‘Exciting time’ for Pistons, wherever they land in NBA Draft Lottery

Detroit News

In mid-March, the Pistons had lost nine of their last 10 games and were well on their way to having one of the worst records in the NBA.

That wouldn’t necessarily have been bad news.

With the onset of COVID-19 and the first NBA player testing positive for the virus, everything stopped, including the Pistons’ backward momentum. They were a half-game from falling into one of the bottom-three records in the league — and with it, the best odds to get the top pick in the draft.

Too little, too late.

The NBA ended the regular season and froze the records, meaning the Pistons ended with the fifth-worst odds in Thursday’s draft lottery to get the No. 1 pick in the draft on Oct. 16. Their odds of winning the lottery are 10.5 percent, just behind the Warriors, Cavaliers and Timberwolves (14 percent) and the Hawks (12.5 percent).

Since the NBA moved to a draft lottery system in 1985, the Pistons never have improved their position with their own pick — the infamous No. 2 pick of Darko Milicic was the Vancouver Grizzlies’ selection.

They’ll look to break the string Thursday night, with new general manager Troy Weaver as their virtual representative when the ping pong balls are drawn to determine the top four spots. After those, spots five through 14 will draft in reverse order according to their regular-season records. The lowest the Pistons can fall is ninth.

More: Pistons, seven other NBA teams get approval to hold voluntary workouts

By most draft pundits’ projections, the top prospects in the draft class appear to be point guard LaMelo Ball and shooting guard Anthony Edwards. Although there is no unanimous No. 1 pick, there is a consensus that the draft is stocked with point guards. That benefits the Pistons, who need a point guard, but senior adviser Ed Stefanski and Weaver have stated that wherever they pick, they’ll look to select the best player available.  

“It’s a very deep point guard draft. I won’t get into specifics but at every (drafting) level, there’s a point guard. Where we are — and I agree with what Troy and Ed have talked about — it’s best player available,” coach Dwane Casey said Wednesday via teleconference. “If it is a point guard, we’ll take it; if it’s not, we’ll take that (best) player also, wherever we end up in the lottery.

“We’ll take the best player and then hopefully fill that other need in free agency if we don’t get it in the lottery. So, it really depends on where we fall in the draft as far as whether we take a point guard — which is a need for us — because right now under contract we have Derrick (Rose).”

 Among point guards, Ball, Tyrese Haliburton and Killian Hayes are ranked in the top 10 overall picks. Depending on the draft order, if the Pistons land in the top three, they could select Ball; if they’re in picks four through six, Halliburton or Hayes could be available, and even seven through nine there are other options.

The Pistons bought out Reggie Jackson’s contract in his final season, and with only Derrick Rose as an experienced point guard, there’s a need to fill the void either through the draft or free agency, where the Pistons are projected to have about $30 million available.

“If it’s a point and it’s a rookie, we’ll take him and work with him and groom him and get him ready for what he’s got to go through in the NBA,” Casey said. “If it’s a veteran, we’ll throw him right in the fire, and have ready him to go. This is an exciting time for us, getting our roster together from top to bottom.”

Blake Griffin has handled the ball and initiated the offense and Casey has used Bruce Brown as another option, but the coach seems ready to get a full-time point guard.

Wherever the Pistons get slotted in the first round — they don’t have a second-round pick this year — they will have to address several spots on the roster. They don’t have a center under contract, after trading Andre Drummond at the deadline, and that could make Memphis center James Wiseman of interest to them as well. The draft pool doesn’t have nearly as many good centers as point guards, but so much will depend on where they end up after the lottery.

“Bruce is a Swiss Army knife for us,” Casey said. “He can tread water at point but his natural position is a wing position, just being a basketball player and not having the responsibility of running the team and setting the table for everyone.”

The next couple seasons of the Pistons will be built around Griffin, who has rehabbed from knee surgery and was impressive in his workouts last week at the practice facility. Griffin has said he’ll be ready to ramp up ahead of the start of the season, but he’s been taking things slowly in Pistons’ offseason.

“Blake was in last week and he looked good. His body looked great,” Casey said. “He was moving well on the court and had some bounce. That was exciting for me to see and everyone to see where he in his rehab process for the summer.”

NBA Draft Lottery

When: Thursday, 8:30 p.m.


Outlook: The Pistons had the fifth-worst record in the regular season and their odds of getting the No. 1 pick are 10.5 percent; the chances of moving up into the top four are 42.1 percent. The lowest the Pistons can fall is ninth, but those odds are just 0.6 percent.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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