The NBA Draft is generally unpredictable, and up to the last minute, the top of the draft seemed to be known, with Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero as the top three picks.
In some way, shape or form.
Things didn’t exactly go to form, and with the Pistons sitting at the No. 5 pick behind the Sacramento Kings, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver had to be prepared for anything.
The top three went Banchero, Holmgren and Smith, and when the Kings selected Iowa forward Keegan Murray — who many mock drafts had slotted for the Pistons — Weaver picked Purdue guard Jaden Ivey.
It was an unlikely outcome according to most mock drafts, and it’s a boon for the Pistons, who solidified their backcourt of the future, pairing Ivey — a 6-foot-4 athletic guard often compared to the Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant — with last year’s No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.
“This is a dream come true for me,” Ivey told reporters after the pick. “I can remember sitting as a young boy and watching some of the great players get drafted, and I didn’t want to stop until I was walking across that stage, shaking the commissioner’s hand.”
Weaver is known to be a wheeler and dealer around draft time, and Wednesday’s trade that sent Pistons leading scorer Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers raised some alarms that maybe the Pistons were leaning toward Murray, a 6-foot-8 scorer.
Weaver is highly regarded as an excellent talent evaluator, and he wasn’t passing on Ivey, who was rated as the best prospect outside the top three, who were locked in, in some order. Ivey projects to join the starting lineup in the backcourt, and with the Grant trade, the Pistons have some voids to fill in the frontcourt, but they have a ton of space under the salary cap to bolster the roster even more.
The backcourt shouldn’t be a top concern.
Ivey posted 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his sophomore year at Purdue, and the Pistons lacked the high-level athleticism that Ivey will bring. Cory Joseph started most of the year alongside Cunningham, and it would seem that Ivey will slide into that spot easily and make for a more dynamic backcourt.
“I think I fit well with Cade. He’s a guy who wants to win, a very unselfish player,” Ivey said. “I can play off the ball or with the ball. I think we go well together.”
Adding Ivey also brings into question what the Pistons will do with Joseph, who used his player option to return for next season. They also have team options for Frank Jackson and Hamidou Diallo and Carsen Edwards, as well as young point guards Killian Hayes and Saben Lee on the roster.
Leading up to the draft, the Knicks reportedly had serious interest in moving up in the draft to get Ivey, and there were reports that the Knicks still were calling even after the Pistons picked Ivey, but as the first round wore on there were more reports that the Pistons were content on keeping Ivey.
It would seemingly take a huge deal for the Pistons to trade Ivey. The Knicks and Pistons did make a deal, but it involved the Pistons getting Memphis center Jalen Duren, the No. 13 pick, and veteran guard Kemba Walker, for the 2025 first-round pick that the Pistons acquired in the Grant deal.
Weaver makes good on another draft-night trading spree, with a young center and a backcourt of the future.
Not bad at all.