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How the Pistons’ potential NBA draft pick will complement Cade Cunningham

While the 2022 NBA Draft is a major step in the effort to rebuild the Detroit Pistons, the outcome of last year’s draft proved to be one that put the franchise on a more comfortable path forward.

Detroit has its boyfriend in the form of a 6ft 6in ballplayer who can score in a variety of ways despite his lack of flashy athleticism. Cade Cunningham is the face. The former No. 1 pick is the one the Pistons will be building this thing around. Detroit, shortly after deciding it needed to change direction as an organization, found a player who could lead it for the next decade-plus.

The hard part is done.

The franchise now faces the challenge of finding quality players who could bring together its potential star player. This shouldn’t be a problem given Cunningham’s versatility, as the player can make any suitable look at least workable. However, adding quality players who best complement Cunningham is what will bring the Pistons back to their relevance sooner rather than later.

In this year’s draft class, all of Detroit’s fifth picks have enticing qualities that should work alongside Cunningham. For various reasons, it’s easy to imagine Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, Iowa’s Keegan Murray, Kentucky’s Shaydon Sharp, or Arizona’s Bennedict Maturin taking their rightful place alongside Cunningham. On the other hand, they all also have qualities that can lead to a sub-optimal fit next to the Pistons star.

Here we look at each prospect and the qualities in their game that make them good attacking opponents, not Cunningham.

Jayden Ivey

If you follow the NBA playoffs and pray that Cunningham has a partner like the Celtics in Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Ivey represents the very best of those prospects in that regard. The 6-foot-4 combo guard was the Boilermakers’ dynamic scorer, ranking 80th on isolated occasions, according to Synergy. He has an explosive first step and attacks the ring like it’s clinging to his little sister. In addition, Ivey was an adequate shooter last season, hitting 35.5% of three-point shots on the Synergy system, making him potentially useful when Cunningham initiates offense.

My two biggest problems with Ivey on the attacking side of the ball are his feel and lack of play in the middle range. As far as Ivey feels, he doesn’t do the most advanced pick and roll readings. He makes good passes, but doesn’t look like he’s doing any non-obvious cheats. Ivey is very dominant on the right side of pick-and-roll, and when you couple that with his lack of feeling, it makes you wonder if he’ll struggle with NBA-level initiation. Cunningham has the potential to be a deadly off-the-ball shooter and it’s important that Detroit find a partner who can help him capitalize on this part of his game. Now about Ivey’s problems with mids. Of course, the mid-range has lost some of its appeal as basketball has evolved.

However, when you get to high-level NBA basketball, it all goes out the window. A team needs one or two elite shots that can just get the bucket no matter where on the floor as defense gets tougher, teams get closer to each other and legs get tired. Ivey, to put it mildly, was not very effective in the midrange. Last season, Ivey only made six of his 27 attempts to score two-pointers without paint. Is this a cause for serious concern? May be. Probably no. Perhaps he is getting better in this regard. However, as I mentioned earlier, if the Pistons’ ultimate goal is to play basketball in May and June, it would be advantageous for an active ball handler like Ivey to be able to score in the interim games.

Overall, I like, but don’t like, that Ivey approaches Cunningham. Of course, Ivey has a combination of elite athleticism and good three-point shooting that Detroit doesn’t have. This may be enough to make him a choice. However, for a player who is likely to need the ball in his hands to be most effective, you seriously question whether Ivey can read the game well enough to keep his teammates playing. Ivy loves to get to the ring, which is great and fun. However, at this level, he needs to be a little more advanced to reach his full potential.

Keegan Murray

Murray is the exact opposite of Ivey, so it’s easy to see why Pistons fans found their corners and stayed there throughout the pre-draft process.

What Murray lacks in terms of athleticism, the Iowa forward more than makes up for in intelligence. He is a smart player who reads the defense quickly, is a great cutter and does a great job of sealing his defender to make himself an easy target. The Murray is a low maintenance offensive weapon and Detroit could use it on their list. According to Synergy, Murray ranks in the 85th percentile or higher in spot and post-up opportunities. In addition, Murray scored more points for possession in the cut and as a roller in pick-and-roll actions. This player archetype would fit in well in Detroit, especially if you’re a fan of Cunningham-focused offense. Pick and roll with Cunningham and Murray can be difficult to defend. The Hawks often played head-on games for Murray.

