Late second round draft picks rarely pan out in the NBA. While the Detroit Pistons have had some luck over the years, including Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and Mehmet Okur, finding value in the second round can be a crap shoot at best. In the immediate term, the Pistons clearly misfired in the 2011 NBA draft, securing one player who opted not to join the team and another who has barely scratched the rotation. Kyle Singler, drafted 33rd overall, might have some value for Detroit in the future, but it's looking like the selection of Vernon Macklin was a mistake.
It's hard to call a 52nd pick a mistake, because players drafted 52nd and beyond usually don't see NBA minutes. Players drafted in this range usually wind up overseas or in the D-League while the GMs that own their rights scout them from afar. Detroit drafted Amir Johnson with the 56th pick in 2005, but he spent most of his first two years working on his game in the D-League before he finally got the call. Players like Johnson, picked late in the draft, are usually young players with potential that need a lot of development.
Vernon Macklin, however, does not fit into that equation. Macklin is already 25 years old, he didn't show pre-draft bright spots that could shine if polished, and he's apparently not heading to Europe or the D-League. Yet in 2011-12, on a team that sorely needs help up front, Macklin has only recorded 63 minutes, nearly every one of them in garbage time. If the selection of Vernon Macklin wasn't about developing a prospect, and it wasn't about getting him into the rotation, then what was the point?
Developing Vernon Macklin doesn't seem like it's in the cards. At 25, he should just now be hitting his prime in the NBA. He should have already learned the ins and outs of the NBA, even if he did spent four years in the NCAA. Yet unlike most 22-year-old seniors, Macklin would be 25 when he entered his rookie campaign. He'd be hitting his physical peak while making rookie mistakes at the same time. If he needed two years to develop like some other late picks do, he'd have to wait until the age of 27 to contribute anything of value. With this, it doesn't seem like the plan was to develop Macklin as a prospect, it appears as if the plan was to get him in the rotation right away.
...but that hasn't happened. Macklin isn't getting any burn despite the fact that Charlie Villanueva has only played six minutes this season. Also despite the fact that Ben Wallace is 37-years-old. Detroit features a three-to-four man frontcourt on most occasions, with only Greg Monroe playing a position that comes naturally. Despite all of this, Vernon Macklin can't even crack the rotation.
One or both of these two plans has failed. If the goal was to develop Macklin, Detroit isn't doing it. If the goal was to use Macklin, Detroit isn't doing that either. It could be that Lawrence Frank doesn't feel he's worth the minutes. But given how often this team loses, it's hard to argue that things could be any worse if Macklin was given a shot. The problem with Macklin is that he's too old to develop, and apparently too green to earn garbage time on one of the league's worst teams. Whichever way you prefer to look at it, this pick looks like it was a mistake...
Vernon Macklin is the 4th second round pick in a row that hasn't scratched the rotation for the Pistons. Before Macklin, the other three hadn't even seen a minute of regulation for this team. As is evidenced by Detroit's own record, these 2nd round picks can pay off. Two of the Pistons last five second round picks are starters in the NBA this season. A lottery team needs 2nd round picks to pan out more than playoff teams do, and the Vernon Macklin pick is another case of mismanagement by Joe Dumars. Is it forgivable? Absolutely. Is it questionable? Unfortunately, yes.
In the 2012 NBA draft, Joe Dumars had better come ready to get it right in the second round. This means dodging the Vernon Macklins and keeping the Chase Budingers of the world. Let's hope Ken Catanella comes through with the assist in 2012, because Detroit needs all the luck it can get in both rounds of the draft.