The Pistons will enter the June 25th draft with plenty of holes to fill.
They may not be as big as they’ve been in year’s past, but there’s a good chance Stan Van Gundy goes into his first NBA Draft with a first round pick in search of a contributor. Whether that player is on the wing or down low is yet to be seen, but let’s take a trip to Bluegrass Country.
Let’s look at Kentucky’s sharpshooting freshman guard, Devin Booker.
WHAT BOOKER DOES WELL:
Booker can shoot the hell out of the ball. That’s all you really need to know.
His numbers at Kentucky (10 points, 2 rebounds, one assist) aren’t going to catch your eye, but after struggling early in the season, Booker really picked it up. He finished the year shooting 47 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range, and showed he’s also a smart player.
But it’s the shooting that will make him a lottery pick. His stroke is consistent and clean, almost text book. He keeps his body square with the rim — back straight, feet under him with his arms high with a clean release that doesn’t vary — his range stretches out to the NBA line.
There are some who will mention that he was simply a shooting specialist for Kentucky’s stacked team this season. Me? I say that’s his destiny.
I think you’d be pretty set with him as a 3-point specialist off the bench for the next 10 years; the issue is do you take a guy like that No. 8? The Pistons don’t have many options on the wing, and Booker would definitely provide much-needed offense and shooting.
Plus, he was born in Grand Rapids before moving after his freshman season. Here’s a video of Booker — then a junior in high school — giving newly-minted Finals MVP Andre Igoudala some trouble at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in 2013.
WHAT BOOKER DOESN’T DO WELL:
Defense is going to be an issue.
While 6-foot-6 is great size for an NBA shooting guard, weighing 206 pounds is going to get you bullied by the Dwayne Wades and James Hardens of the world. Booker is going to have to put on weight before he can be expected to defend in the NBA.
That frail frame also could play into his durability. Booker showed no signs of injury at Kentucky but, like his draft-bound teammates, he played just 21 minutes per game. He’ll eventually be expected to give a team more than that, and you wonder if he can survive physically at that weight over 82 games.
He’s also got to improve some of the complimentary parts of his game.
He’ll need to rebound better, though two rebounds per game in those minutes on that team isn’t horrible. Booker will also have to expand his offensive game. You can definitely make money as a shooter, but if he’s not going to be able to defend well off the bat, he’ll have to be able to score in other ways, too.
Positional versatility is also an issue. Due to his frail frame, he’s not going to have a shot at playing small forward, at least initially. If he’s going to struggle defending shooting guards, there’s no way he’s playing with small forwards on that end.
That’s a problem for the Pistons because, while they aren’t particularly strong on the wings, they need guys who can play in multiple spots.
SHOULD THE PISTONS TAKE HIM AT NO. 8?
This is where it gets shaky.
There’s an obvious need for shooting in Detroit, but there’s also a logjam of sorts at shooting guard. There’s nothing about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Jodie Meeks that should keep the Pistons from drafting a shooting guard like Booker.
But the issue is do they really need to draft an 18-year-old version of Jodie Meeks? If the board works against the Pistons, Booker might make sense. But with a Grand Canyon-sized hole at small forward, the Pistons should still pursue one of Mario Hezonja, Justise Winslow or Stanley Johnson before Booker.
It’s when we get into the danger zone of having to choose between Booker and Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky or Trey Lyles that it may feel alright to go with one of the top shooters in the draft despite the redundancy it would create.