Murray may not have the potential star power of Ivey or Sharpe, but he can score from all over the court in many ways. He probably won’t be Brown for Tatum Cunningham, but did anyone ever expect Chris Middleton to be a viable number 2 in Milwaukee?

Murray doesn’t have elite movement and grip, but he has low dribbling and long strides with amazing body control. In Murray, everything is direct and to the point. Not many flashes. It might not be interesting. However, Detroit is already not the most exciting team. Cunningham’s performance is not what many would consider “exciting”. So does Saddiq Bey. Murray is the perfect fit for a potential client who just gets the job done.

Murray being able to move without the ball and just use his opportunities wherever they come from is intriguing. Detroit needs more players who are willing to diversify offense with natural movement instinct. If Detroit is confident that Ivy or Sharp will blossom into a star, then they are likely to be selected. If not, Murray’s confidence and variety make Cunningham a great option to have at your disposal.

Schaedon Sharp


Photo by Shaedon Sharp: Chet White | UK Athletics

I’m not going to sit here and act like I have the whole book on Sharp, who missed his only college season. I’ve gone through all the school records I can find, I’ve talked to people in the NBA who have watched him train and judge him over the past few years, and I can see his appeal. However, this is not a LeBron James situation where anyone with two eyes and a brain can figure out that this dude is destined for NBA success.

What stands out the most when watching Sharpe is his athleticism. He is a real athlete over the ring who moves elegantly. He also has the creativity you want in a striker, with a set of moves and layup sets to use in difficult situations. It has a strong handle and can throw the ball. Little is said about his departure. He is a scorer at his core, but I have seen many cases where he read correctly instead of going for his bucket. Now, despite all these brilliant qualities, the 6-foot-6 Sharp, who was a late bloomer both physically and in the basketball world, has shown it all at the high school level. Many players who have flared up at the NBA level have dominated high school. Any NBA team would be lying if they said that Sharpe’s capture was not a gamble.

Due to his limited playing time against high-level opponents, I don’t have a very good idea of ​​how Sharpe will pick and roll at the NBA level. I’m not sure if he does advanced readings. The idea of ​​him as an elite shotmaker alongside Cunningham makes sense, but if that doesn’t work, what else will he bring? I can’t say for sure at the moment.

Again, if the Pistons are determined to use the fifth pick to try for a second star pairing with Cunningham, then Sharpe’s swing is worth it. If there is any doubt that he will be able to get there, it may be better to use this resource elsewhere.

Benedict Maturin

Last but not least, Maturin is, in the traditional sense, the perfect match alongside Cunningham. He’s a true shooting guard with a college resume that gives raters a better idea of ​​how his game will progress to the next level.

The Arizona Guard, like Murray, requires very little maintenance, meaning he won’t try to capture an offense. His game is very straightforward. According to Synergy, Maturin knocked down 38 percent of his triples on throws in his sophomore year, and many of those shots were difficult attempts. If he strayed from the trajectory, then he will slide down quickly and with a big jerk. He slides. There isn’t a lot of dancing in his game, and I like that about him.

Also, I don’t think Maturin will ever be the leading offensive mover in the NBA, but he’s an underrated passer and showed some advanced reading skills last season with the Wildcats. He’s a bit inconsistent and risky in that regard, but the seeds are planted as a second- or top-tier high IQ playmaker for an NBA team. Imagine Cunningham launching a pick and roll and throwing the ball to the opposite flank of Maturin, who then runs off the three-point line, hits the paint and finds Bey wide open for 3rd. I think that’s something you could see a lot if Maturin was in Detroit, because he usually makes the right game and has a good feel for the game.

What worries me the most is Mathurin, his touch on the ring. He gets there and doesn’t shy away from contact, but he didn’t have amazing finishing records when he jumped trees in college. Sure, that could improve as his body ages and he plays more basketball, but the Pistons have had trouble finishing under the rim as a team in the not-too-distant past.

All in all, Maturin is great. He doesn’t have the Ivey or Sharp edge, but like Murray, I have no doubt he’ll be an effective NBA player for a long time to come. Also, I really think he has more advantages as a self-creator on offense than people think. In my opinion, Maturin is the perfect combination of the virtues of Sharpe or Ivey and the reliability of Murray.

(Top photo by Cade Cunningham: Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports)

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