The Detroit Pistons have the second-worst record in the NBA, but enter tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery with a better chance of picking fifth than of picking (27.8%) than of picking in the top 2 (27.4%).
Still, the Pistons are guaranteed to pick no lower than sixth, and even that spot, while disappointing for fans hoping for some lottery luck, would be rareified air for the Pistons. They have only picked as high as six three times since 1981 — Isiah Thomas second overall in 1981, Grant Hill third overall in 1994, and Darko Milicic (which was actually Memphis’ pick) second overall in 2003.
That made me wonder just how that compared to other franchises in the Association, and let me tell you, even I was not prepared for just how infrequent Detroit being in the top six was comparatively.
Only the Pistons and the Houston Rockets have been in the top six three times or less. The difference being, the three times the Rockets have climbed near the top of the lottery, they got the No. 1 overall pick selecting Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming. You can’t accuse them of wasting those picks.
Everyone else in the league has spent more time selecting in the top six, and some franchises have set up a second home there. The Minnesota Timberwolves have only existed since 1989 and have 16 top-6 picks. The Grizzlies have only existed since 1995 and have 13.
The only teams to never have the first overall pick in the modern draft era are the Pistons, the Denver Nuggets and the Indiana Pacers. The Nuggets have had six picks in the top six while the Pacers have had four.
The last time Detroit selected first overall was 1970 when they selected Bob Lanier.
Here’s hoping we see some history, and a way to usher in a new half century of Detroit Basketball tonight.