Detroit Pistons mailbag: What to do if they win NBA draft lottery. Luke Kennard’s future?

Detroit Free Press

In two days, the Detroit Pistons will finally know the fate of their 2020 NBA draft pick. Will they move up from their current position, which gives them the fifth-best overall odds? Will they stay in the same slot, as they have during their previous three lottery appearances? Or will the Lottery Gods move them down for the sixth time in franchise history?

Thursday’s draft lottery is the focus of this week’s mailbag, which has a strong focus on the draft. After an unusually long period of offseason dormancy, the lottery could set the tone for the rest of the Pistons’ offseason.

Onto the questions. 

[ Ex-Piston Will Bynum, now a trainer, has high hopes for prospect Killian Hayes ]

I wouldn’t put too much stock into Blake Griffin saying general manager Troy Weaver wants the Pistons to be competitive next season. They have been consistent in their messaging that they’re angling toward a rebuild — or a restoring, which is Weaver’s preferred term. That doesn’t mean they want to finish toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings next year. It also doesn’t mean they’re going to go all in during free agency and try to win 50 games. 

[ Pistons’ Troy Weaver must crush these 3 decisions to ignite rebuild ]

There are teams that have found success in tearing their roster down to the studs and undergoing a full rebuild. Other teams have rebuilt on the fly, swapping players and bringing in assets while remaining a playoff contender. It’s too early to say which path the Pistons will pursue. Griffin saying they want to compete is vague enough for me to avoid reading too far into it. Every team wants to compete. Ultimately, Griffin’s health will have a bigger role in how good or bad the Pistons are next season more than any potential free agency signing. 

As for the possibility of trading down, it depends where the Pistons pick and how strongly other teams covet that pick. You’d expect there to be more demand for the second-overall pick than, say, the eighth pick.

The Pistons have a number of young guys who will become good role players in the league. Depending on how you feel about Christian Wood (and the odds the Pistons’ retain him) and Sekou Doumbouya’s ceiling, they may already have two young players on the roster who can be future starters. 

But none of the young players on the roster appear to be more than solid role players at this stage in their development. Wood appears to have the strongest chance to emerge as a starter next season, but spent significant time at power forward and center last season. If the Pistons draft a big man, he can play next to that player at either spot. The focus for Detroit should be getting the best available player and figuring out any potential fit issues later. 

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I’ve said it a few times this summer, but I think LaMelo Ball has the best combination of skill and upside to become a star in the league. I have questions about his shot selection and defensive effort. His shooting percentages are a huge red flag. But it’s a weak draft. He’s 6-foot-7 with a 6-10 wingspan and the most talented passer in the draft. This is a “don’t overthink it” pick. You can’t teach his size and playmaking ability. You can teach him how to defend and shoot better. He’s my No. 1. 

It partially depends on where the Pistons end up drafting, but absolutely. Ed Stefanski told me in the spring the organization intends to pick the best available player, regardless of position. Griffin has one guaranteed year and a player option remaining on his deal and Wood, an unrestricted free agent this offseason, can play either big position. Fit shouldn’t be a factor for the Pistons’ pick this year. 

The Pistons need good young talent, and that’s why Luke Kennard hasn’t been moved yet. Kennard, a career 40% shooter from behind the arc, has improved both as a playmaker and finisher during his three NBA seasons. The primary reason the Pistons took calls on him in leading up to February’s trade deadline is because of his injury woes. Tendonitis in both knees limited him to 28 games this season. It’s a genuine concern, as he’ll be eligible for an extension this offseason and, if no deal is reached, he’ll enter restricted free agency next year. 

If there are genuine concerns that Kennard’s knee issues will continue to limit his impact, it makes sense to move him while his value is theoretically still high. But Kennard was nearing his return before the NBA’s suspension March 11, and he’s healthy now. If the Pistons are confident his recurring knee problems are a thing of the past, he’s worth signing to a long-term deal. His health will likely dictate his future in Detroit. 

Omari: Luke Kennard may be one of Pistons best draft picks, but passing on Donovan Mitchell still stings

The Pistons just unveiled a new logo in 2017 and jerseys recently, so it feels too soon for the organization to introduce new ones. Curious to see if their incoming G League team will be used as an opportunity to experiment with bringing more of their old branding back. 

I’ve always been a fan of the 1990s teal jerseys and grew up with the horse logo. So I wouldn’t be against either of them being reintroduced.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. 

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