Mock: Kawhi Leonard, No. 8
The Pistons get some help on the defensive end.
by Quinn Peterson
Detroit has become the whipping boy for all that’s gone wrong in America. Unfortunately, their professional basketball team has fallen to the same fate, as the Pistons have moved from unquestioned contenders to obscurity in less than five years.
Their problems stretch across the board, from the court to the coach’s box to the front office. By summer’s end, they could very well be without head coach John Kuester, who fell out with the players mid-season (as of now media reports are providing conflicting messages regarding Kuester’s future); the aging Richard Hamilton, who’s struggled on the court and grown increasingly unhappy with his situation; and possibly even Rodney Stuckey, who’s a restricted free agent.
So that’s your coach, elder statesmen and starting point guard. Clearly, many questions are abuzz in Detroit. They, essentially, have a need at every position. The only issue then, is which one to address.
Since the Stuckey experiment hasn’t panned out as they initially planned and they’re looking to slide him over to the 2, why not scoop up a PG? Unfortunately, Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight are already off of our board. Jimmer Fredette could be a nice alternative, but that’s like Ben Gordon 2.0, right? Well, they have the real Ben Gordon (and owe him a bunch of money), so…next option.
Luckily for the Pistons, while the top three point guard choices are gone, they can just move on to another necessity: a wiry, athletic wing, especially with Tayshaun Prince on the decline and Hamilton on the exit. So…
With the eighth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select…
Kawhi Leonard, from San Diego State University.
After ringing up some of the most impressive measurements at the draft combine—7-foot-3 wingspan and the hands of a center—there’s no doubt he can be the same defender Prince is and more. He’s also a heck of a rebounder for his size (6-7 with shoes), averaging 10.5 rebounds per game last season for the Aztecs.
A power forward in college, he’ll likely be a small forward in the League, though his length and toughness should allow him to see some time at the 4-spot as well.
The only downside is that he’s as raw as sushi on the offensive end. But between Gordon, Stuckey, Will Bynum and Charlie Villanueva, somebody will find a way to shoot.
The Pistons are trying to rebuild, so the last thing they want to do is draft another Darko—someone who’s game is based entirely on potential. Leonard can help right away and won’t do anything but improve on offense. They still have plenty of other issues to address, but that’s what free agency is for.
Leonard probably won’t cause a spike in attendance, but he’s a solid pick for the Pistons as they look to get back on the winning track; nothing should help fan excitement more than that.
|2011 SLAMonline Mock Draft|