Detroit Pistons: Hunting for unicorns in the 2020 NBA Draft

Detroit Pistons draft picks (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons draft picks (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons are looking to land a diamond in the rough in this year’s draft.

With the 2020 NBA Draft lottery being held August 20th, the Detroit Pistons will finally learn exactly which slot they will be picking in.

While the state of the Pistons roster certainly allows them to draft the best available player with their lottery pick, the vibe seems to be that a point guard is preferred, with either LaMelo Ball or Killian Hayes being the desired choice depending who you ask.

But what if new GM Troy Weaver decides to go in a different direction? We know that Weaver isn’t afraid to take chances in search of talent, could he decide that now is the time to get the Pistons their very own unicorn?

The domino effect caused by the Detroit Pistons 2019 playoff berth. light. Also

What exactly is a basketball unicorn anyways?

While unfortunately it is not Pistons mascot Hooper in a My Little Pony costume (are they horses or unicorns? I’ve never actually watched the show but I swore there were unicorns involved but if that’s the case what’s the deal with the name?).

Anyways, a unicorn in the basketball sense is generally a player that has the athletic ability and size to block shots and protect the rim while playing in the front-court as well as the ability to handle the rock, shoot it from deep and set up their teammates for buckets.

A few examples would be Kristaps Porzingis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, and Nikola Jokic. These players provide their squads with the ability to force real mismatches and cover up the holes in their teammates games.

A unicorn for the Pistons could potentially allow for Christian Wood to utilize his speed against slower centers while the unicorn provides rim protection.

Cool! So is there anybody like that in the 2020 NBA Draft? I hear you asking your screen. Well, there’s a reason these types of players are called unicorns after all and not something common like “Skip Bayless talking about LeBrons”. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the prospects who could fit this description:

Aleksej Pokusevski– 7’1, 205lbs, Olympiacos Piraeus

Poku is probably the only player listed here who truly plays like a guard.

“… an upside pick such as 7-1 Serbian power forward Aleksej Pokusevski, who handles the ball like a point guard and shoots it like a wing, yet has questions in terms of his NBA readiness and toughness.”

The young Serbian stands at least 7 feet tall and could probably be knocked over by a stiff wind off of Lake Huron.

In his highlights he looks like the next Kevin Durant, showcasing his ability to handle the ball, get to the rim and shoot off the bounce.

Unfortunately, the competition in the Greek second division isn’t the best, and as ESPN’s Mike Schmitz has put it there are questions regarding Poku’s toughness and NBA readiness, resulting in Poku potentially being the greatest boom or bust prospect in the draft.

His play-making ability and size are certainly unique but do his skills differ enough from those of Christian Wood should the Pistons resign him and while he may have the most unicorn potential is the risk worth it here?

Jalen Smith – 6’10, 225lbs, Maryland

The man affectionately known as Sticks averaged 15.5 pts, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game last season for the Maryland Terrapins.

While Sticks was able to hit 37 percent of his threes he’ll need to up his volume from just 2.8 to truly be a unicorn. There’s certainly potential for him to increase his attempts in the faster paced NBA  but the money lies on whether he can continue to do so efficiently.

Despite not having shown much as a distributor he has a lot of intrigue as a mid-first rounder in the 2020 NBA Draft and his shot blocking is a skill that the Pistons don’t readily have available, however the value is just not likely to be where the Pistons are choosing.

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Daniel Oturu –6’10, 240lbs, Minnesota

Projected to likely be taken in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft. A proven shot blocker who has shown glimpses of his ability to step out beyond the arc and knock down shots (19/52 on the year) while also shooting 71 percent from the charity stripe.

Per Tankathon he has a projected NBA three point percentage of 33 percent. Oturu hasn’t shown much as a distributor as of yet but he appears to have some decent ball handling ability for a big on straight line drives to the hoop and the combination of a shot blocker with outside shooting potential is valuable in itself whether or not he is a true unicorn.

As a center Oturu has the potential to be a nice complimentary piece next to Christian Wood (knock on wood, pun intended).

James Wiseman –  7’1, 237lbs, Memphis

After having only played 69 minutes while at Memphis Wiseman is one of the more interesting prospects in the draft.

The signs are there that Wiseman could pull it off, as an uber athletic 7 footer he blocks shots with a reckless abandon, and in his 3 games he managed to shoot 70 percent from the charity stripe at 9 attempts a game so perhaps he could develop a three point shot down the line (neither Anthony Davis nor Karl Anthony-Towns were shooters while at Kentucky prior to entering the league) if you want to take the high road.

While its really yet to be seen, Wiseman’s ball handling is said to be one of the better outlier skills in the draft. Wiseman has all the tools and could potentially be taken prior to the Pistons selection, but like Kyrie Irving before him you have to rely on the high school tape and the projections.

Could he one turn out successful like Kyrie as well?

While the definition of a unicorn may be constantly changing as players and the game of basketball continue to morph, versatility and unique skill sets and the ability to cause mismatches will always be valued.

Whether or not the Detroit Pistons pursue a point guard remains to be seen as the team desperately needs an infuse of young talent no matter the position, and with Troy Weaver at the helm you just cant be too sure that the Pistons won’t go on a little hunting trip for their own unicorn in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft.

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