The numbers to remember are 1, 37, 42 and 52.
It’s not the beginning of a series of numbers for the Mega Millions — the Pistons already had their lottery luck Tuesday in getting the first pick in the NBA Draft. Those numbers include their other picks in the draft, beyond what looks to be the obvious pick in Cade Cunningham at the top.
The multiple second-round picks make for some interesting possibilities for general manager Troy Weaver in trying to improve the roster. He added to the depth of their draft picks through a flurry of trades this season, getting the No. 37 pick, which originally belonged to the Toronto Raptors, from the Brooklyn Nets in the deal that sent out Luke Kennard. The Pistons got No. 42, the Charlotte Hornets’ pick, in the Derrick Rose trade with the Knicks. The 52nd pick was the Los Angeles Lakers’ selection and once belonged to the Pistons previously, before going to Houston, then Sacramento and back to the Pistons.
Most of the intrigue departed from the conversation about the first-round pick when the Pistons won the lottery, but some of that attention can turn to the second-round selections. Because of the roster construction, there doesn’t seem to be room to bring in four new players, even with the two-way contracts and G League options with the Motor City Cruise, who start playing at the new arena on the campus of Wayne State University next season.
Weaver showed in last year’s draft that he’s not afraid of moving around to get additional pieces. The Pistons entered with only the seventh pick, but Weaver made some deals to acquire the No. 16 pick to get Isaiah Stewart and No. 19 for Saddiq Bey, who both earned spots on the NBA All-Rookie teams.
Because Weaver has been renowned for his talent evaluation, there is confidence he can find some hidden gems, as he did with the first-round picks last year. It’s more difficult to replicate that success in the second round, but Weaver showed he could with his selection of Saben Lee at No. 38 last season.
Lee was on a two-way contract and as he becomes a restricted free agent, it’s highly likely that he’ll be converted to a standard contract in the offseason. That’s the template Weaver can tout for potential second-round picks: There is a path for making the roster, with hard work and some playing time.
With the G League presumably returning to a normal schedule, the Cruise likely will be a landing spot if the Pistons decide to keep the picks and draft some players to develop for the future.
If the Pistons decide to keep the picks, they could look at some players who have upside and look to work with them for the long term. That could mean players like Michigan wing Isaiah Livers, G League forward Isaiah Todd and Iowa big man Luka Garza could be around when they pick at No. 52.
Tho se are some recognizable names who could still be around and who have the athleticism and size that the Pistons like. Because shooting was one of the biggest weaknesses, they could look to fill the scoring deficit with Alabama guard Joshua Primo or Nah’Shon Hyland from Virginia Commonwealth could be around with the 42nd pick.
Trying to find good value in the second round is more difficult, but many of those picks end up being a crapshoot anyway. There aren’t as many second-rounders who make a roster and go beyond their draft projection.
With Weaver’s track record, there should be optimism the Pistons could find something that works for the long term, but that could be depend on how Weaver and his staff grade some of the other options.
Weaver said after the season he doesn’t foresee a lot of roster attrition, so there might not be spots to add additional draft picks. What seems more likely than keeping the picks is trying to combine them to move up into the first round, if possible. There are teams such as the Houston Rockets, who have the Nos. 23 and 24 picks, who might be willing to part with them for a reasonable return.
In that range, the Pistons could target wings such as Baylor’s Jared Butler, Oregon’s Chris Duarte or Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu in the middle or end of the first round. At the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago this week, the Pistons are conducting interviews and among the 10 meetings they are allowed, there could be a glimpse into what other positions they’re considering.
Among those who said they had interviews with the Pistons were Tennessee guard Keon Johnson and Florida State forward Scottie Barnes. Those are picks who are more likely to go in the top 10, but those positions are ones that they could look at lower in the draft as well.
Another path forward could be trading the picks for future first- or second-round picks, which would help build up their cupboards for coming years. The Pistons dealt away many of their future picks, so if Weaver and his staff aren’t enamored with the options in this draft, they could look to punt and build up for the next few years.