The Detroit Pistons have to wait 37 picks until their turn comes in this Thursday’s NBA Draft. The Pistons’ No. 38 pick will not be nearly as exciting as their No. 8 overall pick would have been, had they not lost it. The dream of getting an elite shooter like Nik Stauskas or Doug McDermott, or extra frontcourt depth with the likes of Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh or possibly even Joel Embiid in wake of his recent injury news, is long gone. Instead, the first draft of the Stan Van Gundy era is set to begin in the second round, where players tend to be much more sporadic in terms of panning out.
Van Gundy, who has assumed control of basketball operations as well as coaching duties, has already made it clear what Detroit is looking for this offseason. Call it SVG’s holy trinity: “tough, smart and can shoot,” he listed in an interview shortly after getting the job this May. That’s the kind of players he wants on the floor. Let’s take a look at some the names I’ve seen thrown around the most often in mock drafts and see if any of them fit the trinity’s criteria.
- Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
- Joe Harris, SF, Virginia
- Mitch McGary, PF/C, Michigan
- Spencer Dinwiddie, SG, Colorado
- Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Serbia
- DeAndre Daniels, SF/PF, Connecticut
- Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece → NBA D-League
- Spencer Dinwiddie, SG, Colorado
- Damien Inglis, SF, France
- P.J. Hairston, SG, UNC → NBA D-League
Looking at these names I see a few that stand out. Harris, Bogdanovic, McGary and Antetokounmpo fit the mold perfectly in my opinion, while a few others come close to fulfilling the trinity. I think that Van Gundy goes with a prospect that matches his trinity as perfectly as possible, which is why my prediction is…
Pick No. 38: Joe Harris, Virginia
Harris was a senior leader on a Virginia team that won both the ACC regular season (16-2 record) and tournament (beating Florida St., Pittsburgh and Duke), and earned a No. 1 seed in the big dance. Virginia was a defensive juggernaut, and held their opponents to an NCAA-best 55.7 points-per-game. Harris played a large roll in all of this. He brought a lot of toughness and effort to the table for the Cavaliers last season. Not to mention, he shot 40.7 percent from 3-point range across his four years at UVA. Harris passes the tough, smart and can shoot test, but questions still remain about whether he can succeed at the next level due to inferior athleticism and limited length (his 6-foot-6 wingspan was smallest amongst wings at the combine).
Despite his lack of athleticism, I think Harris will the be the guy that Detroit goes with on draft night for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t think it’s likely that prospects with more upside like McGary, Early, or Antetokounmpo fall to pick 38 on Thursday. Second, there are a lot of things to like about Harris. He is a practitioner of the game’s fundamentals — hustling, defense, giving 100 percent effort, not turning the ball over — which makes him a safer picker who is not likely to be a bust. Third, shooting is his strongest asset, while it remains Detroit’s biggest need. Despite the fact that shooting is his strongest suit, he remains dedicated to become even better at it. He’s been working out with Stauskas and McDermott all summer in Chicago preparing for the draft. Shooting every day with the draft’s best is the kind of competition that only makes you better.
Harris is a pick on the safer side in the very volatile second round, and because he is smart, tough, and can shoot, I predict that the Pistons are going with him on Thursday. Of course, only time will tell what Van Gundy and the Pistons have in store for this week’s draft. The draft begins this Thursday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.