After selecting Rodney Stuckey with the 15th overall pick, the Pistons surprised a lot of people by selecting another guard with pick No. 27. I figured they'd target a guy like Derrick Byars, who has the size and experience to play small forward and back up Tayshaun Prince, or perhaps even a big-man project like Tiago Splitter, who might eventually grow into being a starting center. Instead, they passed up on both guys and took Arron Afflalo.
I'm not a college basketball fan, so when I first heard his name I didn't immediately remember that he led UCLA to the Final Four the last two seasons, nor did I realize that he was the reigning PAC-10 Player of the Year. But even though I'm not sure how he fits into the rotation in the short-term, his selection is starting to grow on me. He's a great defender and a solid shooter, and while he may never be a star, those types of players are always valuable.
A couple of weeks ago, my FanHouse colleague Nate Jones (who is far better versed in college basketball than I) wrote the following in a post about Afflalo and Boston College's Jared Dudley:
The problem I have with the NBA draft is that too many teams try to hit home runs instead of taking players that can come in and help their team right away. Listen, not all of these kids are going to turn into 20 point per game scorers. However, having players that can come in and knock down an open shot and play excellent defense is probably just as important to building a winning team as having a 20 point scorer is.
I mean, look at Raja Bell, Shane Battier, and Bruce Bowen. All three of them have carved niches for themselves within the league as charge taking defensive stoppers. They've also all honed their offensive games so that they can be successful on that side of the floor without actually having the ball (in other words: all of them have become solid spot up shooters). They also all have been winners throughout their careers.
More after the jump ...
And Afflalo is definitely a winner -- although he fell short of national title aspirations, he had his team in the Final Four each of the past two seasons, which is awfully impressive. Joe Dumars recognized that while introducing Afflalo and Stuckey to the press on Friday afternoon. From the Free Press:
"He had to be the rock of that team," Dumars said. The Bruins went to the NCAA title game in 2006 and lost to Florida. They then advanced to this year's Final Four in March, only to lose again to the Gators. "He was the glue that held everything together. It's not easy to do what he's done. The incredible success you saw his team have the last couple of years, this guy was the catalyst for it." ...
Dumars watched six game tapes of Afflalo on Monday night. The Pistons weren't among the eight teams that brought him in for workouts. But Dumars saw enough in his ability to come off screens, to shoot and to defend in those tapes to make him his choice.
When a reporter asked Afflalo about being labeled a defensive specialist, Dumars stepped in.
"No," Dumars said, pushing Afflalo back from the microphone to a chorus of laughter. "We want him to be versatile and do everything. We want him to score, defend ... no one-dimension here. Versatility. He can do more than defend."
Afflalo can obviously score -- he averaged 16.3 points during his final two seasons at UCLA, and here's video of him destroying Weber State last March -- but I'm hoping he does make a name for himself with his defense, especially since Lindsey Hunter may be retiring.
The last several years, the Pistons added guys to their roster specifically to contend with Shaquille O'Neal. But these days, it seems every contender in the East has a dynamic scoring threat from the perimeter, such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas and Vince Carter (not to mention guys playing for non-contenders but still capable of causing trouble, such as Michael Redd, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Joe Johnson).
Afflalo doesn't have to be a "stopper," per se -- the Pistons would have settled for a "slow-down-er" during Game 5 of the Cavs series -- but carving out a niche for himself on the defensive end would be a nice addition for a team that often forgets its defensive identity.
(Also worth noting: as pointed out in the comments, Afflalo was given jersey No. 8 -- does that mean Will Blalock no longer has a future with the Pistons? Or simply an indication of Blalock's place on Detroit's totem pole? Time will tell.)
The "Sammy Mejia is a Piston" sub-heading:
I'm not giving the guy his own post because I'm not convinced he'll actually make the team. Even if he does, he probably won't ever see the court in 2007-08.
