The NBA draft is two days away. The Detroit Pistons have the No. 5 pick.
They could trade it. They could keep it. They could take an above-the-rim two-guard who struggles to make plays for others or a (relatively) earthbound forward who can shoot.
They could take a flier on a high schooler who can jump and shoot … against high school players. Can he do it against pros? That’s the gamble.
They could take a shooter from Duke or a shooter from Arizona and hope both can defend and attack a closeout.
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It’s a good bet that one of these prospects will turn into a very good player, maybe even an All-Star. It’s also a decent bet Troy Weaver guesses wrong on who that player will be.
It happens all the time.
Not only to Weaver, but almost every general manager in the NBA. It’s the nature of guessing.
What to do, then, in a sport where two of the best five players in the league were drafted at No. 15?
Do your homework and cross your fingers the next Giannis Antetokounmpo or Kawhi Leonard falls in your lap. Weaver mentioned these two when asked Monday if Thursday’s draft was more than four high-quality players.
“I don’t see that,” he said.
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Yeah, he admitted, some years, there might be a top one: Shaq or LeBron. Most years, though, the best players are sprinkled through the first half of the first round … or even later.
Also remember the “best players” aren’t always immediately recognizable. As Weaver said: “Five years later, it’s always different.”
No wonder re-drafting podcasts are so popular. Who doesn’t love an hour of second-guessing and I-told-you-so’s?
Weaver has already heard plenty of both. Exhibit A is Killian Hayes. Should he be? That depends on whether you should give up on a 20-year-old.
Hayes, after all, played 92 games in the last two seasons. Or 207 fewer games than Chauncey Billups had played when he arrived in Detroit in 2002 (along with five years old).
You remember what was said about Billups before Detroit?
A bust. A miss. A whiff. Can’t shoot. Can’t defend. Can’t run the point.
He had played a little better for Minnesota the season before he became a Piston. But, still, no one saw a Finals MVP when he showed up.
Now, please, I’m not suggesting Hayes will become as good a player as Billups did. I am saying Hayes could get better … lots better. It happens all the time in the NBA:
Players get older. They learn — and often learn to work. They improve.
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I don’t know. The Pistons don’t know. Andrew Wiggins, the former No. 1 overall pick once considered by some a bust, just won an NBA title as the second-best player for Golden State. So, anything is possible.
Keep this in mind Thursday night when the Pistons make their draft pick. Also keep in mind that Weaver doesn’t have to nail this pick. It’d be nice, sure. But the franchise won’t fold if Jaden Ivey turns into a star in another uniform, or if Keegan Murray does not in a Pistons uniform.
It would help, of course.
If you consider how many lottery picks become All-Stars each year — approximately two or three — and consider how many teams draft in the lottery — 14 — then consider the difficulty of what is about to happen Thursday night.
Weaver nailed last year’s lottery. Now, some might argue “yeah, he had the No. 1 pick.” So did Phoenix when it grabbed Deandre Ayton instead of Luka Doncic — mistakes happen, more often than not, which means Weaver has shown he can beat the odds.
Think of it this way: Of the four first-round picks Weaver’s had as the Pistons general manager, two look like long-time NBA players and one looks like a star, maybe even a superstar.
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Yes, there is Hayes. But even if he doesn’t develop, Weaver is still shooting 75% in the first round. And on a night when the odds are brutal, you’ll take it.
Maybe it helps that he is less worried about fit or skill set and more concerned with comportment and competitive spirit.
“We are going to bring the right person in the building,” he said.
Start there and cross your fingers. Then hope when the redraft podcast drops, your pick has moved up.
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.