Detroit Pistons: Most intriguing Draft prospect you’ve never heard of

North Dakota State Bison forward Grant Nelson Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
North Dakota State Bison forward Grant Nelson Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons will leave no stone unturned in their quest to add talent in the NBA Draft, free agency and trades.

Grant Nelson of North Dakota State has been making waves on the internet as a future draft prospect. The 6-foot-11 junior can handle the ball like a guard and shoot like one too.

Nelson’s rise may be mainly stuck within NBA Twitter lore for now, however the skills that the big man has shown bring forth some true potential and upside in the league.

Detroit Pistons: NBA Draft prospect Grant Nelson

Coming out of high school, he was named North Dakota’s Mr. Basketball in his senior season, averaging an unbelievable 25 points, 18 rebounds, and 5.7 blocks per game.

Since joining North Dakota State, Nelson has made a consistent impact. As a true freshman, he was named the Summit League’s Sixth Man of the Year, playing in all 27 games for the team. Last season, he moved into a starting role and was the third leading scorer for the Bison with 11.8 points per game. As a sophomore, he tallied a team-best 38 total blocks, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from three during conference play.

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This season, Nelson has become the leading scorer for NDSU, averaging 16 points per game so far. He’s also the team’s leading rebounder and shot blocker.

Nelson has popped for two 30-point games already this season, including a 35-point night against Western Illinois. Mainly, the scoring volume has come near the rim. As a big man should, Nelson is shooting over 60 percent on twos. While he has shown some intrigue from the 3-point line, Nelson has shot 21 percent from three this season, with only one game where he has made more than one 3-pointer.

Entering this season, Nelson added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-11 frame, which is huge to increase his dominance in the paint. With players containing a similar skillset and length, strength and injury concerns are always an issue. To be a successful big in the NBA, playing more than double the amount of games compared to college, prospects must be able to show scouts that they can be a presence down low and have longevity in a professional career.

How will Grant Nelson fare as an NBA prospect and does he fit with the Detroit Pistons?

Nelson’s immediate future is unknown. He’s only a junior, so he may elect to return to North Dakota State for his senior season prior to fully testing the waters in the pro ranks.

I would guess that Nelson will enter the pre-draft process this season, reserving the right to return to college for his senior year if he doesn’t see strong a strong report for himself amongst scouts. He can participate in the NBA Draft Combine and withdraw his name from the draft by the June 1st deadline to retain collegiate eligibility with the NCAA for next season.

He could also explore transferring to a Power 5 school to gain consistent prominence nationally, while opening up further NIL opportunities to make money off of his name, image, and likeness while playing in college. This could be a stretch, as Nelson is a North Dakota native, however it is an option to help increase draft stock.

The Detroit Pistons could benefit from an additional big who can handle the ball and shoot at Nelson’s height. Pistons rookie big man Jalen Duren also stands at 6-foot-11, however if Nelson can improve his jumper and shoot consistently, he could add an additional element in the frontcourt as Duren serves in a main rim-running role.

Nelson still needs to develop, and I wouldn’t say that he’s NBA ready at this time, so he could end up spending time towards the end of a rotation or in a G League environment. I’d guess that an NBA team would love to have a shot blocker who’s comfortable with the ball at Nelson’s length on their bench.

At this time, I’m thinking of Nelson as more of a 2024 prospect, with the opportunity to further refine his game in the college ranks and make a case to be drafted come next year. If he can develop his 3-point shot, an NBA team could have a hidden gem on their hands.

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