The Detroit Pistons have three-and-a-half weeks to build their strategy going into the 2012 NBA Draft. Through workouts, interviews and and wider player analysis, the Pistons will attempt to build a draft order for the #9 pick, the #39 pick and the #44 pick. While it's likely that trading up will not be an option, there may be opportunities to add or move picks that can be explored by draft day. So how might the draft play out for the Detroit Pistons? Let's take a look at the decisions the team will be making by June 28th.
First Round Options
Detroit's #9 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft:
Jared Sullinger: NBADraft.net has Sullinger going to the Mavericks at #17. That and their crappy audio ads are two reasons why I much prefer DraftExpress. DX has Sullinger going 6th to Portland. ESPN says Sullinger will likely go 7th to Golden State, and Sports Illustrated agrees. That's the big question about Sullinger-- will he fall to Detroit or not? If you've watched Sullinger play or you understand advanced stats, it's not hard to recognize that he is a premier prospect in this draft, in line with Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson. If he is on the board for Detroit at #9, you take him and don't look back. When the best player available happens to play at your greatest position of need, you make the pick regardless of that player's style.
John Henson: If the Pistons are drafting for fit, North Carolina's John Henson seems to bring what the team needs most. Detroit's frontcourt needs a defensive-minded big man who can block shots and patrol the paint, and Henson brings both in bundles. In terms of rebounding and shot blocking, he's not too dissimilar from Kentucky's Anthony Davis. Henson is an inch taller than Davis and weighs in at the same 220 pounds. The same people who are critical of Henson's frame don't seem to hold Davis to the same standard. This might help Henson stay in Detroit's draft range on June 28th. If he's on the board and Sullinger is not, Henson might be the best bet for Detroit.
Kendall Marshall: When it comes to point guard purity, Marshall may be the purest guy to enter the draft in a decade. His 9.8 assists in 33 minutes (and 3.5:1 a/t ratio) is unreal, and it helped push UNC to a Final Four appearance. The Tarheels might have gone further if Marshall was in uniform for their loss to Kansas, but he missed the last two games of the playoffs due to an injured right wrist. The reason Detroit might give pause to drafting Marshall is their (frustrating) commitment to (not a point guard) Brandon Knight, plus Marshall's poor defensive ability and lack of individual offense. He might turn out to be a Jose Calderon on defense or a Ben Wallace on offense, but he also might become a better Mark Jackson in control of a team. Mama, there goes that man.
Tyler Zeller: This may be the boring pick (it is) but it probably wouldn't be a bad one. Zeller is a legit 7-footer who rebounds well, scores efficiently, gets to the line a lot, takes good care of the ball and might block a shot or two each game. He's a center, and the Pistons might not want to ruin a good thing by moving Greg Monroe to the 4. That might work perfectly. It might be Monroe's ideal position. It might also fail, and Zeller doesn't really bring what Detroit needs in a way that Monroe should move. Zeller is not a defensive force, and his body needs work if he's going to hold the paint for a defense-focused team. Fans shouldn't be upset if Zeller is drafted by Detroit. Well, they should be if he's drafted over any of the three guys above.
Second Round Options
The second round is slated to be terribly exciting in this draft. There is a lot of talent here, and Detroit could find starter quality players that are overlooked and undervalued by the media and GMs alike. Instead of showing options available at each draft, I'd like to focus on who Detroit should be calling with each of these second round picks. There are three gems here, in my opinion, and Detroit will need another pick to catch all three.
Detroit's 39th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft:
Kyle O'Quinn: Why this guy isn't close to the lottery conversation, I have no idea. He's a beastly rebounder, a strong shot blocker, a 61% shooter from 2 and he's a regular at the charity stripe. The knocks on O'Quinn are about his motor, whether or not his defense will translate since he played in a small program, you know, the stuff they were saying about Greg Monroe and Kenneth Faried, respectively. Joe Dumars only needs to know one thing-- O'Quinn has a 7'5" wingspan. Our own TheBoourns has a much more extensive report of O'Quinn in the fanposts.
