An unlucky bounce of the ping-pong balls in May cost Detroit their lottery pick, but the Pistons still emerged with a player that new GM Jeff Bower called "a first-round talent" when they selected Spencer Dinwiddie with the 38th overall pick.
"I know that’s a cliché, but we really targeted him as a player we were very impressed with," Bower said Thursday night, according to Pistons.com's Keith Langlois. "We think it was a good night for the organization."
Dinwiddie was widely considered a potential first-round pick before his junior year at Colorado ended prematurely with a torn ACL on Jan. 12. At the time of his injury, he averaged a team-high 14.7 points and 3.8 assists per game, leading the Buffaloes to a No. 15 ranking and 14-2 record. Without him, Colorado finished 9-10 and lost their only NCAA Tournament game.
"His injury, when it happened, was devastating," Colorado's head coach Tad Boyle said in an interview with Sports On Earth. "Not only to him but his family, our team, his teammates, the coaches and the program. He showed great resiliency and it wasn't easy, it wasn't fun but he's a very determined kid. He's very confident. He believes in himself. He attacked his rehab with a great attitude and, as hard as it was for him in the beginning, he's done a great job with it."
Dinwiddie, who won't play or practice at the Orlando Summer League, has been advised by the Pistons not to talk about his timetable for recovery, but a quick look at his Instagram account shows that he's already healthy enough to get above the rim.
His ability to score, both from behind the 3-point line (where he shot 41.7 percent on 3.7 attempts per game last year) and at the charity stripe (where he shot 85.7 percent, attempting an insane 7.0 shots on just 7.7 field-goal attempts), may be what his new fans in Detroit notice first, but Bowers cited his point guard instincts and ability to create plays for others as his greatest strength.
"We think he’s got outstanding size for the point guard position," Bower said. "Strength, a very good feel for moving the ball, creating plays as well as his scoring ability and the ability to shoot the ball."
But is he a point guard, an off-guard or something in between? A lot of outlets such as DraftExpress listed him as a shooting guard, but he told Detroit's media Thursday that he's "a pure one and I think I showed that in college, but at the same time I think I bring defensive versatility with my size and also my shooting, as well. I expect to play multiple positions in the league, not just the one."
It's too early to say what kind of role Dinwiddie will play as a rookie, or if he'll even be healthy enough for training camp or early-season games. But that's OK. Even if he's not able to crack the rotation early in the year, there's no risk of him being forgotten, not with Stan Van Gundy officially connecting the floor to the front office.
Brandon Jennings has just two years left on his contract, which means he has just one season left before teams will start inquiring about his expiring contract. If Dinwiddie lives up to his first-round potential, he could be in the conversation as a potential starter a year from today.
"Whoever gets him is going to get a winner," Boyle told Sports on Earth before the draft. "A guy who is wiling to do whatever it takes to help his team or organization to get that done. He can do it in a lot of different ways. With his size and the position he's going to play in the NBA, he's got a bright future. Somebody's going to get a steal on Thursday night."