With the 5th pick, the Detroit Pistons select …

As far as Troy Weaver has a type, it’s not so much about size or ability as it is about competitiveness and work ethic. Keep that in mind as you try to put yourself in Weaver’s headspace to predict what the Pistons general manager will be doing with the number 5 three weeks from now.

Though Weaver was a big part of Oklahoma City’s front office at one time, The Thunder managed the unlikely — and likely never achieved — feat of picking future MVPs in three straight drafts (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden), but he did it I have no final authority. So the pool of evidence for Weaver’s drafting tendencies is limited to the two drafts he conducted as Pistons general manager.

He’s managed to land eight picks in those two drafts — three first-rounders in 2020, three seconds in 2021.

He has drafted three teenagers in the first round, 18-year-olds Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart in 2020 and 19-year-old Cade Cunningham in 2021. The small breakaway is Saddiq Bey, who was 21 after spending two years at Villanova at Weaver spent the 19thth Pick him in 2020. In the second round, he drafted a three-year-old collegiate player (Saben Lee) and two four-year-old varsity players (Isaiah Livers, Luka Garza). Balsa Koprivica was 21 after two years at Florida State when the Pistons drafted him at 58th last summer.

That’s pretty easy proof if you’re willing to believe that Shaedon Sharpe would resonate at #5 based on the fact that he was celebrating his 19th birthdayth Birthday only on Monday. He is nearly three years — 33 months to be exact — younger than the player perhaps most associated with the Pistons at No. 5, Iowa’s Keegan Murray.

Murray will be 22 in August. He is three years out of high school and is spending a year at a Florida prep school before playing two seasons in the Big Ten. Discrimination against older college players has legitimate grounds but is not universal for the simple reason that players do not emerge from cookie cutters. Murray scoffed at the idea that he’s recently a full-fledged player with limited potential at the draft combine, pointing to a late-stage growth spurt and the adjustment that’s been asked of him.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sharpe didn’t play a minute in Kentucky after signing up in January. He became 2021’s Summer Star of the Year by radar and was ranked as the #1 recruiting class of 2022 after his AAU Star round. He was then demoted to the 2021 draft at the last minute, paving the way for entry into the 2022 draft.

To be clear, the decision about Weaver’s record isn’t limited to Murray and Sharpe. Three weeks before the draft, teams have yet to gather in a room and bang the table as they set up the board that will guide draft night decisions. It’s not set in stone that Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey will be off the board before the Pistons’ pick. Even if they are, Bennedict Mathurin, AJ Griffin, Dyson Daniels, Jalen Duren, Johnny Davis and a handful of others could still be the bandwagon.

But for our exercise in anticipating Weaver’s decision-making process, the call to Murray vs. Sharpe will likely be more useful in informing future projection designs than anything else we have so far is helpful in the present.

Weaver is probably comfortable judging Sharpe’s skill based on what he’s seen live or on tape of his AAU experience. He’s certainly done his due diligence to glean every possible insight into the Canadian teen’s makeup — his focus, his work ethic, his personality, all those things. But there just aren’t nearly as many data points as a typical prospect, nor the sheer number of coaches, teammates, support staff to seek feedback from, nor the ability to study Sharpe’s behavior in the heat of a big game moments.

So, using the fifth pick, or not using it, on a player who requires that much projection will tell us something about Weaver’s risk tolerance — at least if he thinks Sharpe’s advantages are as enticing as AAU dominance suggests. You want to swing for the fences when you pick high in the lottery, but you don’t want to swing a foot above the plate.

Not nearly as much time is spent debating what’s happening with the 46th choose of course and good luck guessing who will or will not be available when the time comes. But the inclusion of Lee, Livers, and Garza at least seems to suggest a pattern in which high-college achievers are favored over prospects who, at this point in the draft, are considered boom-or-bust types.

Liver was removed 42nd, one place ahead of Greg Brown, who was being talked about a few months earlier as a potential top 10 pick as a freshman in Texas. Between Livers and Garza, two other one-and-dones who arrived enthusiastically in the first lap, Sharife Cooper and BJ Boston, were taken. The Pistons ditched Brown, Cooper and Boston in favor of Livers, who quickly established himself as part of the Pistons’ young core.

Studying all the tapes you can digest might make you more confident in predicting what the Pistons will do, but it only helps to the extent that it hints at a prospect’s makeup — which is all but impossible when watching game tapes can be seen no matter the highlight clips. What Troy Weaver makes of it is the great unknown. You will only find out how he assesses these qualities after he has made his moves on June 23rd.

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