The 2022 NBA Draft was one of the more loaded classes we’ve seen recently, as there has only been one real bust in the top-10 and there appear to be several future superstars. The Detroit Pistons had the fifth overall pick, with the top three essentially being locked in with some version of Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith.
The draft then started at four, with the Sacramento Kings, who at the time were expected to select Purdue guard Jaden Ivey. The Kings shocked most of the NBA world when they bypassed Ivey, and went with the 6-foot-8 Keegan Murray, a forward out of Iowa.
Detroit fans everywhere rejoiced as it seemed the Kings had outdone themselves attempting to be the smartest in the room, and the Pistons were about to reap the benefits in the form of sure thing Jaden Ivey. But what if that scenario never happened? What if the Kings went with Ivey instead? What would Detroit’s roster look like?
Keegan Murray's rookie year
Coming out of Iowa, Keegan Murray was clearly well respected. Most analysts had a top 10 tag on the wing/stretch four. I don’t think, however, most anyone had him in the top four. And to this day, Murray has done nothing but prove the Kings to be draft masterminds.
In Murray’s first season, he averaged 12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and shot a scorching 41 percent from three. Keegan has been even better this year, upping his points per night to almost 16, rebounds to 5.5, assists to 1.6 and is still hovering around 37 percent from deep.
Back in January, Murray torched Detroit, going off for 32 points, shooting an absurd 5-of-9 from three and finishing with a plus/minus of +32. If that’s not torching a team, I don’t know what is.
How would Keegan Murray fit with the Detroit Pistons?
What if the Kings had not passed on Ivey, and Keegan ended up in Detroit? Right now, the Pistons are in desperate need of a young, stretch four. At the time Keegan was selected, there was still a hope that Isaiah Stewart would take up that mantle, but that still has not come to fruition.
Since Jaden Ivey would not be available at fifth overall anymore, Detroit’s starting lineup would likely contain Cade Cunningham, Ausar Thompson, Keegan Murray, and Jalen Duren. Murray would provide fantastic spacing next to Ausar and Duren. His offensive ability away from the basket would more than make up for Ausar's lack of long-range shooting. Thompson could focus on his defense and rebounding, and Duren would rule the paint.
Without Ivey, Detroit loses their downhill offensive advantage, but they could have made up for that by signing Bruce Brown or Malik Monk in the 2022 free agency class. Or someone like Caris LeVert or Malik Beasley this past offseason. Maybe even just elevated Alec Burks to the starting lineup. Additionally, this would have allowed for Detroit to move Bojan Bogdanovic for assets earlier.
Clearly, this is just a fun exercise. Jaden Ivey is a fantastic player and loved by most here in Detroit. It’s through no fault of his own that the roster around him suddenly doesn’t quite fit. Nor is it his fault that Keegan Murray has blossomed into exactly what Detroit currently needs. At the end of the day, Detroit got Jaden Ivey, and that’s one hell of a consolation prize. I believe the sky's the limit for the electric guard out of Purdue, but you have to wonder how things might have been different.