In his final assessment of Detroit’s season, team owner Tom Gores conveyed several different emotions at once – the painful, the self-critical, the defiant, and the idealistic. But most of all, he expressed something far more tangible: the version of the Detroit Pistons that Joe Dumars has reinvented over the past few years needs to show some signs of improvement next season. A playoff berth, according to Gores, is the standard to which everyone will be held. With jobs on the line, the upcoming off-season, including the NBA draft, may be the last chance for Dumars to construct a winning team.
Though Detroit’s issues are significant enough that Dumars could draft a player at any single position, the situation at the three spot is the most concerning. None of the small forwards currently on the roster is likely to emerge as a consistent starter. By drafting a small forward, the position for which the Pistons are in the greatest need, Dumars would take steps to fortify the entire frontcourt, which has not yet recovered from the departure of Tayshaun Prince. The most appealing option to fill the small forward position might be Georgetown standout and Big East player of the year Otto Porter Jr., who at least in his physical stature could play a similar role on the team that Prince had formerly occupied.
Porter is a cerebral 6’8″ player with a seven foot wingspan, though at 205 lb. he is slightly undersized for his stature and may need to add some bulk. To many observers, Porter’s most propitious talents as an offensive player lay in his overall intelligence. What he lacks in sheer athleticism he makes up with his ability to grasp the nuances of the offense. His ability to facilitate an offense through the high post might provide a good complement to Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Porter is also an efficient wing player who shot 48 percent from the field in his sophomore season. Changes that were made in his shooting mechanics after his first year with the Hoyas resulted in a significant improvement in his three-point shooting, which rose from 22.6 percent to 42.2 percent. Beyond his mid-range scoring, he can also drive to the basket and finish in traffic (though one thing he may need to work on is his shot creation).
Defensively, the greatest asset that Porter can bring to the Pistons is his versatility. He can defend multiple positions, which in practical terms means that he has the capability to switch onto guards or defend big men. The other advantage Porter has is that he can use his wingspan and size to play passing lanes, rebound effectively, and block shots.
The upside to all this is that Porter should be able to contribute almost immediately. Porter’s adroitness in his preparation for the NBA game is made all the more remarkable by the fact that only two years ago he was still a raw college recruit with no experience on the AAU circuit. But since that time he has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to improve his game. In 2011, when Porter was still somewhat of an obscure figure even in scouting circles, David Telep of ESPN called him “the country’s most significant high-major sleeper”. The absence of a viable option at small forward for the Pistons only makes the connection between Porter’s preparation and the need for productivity at the position all the more explicit.
This draft is unlikely to produce many major NBA stars. Depending upon where Detroit drafts, however, Porter might be the best option. Shabazz Muhammad is a dynamic scorer and would easily fill the swingman position, but he isn’t quite as multi-faceted as Porter, and the recent controversy that has erupted over the revelation of his birth may make teams wary to draft him. The other possibility is Anthony Bennett, though according to Keith Langlois, scouts project him as more of a power forward. Porter would make a great deal of sense for the Pistons if he eventually falls to them.