Pistons draft: Jalen Duren's running mate or replacement?

NBL Rd 20 - Tasmania Jackjumpers v Perth Wildcats
NBL Rd 20 - Tasmania Jackjumpers v Perth Wildcats / Simon Sturzaker/GettyImages

The 2023-2024 NBA season is coming to a close, and all eyes will begin to shift to the upcoming draft, as well as potential prospects for each team. The Detroit Pistons will finish the year firmly in the group that has the best odds at claiming the number one overall draft pick in this year’s draft lottery, 14 percent.

This clearly means nothing as Detroit was in the same situation last year with the worst record in the NBA and yet, the number one overall draft pick, obviously conveying as Victor Wembanyama, went to San Antonio. Regardless, Detroit should have a top five draft decision to make coming up. 

We’ve already discussed Detroit’s options from both the college basketball landscape, as well as the international pool over the last few weeks. So, let’s do a deeper dive into the most likely selections, and how they would fit with the Detroit Pistons, this week we’ll start with Alex Sarr.  

Detroit Pistons draft: Alex Sarr draft profile

Alex Sarr, 7’1 PF/C, 18

Alex Sarr has had a decent grasp as the number one overall selection for the last few months thanks to his play this season. After playing the last two seasons for Overtime Elite, the French big man decided to play his final pre-NBA season for the Perth Wildcats in the NBL. During his first season with OTE, Sarr was primarily a defensive weapon, averaging three blocks per game and using his wingspan to alter anything that came into the paint. During his second season, Sarr averaged over 11 points per game and 6.4 rebounds. Where he began catching the eyes of scouts was Alex had increased his three point percentage from 21 to 30 percent. It was this jump that has NBA teams believing he can stretch the floor at the next level. 

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This past season, as mentioned, Sarr took his talents overseas to play for the Perth Wildcats in the NBL. It should be noted, the NBL has seen some success with players being drafted. Both LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey spent their pre-NBA season in the NBL. There are those, mostly former NBL players now in the NBA, who believe it is actually more difficult to score in the NBL. For what it’s worth, during their time in the NBL, LaMelo averaged 17, 7 and 7.5 while Giddey averaged 11, 7.5 and 7.5. With that in mind, this past season, Sarr has averaged 9.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and one assist on just 17 minutes per game. Additionally, the stretch four is connecting from the field at 60 percent, but just 29 percent from three. 

Alex Sarr’s Fit with the Detroit Pistons

So how would Alex Sarr fit in with Detroit’s current roster? From a positional and pure size standpoint, he is exactly what the Pistons are missing. An athletic PF/C that can stretch away from the basket, and has a wingspan that will disrupt opposing shooters on the defensive end. You could slide Sarr next to Duren, allow him to play more towards the perimeter which opens the lane, and still improve on the defensive end. Sarr is constantly being compared to Jaren Jackson Jr. In a perfect world, that is what Detroit needs. 

Unfortunately for the Pistons, as already mentioned, Sarr is still connecting at less than 30 percent from deep. Thanks to his improved shooting, the potential is there, but it’s not a guarantee. His ball handling is surprisingly good for a 7-foot-1 big man, and his rim running and finishing around the rim is a plus as well. Even if he is able to bring the ball up confidently, however, he is also just 71 percent from the free throw line, which normally is a good indicator of how true a shooter is. His percentage isn’t terrible, but not a great indicator of a knock down shooter from deep. 

On the defensive end, which the Pistons need drastically, Sarr benefits from his insane wingspan. This past season, he averaged almost two stocks (steals + blocks) per game. Even just having him situated in the paint is going to alter how offenses are able to play against Detroit. Guards won’t be able to drive with as much success, and centers will have to finish stronger. Based on how the Pistons have struggled against a defensive obstruction sitting in the paint this past season, this would be extremely welcome in Detroit. With that being said, Sarr would need to put on some weight, and become more physical once in the NBA. 

All in all, the fit would be perfect in Detroit, IF Sarr’s offensive shooting can develop into a consistent threat. His passing, vision and ball handling are already where it needs to be, but his shooting is a big IF. Detroit already has a few potential stars on their roster that need help with shooting (looking at you Ausar), so maybe getting Sarr this year would mean it’s time to bring in an expert on hitting from deep to coach.