The NBA Draft Lottery is less than three weeks away and after their miserable 20-52 season, the Pistons are in position to get a franchise-changing addition. The prize of the draft is Cade Cunningham, the combo guard from Oklahoma State, with three other players who are rated as elite. With the second-worst record in the regular season, the Pistons have a 14% chance of getting the No. 1 pick, tied for the best odds with the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic.
Even if the Pistons don’t get the top pick, they can get an impact player in the top four spots, with center Evan Mobley (Southern California), guard Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga) and guard Jalen Green (G League Ignite) as the consensus next-best players. Any of that trio would be a boost for the Pistons.
The downside is that because of the way the odds are balanced among the lottery teams, the Pistons could drop as far as No. 6, and the odds are 47.9% that they’ll end up with the fifth or sixth pick.
Tankathon.com offers a simulator that randomly generates the draft lottery drawing and assigns positions. Here are the results of where the Pistons ended up in five simulated spins:
Spin No. 1
► 1. Pistons: Cunningham
Stop the presses: One spin and one win. Is it possible to stop after the first spin and call it a day? In Cunningham, the Pistons get a versatile 6-foot-7 combo guard who can do it all at a high level. He didn’t have high-quality talent around him for his one season in college, and his skills translate well to the NBA. For the Pistons, he would be a clear upgrade, allowing them to create a versatile backcourt along with Killian Hayes, who has looked better when he’s mixed his ball-handling responsibilities. It would be the Pistons’ highest pick in the lottery era and would end their streak of never moving up in the draft lottery with their own pick.
Spin No. 2
► 1. Toronto Raptors: Cunningham, 2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mobley, 3. Pistons: Suggs
The Pistons fall a spot from where they were entering the lottery, but they end up with a likely choice between Suggs and Green. Either guard could help immediately, but Suggs has leadership and a presence on the court that translates well to the NBA game. At 6-foot-4, he’s a lead guard with size who fits well with the Pistons’ offensive structure and provides another ball-handler who can fit in either backcourt spot.
If the Pistons do get the third pick, they may lean more toward Green, who could slide right in at shooting guard and fill a specific need in the starting lineup. That’s a different conversation for a different day, but it’s worth thinking about.
Spin No. 3
► 1. Indiana Pacers: Cunningham, Thunder: Mobley, 3. Sacramento Kings: Kuminga, 4. Orlando Magic: Suggs, 5. Thunder (from Houston Rockets): Green, 6. Pistons: Jalen Johnson
This is a suboptimal scenario for the Pistons, who not only fall out of the top four elite players, but drop all the way to sixth. The pickings are slimmer in this part of the lottery and many experts have Johnson as the best selection. Johnson, from Duke, is 6-foot-9 and can play either forward spot, but picking him potentially blocks minutes for Sekou Doumbouya, who already isn’t getting enough playing time. It’s a tough spot to be in for the Pistons, but the odds are actually better that they’ll get No. 6 (20.1%) than any of the top four selections. I have a suspicion that if the Pistons land in the No. 5 or No. 6 spot, they’ll look hard at making a trade — either up or down — to improve their future draft capital. There just doesn’t appear to be a sure fit in this spot, and with the rebuild well underway, there’s no reason to lose out in this draft.
Spin No. 4
► 1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Cunningham, 2. Raptors: Mobley, 3. Rockets: Suggs, 4. Pistons: Green
Again, the Pistons end up in the top four, and although they don’t get their choice of the Jalens, they end up with maybe the better immediate fit for their roster. Green is 6-6 and showed that he’s ready for the pros in his season in the G League. He’s a talented scorer who has an affinity for getting in the paint and finishing at the rim. That’s something the Pistons could use more of, as well as his 37% from 3-point range, which is a truer indication of his potential, because he doesn’t have to adjust to the longer NBA arc, having done it already for a season. Green is a high-level athlete and has some swagger the Pistons could use with this mostly introverted young group. There’s some argument to be made that if the Pistons get the No. 2 pick, that Green is the right choice.
Spin No. 5
► 1. Timberwolves: Cunningham, 2. Pistons: Mobley
This isn’t a sham — I actually did get five different Pistons outcomes with five spins today. This might be the most interesting spot of the six possible positions they could get. After Cunningham is off the board, the Pistons have to consider how they want to reshape their roster. They have a definite need for a scorer (Green) and another guard (Suggs), but Mobley might be able to make the biggest impact of all because he gives them their center of the future. Mobley is just scratching the surface of his potential, which likely will be unlocked in the right NBA situation. That could be with the Pistons, who have the potential to flourish with Mobley, a legit 7-footer, anchoring their defense and providing them offensive versatility with a big that they haven’t seen … well, ever. The odds of landing at No. 2 are just 13.4%, but it could provide the most intrigue in breaking down the possibilities.