Stan Van Gundy had never been in this position before.
Watching a highly touted, top-10 draft talent falling down the draft board was not what Van Gundy expected, even though the 2016 NBA Draft was expected to be strange. In previous head coaching stops his teams were so good they always picked at the bottom of the first round if they picked at all. In Detroit, his only other first round pick was lottery talent Stanley Johnson.
But Thursday he finally got to be the beneficiary. Van Gundy said seeing Ellenson, ranked 10 on Detroit's board, at 18 made the pick "easy" and "comfortable," in an interview on 105.1 Detroit Sports.
It was an easy pick because his scouts did so much prep work leading up to the draft. Because the team figured Ellenson would be long gone, Van Gundy admitted that the team had not brought him in for a workout and that he personally had spent less time evaluating film on Ellenson than virtually any player pick after No. 10.
In Ellenson, Detroit gets a big man with some shooting range who averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds in his lone season at Marquette.
Van Gundy elaborated on why the pick made so much sense for Detroit.
"In today's NBA he can play at the four spot against more conventional fours. Bigger lineups, guys like Kevin Love, he can play that spot very well. But when you go small, he can play small-ball center. He can handle, pass and shoot."
With all those skills and a glaring need a power forward some fans might expect Ellenson to play a Johnson-like role in his first season in Detroit. Not so fast, Van Gundy said.
"He's only 19 years old so we'll see how quickly the development comes. We have great confidence he's going to become a very good player, but at the same time, we're not going to put a lot of pressure on him early on, and we're in a situation right now where we don't have to.
Van Gundy also talked about surprise second-round pick Michael Gbinije. Van Gundy admitted there were several point guards on the board who intrigued the Pistons, citing both Kay Felder and Yogi Ferrell. But, Van Gundy said, Gbinije's versatility and size were too good to pass up.
He also confirmed that the Pistons are eyeing Gbinije as a point guard.
"Gbinije is a very long guy who we think can be an NBA point guard with great size. He's got a chance to play for us," Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy was less surprised Gbinije was available but just as excited to select him.
"The only reason in my mind that Michael Gbinije was there at 49 is that he is 24 years old. He was a fifth-year senior. When you look at what he can do, he had a phenomenal year this past year. This is a guy who had been a wing player, a 2 or a 3, his entire career. And then as a senior at Syracuse they made him their point guard and he led them to the Final Four. He can shoot the ball, he can handle, he can pass.
"We thought Gbinije's size and his ability to play more than one position, really he can play all three perimeter positions, that's what put him over the top."
Van Gundy also reiterated that the team will not press their two draft picks into action too early and instead will let them develop, but he's also not afraid to put them on the floor. .
"They don't have to play before they're ready, but, if they're ready, hey, we want to win. If they're the best players on day one next year they'll play."