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Unexpected Twist in Detroit Lions’ Kicker Saga at OTAs

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Possible Prospects All Over The Sweet 16 For The Pistons

A dismal season in Detroit is on the verge of a promising conclusion. The Detroit Pistons have been one of the worst teams in the league this season, winning just 16 games in 75 attempts so far. While Pistons fans have had to suffer through that (or save themselves from the pain by simply tuning out the futility and ignoring the team entirely), they’re on the verge of getting a kickstart on what’s felt like a never-ending rebuild for a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008. That’s because the Pistons will have the best odds at the first overall pick in the draft this May and their pick of the field at a promising young superstar.

Unfortunately for the Pistons and their fans, the NBA is one of three of North America’s Big Four professional sports leagues that employs a draft lottery, giving several teams a chance at the first overall pick. Even though Detroit has the worst record in league with seven games left to play, they don’t even have the runaway best odds at winning the draft lottery: they’re tied with four other teams with a 14 percent chance of picking first, as has been the case since the lottery was reworked ahead of the 2019 draft. The good news is that they’re here to stay. They’re 16 games behind the Orlando Magic, current holders of the sixth-worst record, so with less than two weeks to go in the regular season, they’re guaranteed to have those odds; no winning streak could take that from them.

The lottery stakes are much higher this year than they’ve been in recent seasons, as a generational prospect is set to hit the NBA. Victor Wembanyama of France stands 7-foot-2 and plays both center and power forward, and he’s a prospect so promising he’s been compared to all-time greats like LeBron James. There certainly hasn’t been a player with as much hype around him since James broke into the league in 2003, not even with someone like Zion Williamson.

The good thing for the Pistons is that Wembanyama isn’t the only premier player set to enter the draft this season. Take a look at the ongoing March Madness tournament, which has prospects on teams still in it like UConn’s Jordan Hawkins, and prospects whose teams have been eliminated already, like Alabama forward Brandon Miller. It’s been one of the craziest NCAA Tournaments ever, with none of the No. 1 seeds making it past the Sweet Sixteen. As of right now, the Connecticut Huskies are the overwhelming favorites to win it all, listed at or around -125 at Michigan’s Betting Sites.   

The tournament’s madness allows prospects who otherwise would’ve been overlooked now to showcase their talent on the sport’s biggest stage. 

Everyone loves a player who has shown their ability to step up their game in clutch scenarios, so let’s take a look at players who made it at least as far as the Sweet Sixteen, and how they could fit in with the Pistons if Detroit misses out on Wembenyana. 

Miller is one of the best-case scenarios for the Pistons if they don’t get the top pick: he’s likely to go No. 3 in the draft, just behind Scoot Henderson of the NBA’s G-League. Miller led the Crimson Tide to a top seed in the tournament and a No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll ahead of the final week of the regular season. 

NBA fans weren’t able to get a good look at him in the tournament, unfortunately, as the forward was limited in the Round of 64 due to a nagging injury. He put up 19 points and 7 rebounds in the second round but struggled again in the Tide’s season-ending loss against San Diego State. 

He’s an excellent shooter for a player of his size (6-foot-9) and he’s similarly talented as a dribbler. His ability to create shots might dry up in the pros against better defenders, and he has some work to do in the paint. The Pistons need forwards (along with just about everything else), though, and Miller has excellent potential if he can continue to work on his game.

The other player who made it to the Sweet Sixteen and is projected to go top five is Jarace Walker of Houston. Another forward is an inch shorter and forty pounds heavier than Miller. 

As such, he’s more of your traditional big man: an exceptional defender with a 7-foot-2 wingspan who can box out and grab rebounds. He made 47.5 percent of his shots this season and can make baskets from midrange and beyond the arc. He averaged 11.1 points per game, so he’s pretty selective about when he does take a shot. Where Miller could improve defensively and down low, Walker could improve his ball handling and passing.

If the Pistons have their pick of both in May, it’ll be interesting to see if they prioritize scoring ability or defense.

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