Chicago — There was shock and awe throughout a large ballroom inside McCormick Place Convention Center — the site of the NBA Draft Lottery — once deputy NBA commissioner Mark Tatum began to reveal the top five picks of next month’s draft.
The gasps were sharp and brief and they were directed towards the announcement that the Detroit Pistons, who held a 14% chance of securing the first overall pick and winning the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, had dropped four positions to the fifth pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Fans expressed their disappointment on social media for their beloved franchise that dropped to the fifth pick for the second consecutive year, but Pistons general manager Troy Weaver didn’t appear flustered during a conference call immediately after the drafting order was solidified.
Instead, he pointed to a philosophy he learned from his grandfather.
“‘The man who expects nothing can’t be disappointed,’ so I’m not disappointed,” Weaver said. “I wasn’t going in expecting the No. 1 pick. I don’t believe in luck and chance. If we landed there, we would’ve been excited, but we’re prepared to move forward. It’s not (No. 1) or bust.”
Everything was going according to plan, as the lottery played out exactly as it was initially positioned until Detroit dropped from first to fifth. Chatter ensued for several minutes as the broadcast took a commercial break before Tatum revealed the final four picks. Houston followed Detroit’s lead by falling from second to fourth.
San Antonio, who shared the top odds, wound up as the Wemby winner. Similar to the 2005 NBA Finals, the Pistons were on the wrong side of history and the Spurs had reached the mountaintop, with Wembanyama joining legendary coach Gregg Popovich.
ESPN commentator and Detroit native Jalen Rose expressed his disgust with the outcome of the Pistons’ pick on Twitter.
The lottery hasn’t been kind to the Pistons for the past two seasons. The Pistons dropped from third to fifth last year and this season’s drop was the largest in franchise history. The team with the worst record in the NBA hasn’t won the lottery since the NBA changed the rules to avoid tanking in 2019.
When asked about his impressions of the lottery system, Weaver said he would be hypocritical to dislike the format when the Pistons received the No. 1 pick in 2021.
“That’s the system that’s put in place and I don’t have a problem with it at all,” Weaver said. “We gotta make sure that we maximize where we land and we landed at five. This system is what it is. We landed at one two years ago. I would be hypocritical to get on here and say I wanted things to be different because we didn’t get (No. 1) this year.”
Weaver was also asked if he would trade the pick if there was a suitable deal available, the Pistons’ general manager didn’t shy away from the possibility.
“Absolutely. We’re going to turn over every rock and vet it out,” Weaver said. “Yes, if it’s going to help us continue to move forward. Absolutely we would entertain any of those things, but we’re excited about this draft pool. We’ll do our diligence on trying to move the team forward any way we can.”
The prospects that could possibly be available by the time the Pistons are on the clock include a bevy of forwards, including the Thompson twins (Amen and Ausar), Villanova forward Cam Whitmore and Houston forward Jarace Walker. The aforementioned players will be in attendance at the NBA Draft Combine, which continues on Wednesday and Thursday as five-on-five scrimmages commence.
Now that the Pistons are aware of their draft position, evaluating the talent at the combine will be even more of a priority before they return to their search for a new head coach.
Regardless, the first domino of the Pistons’ busy offseason has fallen and now the franchise, and perhaps its rabid fanbase, can move forward without thinking about the hypothetical situation of drafting the 7-foot-5 French phenom.
They’ll have their choice of other options to determine the best course of action and move forward with their rebuild.