It’s closing in on lottery week. Unlike last season, when the Detroit Pistons ended up picking seventh, they have some optimism heading into Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery. They have the best odds (14%, tied with the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic) of getting the No. 1 pick and the presumptive selection, Cade Cunningham.
If they get the No. 1 pick, would general manager Troy Weaver even entertain the thought of trading it? What happens if they don’t get the No. 1 pick, though? Who is the best choice at No. 2?
This week’s mailbag answers questions about how the Pistons might approach getting a pick at the top of the draft, and what they could consider with their three second-round picks. How the draft pans out also will affect the roster construction, as well as what they do in free agency.
► Question. Would you rather have Jalen Green or Evan Mobley and why? — @PistonsGotNext
► Answer. If this is the question after the lottery, the Pistons are in a win-win situation. This hypothetical implies that they probably have the No. 2 or No. 3 pick, and they’d be happy with either. The decision comes down to where Weaver sees the trajectory of the rebuild. Picking Mobley likely would mean he sees more building that needs to be done. If the choice is Green, he probably sees a quicker turnaround.
In some ways, Mobley would be a luxury pick, because the Pistons desperately need scoring, which Mobley might not be able to provide immediately. Green has shown with the G League Ignite that he can do that, and with his size and athleticism, he could slot right into the backcourt and be ready to go from summer league on.
Mobley would solidify their defense immediately and gives them some flexibility in the frontcourt, where they could play him and Isaiah Stewart together or separately and not lose much there. Some experts view Mobley as better at this stage of his development than Anthony Davis was. That’s high praise, and if the Pistons agree with that, they should take him with the pick.
► Q. Who on this roster do you feel will be fighting for a roster spot regardless of who we draft? I’m thinking Frank Jackson, Josh Jackson, Hamidou Diallo, Saben Lee, Deividas Sirvydis, Tyler Cook, Sekou Doumbouya. Gotta think FJ is a lock, but not certain of the others. Would think Sekou really needs to prove this year he belongs? — @KornKat2020
► A. That’s a tough question, because the draft pick will add to a crowded position group, unless it’s Mobley. Diallo, Frank Jackson and Lee are free agents and Cook’s deal isn’t guaranteed, so depending on the pick, they could make some adjustments to the roster.
One could argue picking Cunningham, Green or Suggs would have a ripple effect on the players you listed. Even if the pick turns out to be fifth or sixth, the potential for Jonathan Kuminga or Scottie Barnes could impact the forwards.
Weaver showed last year that he’s not afraid to eat some contracts if it improves the roster, so I wouldn’t say anyone is safe. If he sees a way to get better, Weaver is going to pursue it.
► Q. Given that we should be able to utilize the G-league team next season… do you think it’s more likely we use our 2nd rounders to fill out a developmental roster, or package them together to trade for a higher pick and/or existing player? — @MatthewCrowe313
► A. I think there’s a good chance the Pistons will look at packaging their second-round picks (Nos. 37, 42 and 52) — possibly with some other current players — to try to maneuver around the first round or via trade to improve the roster. There is so much talk about the top of the draft, but Weaver showed last year he can find hidden gems in the middle of the first round.
Much of what happens with those additional picks will be determined by what that first pick is. In so many ways, that will determine the Pistons’ immediate path forward. They also could look to utilize the two-way contract spots with some good talent that plays more in the G League than for the big team, as they would have done with Lee and probably Doumbouya if there were a G League season.
► Q. Who is the lowest ranked player you’d be excited about the Pistons taking with their lottery pick? — @VichGee
► A. It doesn’t really make a difference to me. Any of the top four would be interesting and inject some energy into the franchise, as a pairing with the picks from last year. I don’t get excited about much — the draft process and all the hoopla around it have jaded me over the years — but just seeing the Pistons get a big piece for their rebuild would be cool.
Through the years, they’ve picked in the middle of the lottery and even No. 7 was a hodgepodge last year in terms of preparation and figuring out who the pick might be. No. 2 or 3 would make things much easier in the lead-up to the draft.
► Q. Do you personally like the lottery, or would you prefer traditional formats like the NFL and MLB drafts? — @aurban91
► A. The lottery is weird in that a team that wasn’t even in the worst four records could end up with the No. 1 pick. That’s just odd, but what I can’t stand is the NFL, where the worst record automatically gets the top pick. The NBA has tried to discourage tanking and the losses at the ends of seasons are bad enough, but with the three worst records getting an equal chance at the top pick, it’s a little more fair.
I do think there should be a limit on how far a team can move up. The odds are small, but the No. 10 team, for example, shouldn’t have a shot at the first pick. Cut that number where only the worst five or six teams can get No. 1, and figure out a way to slot the rest of them after that.
The odds are funky, but Minnesota and Cleveland have gotten quite a few No. 1 picks and they have one championship to show for it.
► Q. If the Pistons land No. 1 and OKC lands 2 and 5 (because Houston falls out of 1-4 protections), how likely are you going to do a 1 for 2/5 trade? — @J_Lawnicki
► A. I tossed this idea around a few weeks ago and it still makes sense. The problem is that it’s the fifth pick and not the fourth. It may just depend on how the picks fall and who the actual second and fifth picks are. If you tell me the Pistons can trade Cunningham for Mobley and Green or Suggs, then I’d certainly listen to that.
The Pistons need a lot of high-caliber talent, and I’m confident Green will be good and I can take the risk on Mobley. Trading Cunningham is a huge risk, though, because he’s the one prospect who projects to be a franchise-changing pick. An actual trade likely would have some other pieces attached, but for the purposes of this question, I think I’d give it some strong consideration.