Skip to Main

Pistons take G League Ignite star Ron Holland with 5th pick of NBA draft

9&10 Logo

DETROIT — Former G League Ignite teammates Ron Holland and Matas Buzelis will begin their NBA careers as Central Division rivals while the program that developed them disappears.

The Detroit Pistons selected Holland with the fifth overall pick in the NBA draft on Wednesday night. The move surprised the 6-foot-8 forward, who said he didn’t have any contact with the Pistons before the draft.

“It’s a huge shock to me,” Holland said.


Six picks later, the Bulls took Buzelis, a Chicago-area product and 6-9 forward whose parents played professionally in Lithuania.

“Me being born and raised there (in Chicago), it just makes it so much better,” Buzelis said. “I mean, it means everything to me.”

Holland, 18, averaged 19.5 points in 14 games with the NBA G League Ignite before a thumb injury knocked him out for the rest of the season. Buzelis, 19, averaged 14.3 points and 6.9 rebounds in 26 games.

The NBA announced three months ago that the G League Ignite program wouldn’t exist beyond 2024.


The Ignite provided an opportunity for NBA prospects who weren’t yet draft-eligible to play pro basketball and prepare for the draft without having to attend college. The NBA determined that rule changes enabling college athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness made college basketball more appealing for players who typically had chosen the Ignite.

Buzelis said he benefited from his Ignite experience.

“Playing against the best players in the world,” Buzelis said. “Getting trained by the best coaches in the world and having some vets that have been on NBA rosters and know what it’s like to go through the route that we went on. So I think I gained an advantage by being there.”

Trajan Langdon, the Pistons’ new president of basketball operations, bluntly described the distinctions in scouting Ignite players versus college guys.


“It’s just different,” Langdon said. “Look, they’re playing against grown men.”

Holland was the first draft pick for Langdon, who already made a major shake-up by firing coach Monty Williams just a year after Detroit had given him a six-year, $78.5 million contract. The Pistons haven’t yet selected Williams’ replacement.

The Pistons have posted the league’s worst record each of the last two years, but they’ve been unlucky in the lottery and were picking fifth for a third straight draft. The Pistons, who haven’t reached the playoffs since 2019, used the No. 5 pick on Jaden Ivey in 2022 and on Ausar Thompson last year.

NBA comparison for Holland: Andre Iguodala. One of the best defensive forwards in the draft is similar in size and style to Iguodala, a one-time All-Star, two-time All-Defensive Team player and four-time NBA champion.

Local Trending News