After sliding to the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, who will the Detroit Pistons take? The reliable DraftExpress thinks Turkish big man Enes Kanter will be there, even though many pundits regard him as a top-five pick. ESPN's Chad Ford thinks (DBB favorite) Bismack Biyombo will be still available but predicts the Pistons will take Tristan Thompson out of Texas. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press doesn't rule out the possibility that guards Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight might slip.
In other words, nobody really knows. (Or if someone does know, it's impossible to tell the signal from the noise.)
But what about past drafts? With the caveat that this year's class is thought to be weaker than usual, it may be helpful to take a look back to see what caliber of player is traditionally taken at this point. As DBB'er Trout Jefferson first pointed out in the comments, here are the No. 8 picks from the last decade:
At first glance, that's awfully depressing ... but it's also a bit misleading, at least when you consider the talent that was left on the board. Notable ninth overall picks from the last decade include DeMar DeRozan (2009), Joakim Noah (2007), Andre Iguodala (2004) and Amar'e Stoudemire (2002). Go back a little further and you'll see Shawn Marion (1999), Dirk Nowitzki (1998) and Tracy McGrady (1997).
Notable 10th overall picks include Brandon Jennings (2009), Brook Lopez (2008), Andrew Bynum (2005), Caron Butler (2002) and Joe Johnson (2001). Keep going back, and there's guys like Paul Pierce (1998) and Jason Terry (1999).
Notable 11th overall picks? Terrence Williams (2009), Jerryd Bayless (2008), J.J. Redick (2006), Andris Biedrins (2004) and Mickael Pietrus (2003). Not quite as impressive, but still a couple of starter-caliber players and serviceable rotation players. (Also, Allan Houston in 1993!)
Notable 12th overall picks? Jason Thompson (2008) and Thaddeus Young (2007). Yeah, the cupboard is getting bare, but still. Recent 13th overall picks include Ed Davis (2009), Tyler Hansbrough (2009), and ... well, that's about it. But if you stretch the definition of "recent," you can include Richard Jefferson (2001) and Corey Maggette (1999). (Kobe Bryant was technically a 13th overall pick in 1996, but even I won't claim that's relevant anymore.) Recent 14th overall picks include ... a pile of dog crap. But whatever, the Pistons aren't drafting 14th, they're drafting eighth.
So what's my point? Well, aside from the fact that it's easy to apply hindsight and cherry-pick missed opportunities from previous drafts, it's that there almost certainly will be diamonds in the rough available for those teams smart -- and lucky -- enough to take advantage.
Yes, this particularly draft is considered weak, and sure, Joe Dumars is barely mediocre when it comes to scouting amateurs (last year's success notwithstanding). But some team out there is going to find a player that makes a lot of other teams look dumb. Considering there's no consensus whatsoever once you get past the top two picks, Detroit still has a chance to walk away with elite talent despite drafting from the middle of the lottery, just like last year.