The Detroit Pistons may need to unleash their 2023 number-five overall pick sooner than expected.
The Detroit Pistons draft fortune seemed to turn in an optimistic fashion with the selection of forward Ausar Thompson. After a painful 2022-23 season finishing 17-65, all hopes were for the franchise to fall into a top-three draft pick. The NBA Lottery dropped to Detroit to their lowest possible outcome in the draft falling to number five.
Despite some outside doubt and questions coming into the draft, there has been a sudden turnaround of optimism. Without even taking a dribble of regular season action yet, Thompson already looks like a valuable piece of Detroit's restoration.
Ausar Thompson Shines in Off-Season
The Overtime Elite product has already won a wave of Pistons fans over after some impressive offseason highlights. Thompson started shining with a remarkable showing during the Summer League. The brilliant play of the first-round pick received more positive attention during the Rico Hines runs with other projected Pistons starters.
This offseason has shown that Thompson can play and his skillset fits seamlessly with this roster. However, the Detroit Pistons have to decide soon if they should maximize his skills by starting him out the gate.
Detroit has not revealed a clear plan for their starting five heading into next season. Even with a small sample size of watching Thompson as a Piston, it looks like it could be in the franchise's best interest to start their fifth overall pick sooner rather than later.
Unpacking Thompson's Versatile Skill Set
Thompson presents a unique skillset with many strengths that work to the Pistons' advantage. His skills as a multi-level scorer, playmaker, rebounder, and defender elevated him to a top-five pick in the draft. Those traits helped crown him as a two-time Finals MVP and regular season MVP at Overtime Elite. These are also the exact areas the Pistons need to find the winning improvement they're in search of.
Detroit had some of the weakest depth at forward last season. Inexperience, injuries, and a lack of quality depth limited the production from the forwards in 2022-23.
Veteran Bojan Bogdanovic was the Pistons' leading shooter and scorer last season averaging 21.6 points while shooting 41% from three. Unfortunately, he does not offer a helpful defensive presence to complement his scoring.
Detroit's Forward Conundrum
The Detroit Pistons had to suffer through injuries to other forwards Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley III, and Isaiah Livers. They each provide starter qualities but have not shown enough to solidify themselves as a long-term starter. They could provide the perfect balance of offense and defense with Thompson as a starter.
Thompson already looks like he could be Detroit's best perimeter defender as a rookie. His 6'7 220-pound frame and seven-foot wingspan help add to his top-tier athleticism. He has more than held this offseason as one of the best defenders throughout the NBA Summer League and the Rico Hines scrimmage.
Thompson's Versatile Skillset: What Detroit Needs
Thompson also looks like a helpful connector on offense. He carries the skillset of a primary ball-handler but still has the prowess of a secondary scorer and playmaker. In an offense led by new head coach Monty Williams that specializes in quick ball movement, Thompson might already be the best fit to help run that offense as a starter.
The lack of proven perimeter shooting has been a constant conversation of worry among Pistons supporters. However, having a connector like Thompson on the floor with the starters could immediately temper the need to fix their three-point shooting.
Adding Depth and Identity: Thompson's Defensive Capabilities
General Manager Troy Weaver emphasized the need to add more defense to the roster and bringing in Thompson is a great start to that goal. He immediately fills the Pistons' hole of a perimeter defender who can guard the opponent's best scorer.
Adding Thompson can also help establish a long-desired identity for the franchise. Having Thompson create defensive pressure and turnovers should lead to easy transition baskets. That can lead to a Detroit identity of a young athletic team that uses defense to create offense.
Thompson also has a higher upside than any other small forward on the roster. Maximizing his growth is best suited by playing him with the rest of the young core. Having Thompson on the bench means Cunningham or Ivey have to be your primary defender which could be problematic considering their offensive responsibility.
TL;DR (too long didn't read)
- Rookie Ausar Thompson has generated buzz with his Summer League performance and Rico Hines scrimmage.
- Thompson's multi-level skill set fills several gaps for the Detroit Pistons, especially at the forward position.
- Starting Thompson could speed up the Pistons' rebuilding process and define their new identity.
Final Thoughts: Let Thompson Soar as a Starter
The concept of not rushing a young player makes sense, but it makes the best sense in this situation to let Thompson soar as a starter out of the gate. The more time he gets with the rest of the core will help them all get on the same page quicker.