Why did the Pistons draft another guard instead of going after a foreign prospect whom they could stash overseas for a couple of years? Perhaps it had less to do with the type of player he was and more to do with who his agent is. From TrueHoop:
Look at who the agents are representing the players in the mid to late second round of the draft. Some of those players, I have heard, have almost no shot at the NBA, but teams take these players instead of other players as favors to powerful agents, who get to look good bragging about having so many players drafted -- when recruiting etc. You'll notice a lot of Bill Duffy, Andy Miller, and CAA's Leon Rose and Andre Buck.
Andy Miller, of course, is the same guy who reps both Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess. Considering Dumars will be working with Miller in hopes of re-signing Billups and hammering out an extension for McDyess, I can see why he'd be willing to use the 57th overall pick -- fourth from last -- as a sign of goodwill.
Such hi-jinks may seem disingenuous to the player being drafted at first, but honestly, I think Mejia appreciates the opportunity, especially considering he was selected fourth from last. Now, he'll have the opportunity to play in the Las Vegas Summer League, probably earn a training camp invite and hopefully play in a few exhibition games. Maybe he doesn't make Detroit's roster, but at least he'll have a chance to showcase his wares to the rest of the league as well as to a potential European employer.
Keep reading for some more Mejia (and Afflalo) scouting reports/articles ...
Scout.com on Sammy Mejia:
Sammy Mejia, a DePaul senior guard, averaged 14.1 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game this season for the Blue Demons. Mejia is DePaul’s ninth ranked all-time leading scorer.
Mejia earned All-Big East Conference honors as he led the Demons to a 20 win season and the quarterfinals of the NIT.
DraftExpress on Mejia:
Mejia’s shooting mechanics looked slightly improved over the course of his senior season from behind the three point line, though his free throw shooting dropped to a dismal 60%. In Orlando, he hasn’t taken many jumpers, but he knocked down a couple of open 20 footers today. His free throw shooting still needs to be addressed as well. Mejia certainly has better vision than most guards as he displayed today on a couple of drop passes near the basket, but ball handling certainly isn’t a strength of his right now.
Sammy Mejia has the talent to someday make an NBA roster, but there are concerns as to how he will fit in as a role player. He’s the type of player that needs the ball in his hands in order to be effective, and players like Mejia usually aren’t allowed to dominate the ball at the NBA level. It seems doubtful that he will be drafted, but it will be interesting to see how he performs during summer league this year.
HoopsWorld.com on Mejia:
Sammy Mejia, DePaul - From Bob Cousy to Stephon Marbury, New York City has been a haven of NBA guards. Bronx native Sammy Mejia is the latest product of the Big Apple, and the DePaul standout guard is ready to take his game to the pros. At 6'6" Mejia is big for his position and he uses his size to cause match up problems and gain the advantage on defense. Mejia's ball handling skills allow him to get past defenders and drive to the hoop where he can pull up and knock down the jumper. He raised eye brows, and his draft stock, in Orlando and Mejia will be a second round option for a team in need of a solid guard to come off the bench.
NBA FanHouse's Nate Jones on Aaron Afflalo:
He's an undersized two guard who's made his name on defense and outside shooting. NBA scouts knock him for his lack of length and lack of athletic ability, believing that a long athletic defender can shut him down offensively. These days, scouts are using Afflalo's performance against the length of Corey Brewer as proof that he'll have trouble against those types of players in the NBA. I can't say that I disagree with them much on that front. But why is it that scouts are always looking for superstar player in the draft? And why is it they are always willing to waste a first-round pick on a seven footer with perceived potential? Sometimes, for a good team, adding a good role player that works hard, has a positive attitude, and is a proven winner is something that can be more valuable than a player that has all of the potential in the world. Aaron carries himself in a manner that I wished all star college athletes would
MyNBADraft.com on Afflalo:
Possesses an NBA ready body with excellent upper body strength, works well running off screens where he is a capable shooter and understands how to free himself for open shots. Body strength enables him to convert difficult shots with ease as well as the ability to finish after contact, finishes well in transition and has three point range on his jumper. Shows great patience, rarely does he play out of control or force the action plays the game with poise and maturity rarely found on the college level. Allows the game to come to him, shows leadership qualities and the mental toughness he brings each game and sets the tone for his team. Excellent basketball IQ makes great decisions during games. Has average athleticism and size to compete against longer more athletic players.