2022 NBA Mock Draft: The Pistons’ 3 likeliest scenarios with the No. 5 pick

Unpredictability makes the NBA draft a must-watch on TV. We try to map every situation in advance. We try to get into the minds of decision makers in organizations. However, things are changing. Situations don’t go as planned. This is what makes the design so exciting.

Last year the Pistons held the No. 1 and kept us in suspense all the way until Cade Cunningham’s name was called by Commissioner Adam Silver. It always felt like Oklahoma State’s product was the top pick, but even Detroit general manager Troy Weaver admitted he wasn’t 100 percent sure he’d pick Cunningham by draft morning . This year, the Pistons are not dictating the board. They fell to the fifth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery and will have to wait and see who’s available when they’re on the clock.

With that in mind, the Pistons need to be prepared for multiple scenarios. That’s what this piece tries to capture. Let’s take a look at three different ways the board could fall for Detroit, and make three different decisions based on those scenarios.

Scenario 1: The projection

1. Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith, F, Auburn

2. Thunder from Oklahoma City: Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga

3. Houston missiles: Paolo Banchero, F, Herzog

4. Kings of Sacramento: Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue

5. Detroit Piston: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa

Analysis: For this exercise, the top three names — Smith, Holmgren, and Banchero — remain pretty much the same. The consensus in NBA circles is that the trio of frontcourt prospects will be the top three picks, though perhaps not in that order. That keeps all eyes on the kings and the direction they want to take. Assuming Smith, Holmgren, and Banchero make the top three picks, the draft really starts with Sacramento.

I have the kings that Ivey takes because according to many pundits and evaluators he is the best available player on the board. While Murray may be a better Sacramento fit and more NBA-ready than Ivey — a plus since the Kings hope to end what appears to be a multimillion-year playoff drought — I’ll give the franchise the benefit of the doubt and predict they’re taking on the most explosive athlete in the game Draft, with one of the highest advantages, and find out the rest. If the Kings have their way, this will be the last time they finish in the top five for a while. You might as well take advantage and get the best player available.

The Pistons take on Murray, the all-round forward from Iowa who has many fans in the Detroit front office. Even if you question the 21-year-old’s advantages, he is currently the best player on the board. Picking him gives Detroit the freedom to trade Jerami Grant and add another pick in this draft.

Scenario 2: The twist

1. Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith, F, Auburn

2. Thunder from Oklahoma City: Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga

3. Houston missiles: Paolo Banchero, F, Herzog

4. Kings of Sacramento: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa

5. Detroit Piston: Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue

Analysis: I’ve hinted earlier that the Kings chose Murray over Ivey, but that’s what it looks like written down. Murray fits well on paper with the Kings and as a frontcourt partner for Domantas Sabonis. It’s likely that Murray will enter the NBA and be ready to make an immediate positive impact. It makes sense that Sacramento, a playoff budding team next season, would pick No. 4-ranked Murray.

If the top four picks play out like this, my gut tells me the Pistons will be a match for Ivey. Weaver said Detroit is still in the process of accumulating talent and prior to the phase where it sets out to find a way to hold that talent together. Ivey has the highest potential to be an All-Star of the remaining names and I don’t think anyone would disagree. While Ivey’s fit with Cunningham might be unconventional due to the former’s struggles causing offense in halffield situations, he’s the best player available should Detroit’s selection emerge. Ivey’s athleticism and size at guard point might be too good to pass up.

The guess I have now is that either Murray or Ivey will be a piston on June 23 – assuming Smith, Holmgren and Banchero are the top three picks in a specific order. Of course that depends on what the Kings do in 4th place. Ivey represents the higher cap of the two, while Murray is seen as a higher tier, giving Detroit the flexibility to move Grant and acquire another future asset (or two) and a player willing to help immediately.

Scenario 3: The long shot

1. Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith, F, Auburn

2. Thunder from Oklahoma City: Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga

3. Houston missiles: Paolo Banchero, F, Herzog

4. Kings of Sacramento: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa

5. Detroit Piston: Benedict Mathurin, W, Arizona

Analysis: As you can see, there is no Ivey in the top five in this scenario. I think that only happens when the background on the Purdue guard isn’t positive. Since his Detroit takeover, Weaver has heavily incorporated the character into his roster decisions. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon, even if it means losing a potentially higher-ranked player like Ivey.

If there are any real concerns about Ivey in that regard, I think the Pistons will go with Mathurin. He’s an athletic, sharp-shooting winger who fits in well alongside Cunningham. He’s also an underrated playmaker and I think he has the potential to become a solid defender at the next level.

Mathurin has fans in Detroit — he had a solid workout at the Motor City last week, sources said the athlete. Getting him 5th might be seen as a reach by some, but I believe he’s a potential player who can make an immediate positive impact while also bringing some real assets as an on-ball creator and good defender. Mathurin’s surface prototype is a 3-and-D wing with some bounce, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes beyond that shape by year 2 or 3.

Regardless of what the draft turns out to be, I think the organization will be fine with landing one of those three prospects. They help in different ways and bring different abilities, all of which the Pistons can use in this phase of their rebuild.

(Top photo credit by Jaden Ivey: Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

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