Detroit Pistons: Early returns show risk may have paid off

Ausar Thompson #9 of Detroit Pistons (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)
Ausar Thompson #9 of Detroit Pistons (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images) /

In his first Summer League game against the Magic, Ausar Thompson of the Detroit Pistons recorded a solid effort of seven points, nine rebounds, three assists, and three blocks. With his brother Amen sidelined with a sprained ankle in the second game against Houston, Ausar recorded twelve points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals, and two blocks. He stuffed the stat sheet with a solid, overall performance again against Toronto, and he recorded a double-double against the Spurs, providing highlight reel plays along the way.

He played like he was still in Overtime Elite.

It’s just Summer League, but fans and teammates were high on Thompson’s performance.

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Knowing how a prospect will do against NBA competition is almost impossible. There’s no way to predict health, development, psychology, or emotions, and no other league can replicate the NBA’s physicality, talent, or skill level.

The Detroit Pistons’ risk may have paid off

Coming out of Overtime Elite, many didn’t know how the Thompson twins’ success would translate. Some pundits expected teams to undervalue their experience and success in a professional league that doesn’t employ players who can legally drink alcohol.

Amen and Ausar’s choice to play in Overtime Elite doesn’t seem to have affected anyone’s draft choices. The consensus top three prospects were gone by the fourth pick, and I don’t think anyone sees a reason to redo the 2023 draft quite yet.

A year from now, that may be a different story. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.

Most general managers value size, body type, and athleticism over what a player has shown on the court, especially at the top of the draft. Teams draft for talent and potential. They can get a serviceable role player in free agency, but the possibility of a star is priceless.

The Detroit Pistons took a chance on one when they drafted Ausar out of Overtime Elite, a league that has yet to produce a steady stream of NBA talent. Ausar and Amen are the ambassadors and it’s always a risk to be the first one to try a new approach.

Either or both of the Thompson twins may be a star in a few years. I expect both to enjoy long careers in the NBA. Taking into account their skills, intelligence, size, and talent relative to the way many teams draft, the Pistons appear to have hit a home run with their fifth pick.

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