Tokoto, Christmas offer dueling options for Pistons in 2nd round

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Pistons predraft workouts continued on Monday, as the organization hosted another batch of potential draftees that could serve as possible second round targets in Detroit.

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Leading the pack was 6-foot-6 UNC guard J.P. Tokoto and 6-foot-9 Syracuse center Rakeem Christmas. Both offer intriguing elements to their respective games that could make them attractive to head coach Stan Van Gundy. But it’s their perceived shortcomings that leave them dangling along the first round/second round borderline.

In the case of Tokoto, he offers a quick first step and explosive elevation, boasting a 40” max vertical. He primarily survived at UNC by locking down, playing passing lanes and using his quickness to finish strong at the other end. With a 6’10” wingspan, he offers a defensive range that could allow him to guard multiple positions at the NBA level.

However, and this is huge for anyone trying to break into Van Gundy’s shot-centric system, Tokoto struggled with his jumper throughout much of his college career, hitting just 22 percent of his 3-point shots as a sophomore before heading on the path toward righting the ship in 2015, when he connected on close to 38 percent while scoring 8.3 points per game.

“Improved shooting,” Tokoto said when asked what he was looking to showcase during his workouts. “I’m not a liability on the floor. If guys close out a little easy then I’m just going to take the jump shot. If they close out hard, (I’ll) pump fake, go around them. I’ve always had a quick first step so I like to use that too.”

To his credit, Tokoto has showcased an impressive stroke in early workouts, though it represents but a small sample size.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8YXHyWp2b8

In contrast, Christmas is a 6-foot-9, 245-pound inside presence who boasts an unfathomable 7’5” wingspan. A primary cog in Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 defensive, Christmas used his length and power to disrupt shots in the paint and may have the make-up of a prospect who could survive and contribute on the NBA level.

On the other hand, Christmas is already 23 years of age, easily the oldest player in this year’s draft. DraftExpress put that number in perspective:

“Christmas is a day older than Brandon Knight for example, who played his last college game four years ago. He is four and a half months younger than Derrick Favors, who is in his fifth season in the NBA. The track record of players in this mold is not encouraging to say the least.”

That said, talent is talent, regardless of age, particularly when it comes to trying to pluck a worthy prospect in the second round.

A full list of Monday’s invitees:

  • J.P. Tokoto, 6’7”, UNC
  • Rakeem Christmas, 6’9”, Syracuse
  • Darion Atkins, 6’8”, Virginia
  • Pierria Henry, 6’4”, UNC Charlotte
  • Marcus Thornton, 6’4”, William & Mary
  • Greg Whittington, 6’8”, Georgetown

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Posted by Ryan Van Dusen
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Ryan is a Farmington native who enjoys all things basketball, particularly when it involves the Detroit Pistons. He spends much of his free time combing through NBA archives and curating footage of meaningless late-90's regular season performances for mass consumption.