New York — The chances that the Pistons would somehow mess up the draft were low. They entered with the No. 1 overall pick and had three second-round selections, so things were trending toward them making pretty safe moves and not doing too much.
They did what was expected and picked Cade Cunningham with the first pick, and they added a trade that sent center Mason Plumlee and the No. 37 pick to the Charlotte Hornets for the 57th pick.
The Pistons also added a pair of known quantities in the second round, adding Michigan’s Isaiah Livers at No. 42 and Iowa’s Luka Garza at No. 52. With the 57th pick, they selected another big man, Balsa Koprivica.
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It wasn’t a bad night overall, and outside of everything else, they got who they believe is the best overall prospect.
Here are the draft grades for each of the Pistons’ selections:
►Cade Cunningham, wing, Oklahoma State
The Pistons got the player they needed in a very deep draft, one who could step in immediately and be the face of the franchise and carry some of the scoring load. Cunningham is 6-foot-8 and has a varied skill set that will allow him to play multiple positions, based on what the Pistons need at any given time.
He’ll be an upgrade defensively and his ballhandling ability will allow him and Killian Hayes to mesh seamlessly and become a more dangerous offense. If he can shoot anywhere near his college production on 3-pointers (40%), he’ll be an instant upgrade, in addition to the acumen he has defensively, with his size and ability to guard multiple positions.
There was some consideration to pick either Jalen Green or Evan Mobley, but the safe pick was Cunningham.
►Isaiah Livers, wing, Michigan
Finding value at the No. 42 pick is sometimes difficult. But with the depth in this draft, the Pistons had more options than teams picking in this spot in most years. Livers has good size at 6-foot-7, and he showed in his four years with the Wolverines that he can shoot. He hit 43% on 3-pointers last season, and reuniting with former coach John Beilein, who is an adviser in player development with the Pistons, will help as well.
There is a logjam at the wing spots, so if Livers doesn’t make the Pistons’ roster, he could be a natural fit with the Motor City Cruise in the G League, who begin play this fall. He’ll have time to develop there and still be able to learn the Pistons’ system. It’s a name many people around the state know, so having him there could make sense.
►Luka Garza, center, Iowa
How does the unanimous national player of the year end up being available late in the second round? Good question. Garza isn’t a traditional dominating center, but he brings a solid skill set to the NBA. Garza shot 44% on 3-pointers during his senior season with the Hawkeyes and shot 55% overall from the field.
He’s durable, having played in 127 games in his four-year career, and finishing as Iowa’s all-time leading scorer with 2,306 points. What gets lost in Garza’s game is that he’s not just a perimeter player; he’s solid in the post and can be as effective inside as he is from beyond the arc.
At 6-foot-11, he can carve out space and be a solid inside presence.
In terms of value, this is very good at No. 52.
►Balsa Koprivica, center, Florida State
With their final pick, the Pistons opted for another big man, with the 7-foot-1 Koprivica getting the nod. Koprivica, 21, played two years with the Seminoles and he posted 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds as a sophomore. In the ACC Tournament, earned a first-team selection, with 14 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3 blocks.
There were other options available at No. 57 in the draft, but taking a chance on Koprivica doesn’t hurt.