is most effective cutting to the basket and finishing off of dump passes and lobs at this point. Texas rarely utilized him in the pick-and-roll, but he looked very solid in limited possessions where he showcased his quickness and mobility—something that could become a staple of his game in the NBA."

From ESPN:

"Another year at Texas would really help his game. But his draft stock? I don’t think it will ever be higher. Teams are looking for tough, athletic, versatile forwards. Thompson’s work on the offensive boards alone should get him into the lottery. Right now, folks are willing to overlook the flaws in his game. If the flaws persisted over another year at Texas, I’m not sure they’d do it again."


"He has an extremely quick second jump, and he is able to time his attack and get his hands on a high percentage of missed shots … His length also posses problems on the defensive end, as he is able to recover quickly or slide over from the weakside to block and contest shots around the basket"

Hickory High’s Similarity Scores

Here’s a breakdown of how Ian Levy from Hickory High came up with his similarity scores.