Detroit Pistons’ stunning NBA draft haul revealed something huge about their future

Detroit Free Press

Shawn Windsor | Detroit Free Press

Finally, there is a future, and a plan. And to think Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver told us this was coming.

Yeah, he said he was open to making moves on draft night. He told us he was ready to mix it up.

But this?

Three first-round picks? A trio of versatile, tough-minded players with a feel for the game and a chip on their shoulders?

You wanted change?

Weaver just gave it to you in a matter of two hours. All he did was draft a European — by way of Florida — teenager to take over at point guard, take a flier on a star high school recruit who fell off the radar playing at the University of Washington for a year, then topped off the haul with a two-way sharpshooter who lives in the gym and grew two inches during his two years at Villanova.

Oh, and he shipped Luke Kennard to the Clippers. So now you don’t have to think about Donovan Mitchell anymore. Unless you’re a masochist. Or a sadist who can never let something go.

Well, it’s time to move on. It’s time to think about a full-on rebuild, because by the time Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey get into their primes, Blake Griffin will be doing full-time stand-up comedy and Derrick Rose will be filming a documentary entitled “What-if … .”

So, yes, Wednesday night’s NBA draft wasn’t just about the future, but an acknowledgement that purgatory was actually hell, and chasing the middle was mostly miserable.

For years, the Pistons spent this night in the mid-to-late lottery, hoping they’d land a difference-maker, whiffing, then overpaying for players in free agency or mortgaging the future in trades.

And nothing ever changed.

Once in a while, such as in 2019, they’d contend for the playoffs, for the right to get swept by a No. 1 seed. That was fun for a half of Game 3.

No more.

Not after Weaver went out and got himself two teenagers and a 21-year-old going on 40, in the best possible way.

Normally when you say a player is mature, you’re covering for a lack of explosiveness or quickness or size. And while Bey won’t win the dunk contest anytime soon — or ever — when his coach at Villanova, Jay Wright, describes him as serious and mature, he isn’t obfuscating a weakness. He’s highlighting part of what makes him so promising.

Bey is the best shooter of the three. And at 6-feet-8, his 45% 3-point clip should translate to the NBA just fine. The Pistons could use a wing who can shoot and defend, as Bey can. Heck, they could use several of them.

It’s the nature of the league, and Weaver understands you can’t have too many.

 

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Meet Detroit Pistons’ 2nd and 3rd 2020 first-round NBA draft picks

Detroit Pistons were busy during the first round of 2020 NBA draft, picking up two additional first-rounders: Washington’s Isaiah Stewart and Villanova’s Saddiq Bey.

Look at last season’s semifinal teams: L.A. Lakers, Denver, Miami, Boston. Three of them were led by two-way wings. The other — Denver — was led by a unicorn center and a 6-4 point guard who can shoot.

This isn’t to say that Hayes is the next Jamal Murray. Or that Bey is LeBron James or Jimmy Butler or Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Of course not.

But Bey might be the kind of player who can guard those kinds of players and not get completely roasted. And that’s the point.

As for Hayes?

He doesn’t shoot from distance like so many of the league’s next-generation point guards. Not yet.

But he does make shots. And that matters as a predictor for shooting. So do free throws, where Hayes excels.

So, no, he isn’t likely to remain a 27% 3-point shooter for the rest of his career. Though his potential as a floor-spacer through shooting isn’t why Weaver selected him. He is here because he is 6-5, long, under control, always balanced, and can bend the floor to his inner geometry and clock.

He takes his time, but changes pace. He slips through cracks rather than dart through them. He runs the pick-and-roll as well as any 19-year-old this side of Luka Doncic; yes, Doncic is no longer 19. And, yes, Hayes is not Doncic.

But he has some of Doncic’s feel and bravado, not to mention his vision. Watch Hayes play and you’ll see him poke and prod and ease into the lane, drawing the defense, and whipping it to the corner for an open 3.

Such playmaking is why Weaver wanted him, along with promising on-ball defensive skill. If the distance shooting comes, he’ll have a chance to be a star. If not, he’ll still be able to shape the court as he sees it, and at No. 7, it was absolutely worth the shot.

So was trading a future first-round pick — mostly lottery protected — for the chance to grab Stewart. This is the kind of move Weaver helped make while at Oklahoma City. Identify someone who fits into your vision and go get him.

Stewart was a highly regarded recruit who played on a bad college team, yet still played hard. He is physical and self-aware — he once said he wouldn’t compare himself to Anthony Davis because he had to be real with himself.

At 6-9, he is something of a throwback big who can defend well on the block but gets a little lost in space on the perimeter. Still, the Pistons could use a little nasty under the rim.

Just as they could use as many long, versatile, two-way players as they can get. It’s where the league is going.

On Wednesday night, the Pistons showed they were headed in that direction, too.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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