Much like other Piston fans, I've been focused like a laser on evaluating all of the possible big men Detroit could draft with the ninth pick in the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday. With roughly $26 million tied to four players (Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Brandon Knight, Will Bynum) there is no way the Pistons would do anything but draft a big man.
Then the Ben Gordon trade happened. Then a glut of guards suddenly started to look like a huge hole as the Pistons don't really have a backup shooting guard (unless you count Brandon Knight).
So does that mean the unthinkable will happen -- that the Pistons will look at the draft board and decide that the best player available, and the best player for their organization is a guard?
It's not as crazy as you might think. And, in fact, it might just be the best thing for the organization.
And for proof that it is a real possibility just look at least year -- Brandon Knight.
Even though in reporting on the trade initially ESPN's Chad Ford wrote that it wouldn't trade the Pistons draft plans, he's written things elsewhere that make me wonder if that is the case.
About the trade, Ford wrote:
This trade won't change the draft focus of the Pistons, however. They are leaning strongly toward taking a big man with the No. 9 pick. UConn center Andre Drummond and North Carolina's John Henson are both getting strong consideration in Detroit, according to sources.
However, in an ESPN Insider article, Ford ranked all the prospects in tiers -- a system that essentially combines a best player available philosophy with a philosophy of matching a team's needs. In it he wrote about the Pistons and Knight:
The rules are pretty simple. You always draft the highest-ranked player in a given tier. Also, you never take a player from a lower tier if one from a higher tier is available. So, for example, if the Pistons are drafting No. 9 (Tier 3 territory) and Lillard (a Tier 3 player) is on the board, they take him regardless of positional need. If they have Leonard ranked No. 1 in Tier 4, they still take Lillard even though center is a more pressing need.
This system protects teams from overreaching based on team need. The Pistons won't pass on a clearly superior player like Waiters to fill a need with Perry Jones. However, the system also protects a team from passing on a player who fits a need just because he might be ranked one or two spots lower overall.
The Pistons followed this model last year at the draft. While the consensus was they needed a big, they took Brandon Knight after he fell because they had him ranked in a higher tier.
Not withstanding the fact that they SHOULDN'T have had Knight in a higher tier than Kawhi Leonard or Kenneth Faried, in my opinion, the team showed that it did follow a tier strategy.
And in the same article Ford talked to a number of GMs who use a tier system and tried to come up with a sort-of consensus. Three guards -- Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters and Damian Lillard were in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 while most of the prospects the Pistons have been attached to are in Tier 4.
Ford also created a new draft board in the tier system based more on those teams that rely on pre-draft analytics. With the new stats guys the Pistons have hired recently, it wouldn't surprise me if their board look similar to this.
Rate Excellent Analytically
The numbers all say these five guys should be really good NBA players. Remember, they can't say anything about Sullinger's back or Waiters' issues at Syracuse. They just rank what they saw on the court. These are the usual suspsects at the top of the draft minus Beal and Barnes.
Rate Good Analytically
This group also looks like they'll be players at the next level, though their numbers suggest more starter quality players. Green and Teague are much higher here than they are on most NBA teams' big boards.
Again we have Dion Waiters in a tier above the big men the Pistons have been linked to. Waiters has been described as a poor man's Dwayne Wade (of course so has Stuckey), but for those that like to lean on what the numbers are telling us, they are telling us that perhaps the best way to improve the Pistons wouldn't be a prospect/project like John Henson, Meyers Leonard or Andre Drummond.
It kind of reminds me of the situation with the Detroit Lions. Years ago the Lions drafted wide receivers Charles Rogers, Mike Williams and Calvin Johnson in the space of a couple years and then-GM Matt Millen was roundly mocked. Then, with Millen finally gone and fans riding high on the seeming competence of new GM Martin Mayhew, the Lions drafted defensive tackle Nick Fairly one year removed from taking Ndamukong Suh. But where Millen was mocked, Mayhew was praised for building on strength and getting value where it presented itself.
I am in the minority in thinking that Pistons GM Joe Dumars has more Mayhew in his system than Millen, so I am wondering what the reaction would be within the DBB community if on draft night David Stern Walked to the podium and announced Dion Waiters, Damian Lillard or Kendall Marshall.