Jae Crowder: If O'Quinn isn't the Kenneth Faried of the 2012 NBA Draft, Jae Crowder is. He put up better numbers than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did this season, albeit in a lesser conference. The stand out stats are Crowder's 50% scoring, 8.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.5 steals, and only 1.3 TO's. The advanced numbers are all over the guy as one of the top prospects in the draft with lottery level talent. Why the poor showing in the mocks? He measured 6' 3 3/4" in the New Jersey draft workout two weeks ago. That's what Rodney Stuckey measured pre-draft. It's a hard sell to see Crowder playing the 3 or the 4 in the NBA. But this guy produces despite that, and even if his ability falls off a bit against NBA competition, he'll find a place in this league. I hope that happens in Detroit.
Detroit's 44th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft:
Scott Machado: He plays for a small program, he's only 6'1" and he's not a good defender. That's the bad about Scott Machado. The good about Scott Machado is wildly impressive, in that he's a terrific shooter, a terrific passer and a great rebounder for his position. He shot 50% from the field this season, 40% from three, he dished out 10 assists per game to go with 5 rebounds. If his production even translated a little bit, he'd be a great backup PG in Detroit. If he can continue his production or even improve it, he could be an NBA starter. Once again, our own TheBoourns brings the smarts on Machado.
Acquiring Another 2nd Round Pick
If Detroit could walk out of the draft on June 28th with O'Quinn, Crowder and Machado, they might be the winners of the night. To do so, they'll need to add another pick-- and they'll need to reach from a higher position to ensure these players aren't missed. Let's explore how they could do that.
The Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Portland Trail Blazers have multiple picks in the late first / early second round. Of these, the Cavs and the Blazers make fitting trade partners.
Cleveland Cavaliers (picking 24th, 33rd and 34th):
Detroit should pay close attention to who Cleveland drafts in the lottery. If they wind up with Bradley Beal, they'll be in need of a small forward who can contribute right away. The Cavs are also cutting ties with two of their three veterans, Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison. If they want a veteran figure at the 3, the only cost to Cleveland could be a 2nd round pick and some salary absorption. A trade of Tayshaun Prince for Daniel Gibson, Samardo Samuels and Cleveland's 33rd pick works under the CBA, and favors Cleveland in ESPN's trade machine. In such a trade, the Pistons can immediately cut Gibson and Samuels, whose contracts are only partially guaranteed for 2012-13. If Detroit can shed Prince's contract while picking up another pick in 2012, this would be a win/win. Cleveland might actually find Prince to be a good fit, given that he'd be a 3rd option at best in a return to the glue role that made him famous in the first place.
Portland Trail Blazers (picking 40th and 41st):
The Blazers have two picks between Detroit's two second rounders. They might be willing to part with one if they are given some prospects to replace a few of their many expiring free agents. On guaranteed contracts, they have LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews... and that's about it. Detroit might consider offering the rights to Kyle Singler along with either Will Bynum or Vernon Macklin. In exchange, Detroit would ask for the 40th pick and a contract to make the deal work, either Kurt Thomas, Elliott Williams or Nolan Smith.
The best option here is clearly the Cavaliers trade. Detroit gets rid of a contract that another team can absorb and get use out of, while picking up another 2nd round pick. The 33rd pick would give Detroit the opportunity to reach for the 2nd round prospects they want. They can take Kyle O'Quinn 33rd if they're afraid he's not going to be around at 39. They still have a chance to grab Jae Crowder at 39. They can select Scott Machado at 44 if his stock stays the same.
If Detroit can find a way to end the night of the 28th with Jared Sullinger or John Henson, Kyle O'Quinn, Jae Crowder and Scott Machado in the bag (and Tayshaun Prince erased from the books), this might be the beginning of a beautiful year. This team has needed a pivotal moment like that since November 2nd, 2008. If that pivotal moment comes on draft night, this might be the beginning of another nice run for the Detroit Pistons.
(for more second round options, The Boourns gets a hotlink hat trick: 2012 NBA Draft: Second Round Roundup.