NBA Draft 2024: What could the Pistons do with the number 5?

Do you remember the NBA draft?

The changing of the guard at the Detroit Pistons — Trajan Langdon taking over as president of basketball operations and former general manager Troy Weaver leaving the team — has dominated conversations in the Motor City since the end of the worst season in franchise history in April. The NBA Draft is usually the focus of these parts. Hope always sells, and this franchise needs it on a regular basis.

However, with the Pistons having bigger decisions ahead of them, the franchise fell to 5th place in the NBA Draft Lottery and this particular draft class was described as more Of all the people to talk to, the annual youth development isn't the most important thing. But the 2024 NBA Draft is just a few weeks away and unless something else is announced, Detroit will make a selection.

To get an idea of ​​who the Pistons might covet at No. 5, it's best to look back at what New Orleans – where Langdon was previously general manager and was heavily involved in basketball personnel decisions despite working under executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin – coveted in recent drafts. Taking Zion Williamson out of the equation, because anyone with two eyes and a job would have taken him first in 2019, the best way to see what Langdon and Co. valued in a player is to look at who the Pelicans selected/traded for when they didn't get the first pick. Five names: Kira Lewis Jr. (2020), Trey Murphy III (2021), Herb Jones (2021), Dyson Daniels (2022) and Jordan Hawkins (2023). There are a few things to glean from watching this handful of promising talents.

Let's start with Murphy, Jones, and Daniels, all 6'0″-6'10″ wings with 6'10″-6'20″ wingspans. These three players were all considered excellent defenders in their respective draft classes. Additionally, Murphy was an elite shooter coming out of college, while Jones and Daniels' shots were questionable. However, Jones showed excellent slashing ability in college, and Daniels showed the ability to make plays as a cutter with and without the ball. Both Jones and Daniels didn't have bad jump shots before coming to the NBA, but they weren't consistent shooters. Jones has developed into one in the NBA, but Daniels hasn't yet.

As for Lewis and Hawkins, they were different players in college. Lewis was a lightning-quick point guard at Alabama with a nice pull-up shot, and Hawkins was a quick, accurate 3-point shooter. Both are slimly built. Lewis is only 6'1″ and Hawkins, who is 6'5″, weighed just 185 pounds out of college.

In addition, New Orleans has never used a valuable pick on a center, instead choosing to fill the big man position with veterans who already play in the NBA, such as Steven Adams and Jonas Valančiūnas.

When using the Pelicans' plays to analyze what the Pistons could do with the No. 5 pick, I think it's best to look at New Orleans targeting Murphy, Jones, and Daniels. Not only are these tall, lanky wingers more plentiful at the top of this particular draft, but Detroit has been missing this type of player for a long time.

Frenchman Zaccharie Risacher seems to be the type of player that would be at the top of Langdon's list. He stands 6'0″ (though he only has a 6'1″ wingspan) and looks to be a connecting element on offense with potential on defense due to his good foot movement. Risacher's shooting is more promising than Jones's coming out of college, but equally Risacher will have to prove his shooting is real at the next level. Risacher has been an excellent three-point shooter in the French top division this season, but before that he was mediocre to poor and is just over 200 on his free throws this year.

There are concerns about Risacher's ability to finish at the basket in his own half, but if his shooting technique is truly effective, that and the NBA's distribution could improve those numbers. Ultimately, I believe Risacher will no longer be on the board if Detroit selects at No. 5.

Colorado's Cody Williams could be there when the Pistons are under pressure, and he theoretically feels like a player Langdon would like to have. Williams, the brother of Oklahoma City's Jalen Williams, had a disappointing rookie season. Injuries may have played a big role, but Williams hasn't been the dominant force many hoped. Still, the 6-foot-6 winger with a 7-foot-5 wingspan has plenty of interesting traits.

First, his length and alertness make him very versatile as a defender. Second, Williams' long arms allow him to finish in a variety of ways on offense. He's not an explosive jumper by any means, but he is adept at finishing near the basket. How his three-point shooting will play out will be the biggest mystery surrounding Williams. Yes, he's shot 41.5 percent from threes this year. However, he's only attempted 41 threes all season. He also has some point-forward potential, as he's a quick read and good ball-handling player. His shots will help determine how impactful Williams could be as a lead ball handler. When evaluating him for the NBA, there are signs that Jones is a promising prospect.

The final player worth examining is Matas Buzelis, a 6'10″ wing with a 6'10″ wingspan who spent last season with the G League Ignite. If you read the “way too early” 2024 NBA mock drafts a year ago, you probably saw Buzelis as a projected No. 1 pick. A disappointing season with the Ignite and the rise of some other talent make it unlikely that Buzelis will go No. 1, but there's a chance he could end up being the best player in this draft.

He's a smart player with good passing skills. Detroit needs more high IQ players. Buzelis moves well without the ball and makes himself available through cuts and communication. Shooting is odd because his form and movement suggest he's a real threat on 3-point shots, but the numbers just haven't shown up. That could have something to do with his slender frame and the fact that he needs to get a little stronger. The results show that Buzelis is an unreliable shooter right now, but I think he'll turn things around in the NBA sooner rather than later.

There are also concerns about his finishing ability at the basket, but that could also be due to his lack of strength. Defensively, Buzelis has the size and length to be a disruptive off-ball defender, but I don't think he can defend faster guards or stronger wings yet. I also worry about how long it will take him to navigate blocks on defense, again due to his skinny frame. Still, there's a lot of potential there and many of the concerns about Buzelis seem to stem from his need to get stronger. Life in the NBA will certainly help with that.

(Top photo: Sean Gardner / Big 3 via Getty Images)