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What If Week: Undoing some (of the many) Pistons draft mistakes of recent memory

SB Nation held a redraft of 2014, 2015 and 2016

Denver Nuggets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

With no sports currently or on the horizon, it means fans have been forced to look into the past. And sometimes when you do that you don’t like what you see. That is especially true of the NBA Draft, the ultimate crap shoot with huge ramifications for a franchise.

That is why the SB Nation NBA community recently held a mock re-draft featuring all the SB Nation team sites. New drafts were held in real time for 2014, 2015, and 2016 NBA seasons. Enough time has passed that we have a good understanding of who blossomed within their respective draft classes and who busted (Hi, Henry!).

Sadly, while we had a partial crystal ball, we couldn’t wave a magic wand and undo ALL. the terrible things and so the Detroit Pistons could not participate in the 2014 NBA Draft because they did not have a draft pick.

That is courtesy of Joe Dumars unloading of Ben Gordon’s contract on the Charlotte Hornets with a first-round pick as a sweetener. There are legitimate arguments about Dumars’ draft acumen (I tend to defend him), but there is 100% agreement that he was terrible with free agent dollars to spend, and he sent Gordon away to undo one of his costlier mistakes.

2014 NBA Draft

Just because the Pistons didn’t have a pick doesn’t mean we can’t imagine who we would have drafted in the original slot. The Pistons were set to pick No. 9 overall and used the pick originally on Noah Vonleh. The big man has never really popped at the NBA level but he seems serviceable enough. I mean, he’s better than the player picked right before him — Nik Stauskas.

In the redraft, the board looks unsurprisingly different. The Pistons got a steal of a pick in the second round originally in Spencer Dinwiddie, and he was selected five overall by the Utah Jazz. The Jazz were undoing a disappointing point guard mistake in Dante Exum an replacing him with Dinwiddie.

The Hornets used the pick originally belonging to Detroit on Julius Randle. Was it the right call? I’m gonna say no. The two Harrises, Gary and Joe, were still on the board as were Bogdan Bogdanovic, TJ Warren and Dwight Powell. I’d take all those players above Randle.

Here is how the full first round shook out.


1 Joel Embiid Cleveland Cavaliers
2 Nikola Jokic Milwaukee Bucks
3 Marcus Smart Philadelphia 76ers
4 Aaron Gordon Orlando Magic
5 Spencer Dinwiddie Utah Jazz
6 Zach LaVine Boston Celtics
7 Jusuf Nurkic Los Angeles Lakers
8 Clint Capela Sacramento Kings
9 Julius Randle Charlotte Hornets (from Detroit)
10 Andrew Wiggins Orlando Magic (from 76ers)
11 Gary Harris Chicago Bulls (from Nuggets)
12 Joe Harris Philadelphia 76ers (from Magic)
13 Dario Saric Minnesota Timberwolves
14 Bogdan Bogdanovic Phoenix Suns
15 TJ Warren Atlanta Hawks
16 Rodney Hood Denver Nuggets (from Bulls)
17 Jerami Grant Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn)
18 Dwight Powell Phoenix Suns (from Washington)
19 Jabari Parker Denver Nuggets (from Bulls)
20 Elfrid Payton Toronto Raptors
21 Jordan Clarkson Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas via L.A. Lakers and Houston)
22 Doug McDermott Memphis Grizzlies
23 Kyle Anderson Utah Jazz (from Golden State)
24 Nik Stauskas Miami Heat (from Hornets)
25 Langston Galloway Houston Rockets
26 Dante Exum Charlotte Hornets (from Miami)
27 Maxi Kleber Phoenix Suns (from Indiana)
28 JaMychal Green Los Angeles Clippers
29 Shabazz Napier Oklahoma City Thunder
30 Glenn Robinson 3 San Antonio Spurs

2015 NBA Draft

Honestly, this one hurt. I had put together a big board and was hoping beyond hope that one player would fall to the Pistons at No. 8 overall — Josh Richardson. Originally drafted in the second round by the Heat, he has turned himself into a hell of a player.

The board was falling into place but, similar to 2014 when a great player was selected one spot ahead of Detroit (Clint Capela by the Kings), Richardson was snatched at the last second by the Denver Nuggets. Not happy.

To make matters worse, I think I blew the pick. I was evaluating a number of options and decided Montrezl Harrell, Norman Powell, Delon Wright and Tyus Jones. I eliminated Jones because, after some early promise, I am. not sure I trust his play. That left two late bloomers who look like they’ve got room to grow (Powell and Wright) or a known quantity that has some limitations but is pretty damn good in Harrell.

In the end, I went with the defensively challenged perhaps too-small big man Harrell for his prolific offensive talents. The Pistons original draft pick Stanley Johnson did not get drafted by any team in the first round.

But I still think I blew it. I completely overlooked current Pistons dynamo Christian Wood who originally went undrafted in 2015. Now I am sitting here wondering would I rather have Harell or Wood. Perhaps it’s just recency bias or the cult-like status, but I think I’d rather have Wood. Like my motivations behind exploring Powell and Wright, he’s a late bloomer who seems to still have a bit of upside to his game. A big man who can block shots, finish at the rim and hit 3s. Yes, please. Luckily, I suppose, the Pistons have Wood in real life and not me as the general manager.

Here is how the full first round shook out.


1 Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves
2 Devin Booker Los Angeles Lakers
3 Kristaps Porzingis Philadelphia 76ers
4 Myles Turner New York Knicks
5 D'Angelo Russell Orlando Magic
6 Kelly Oubre Sacramento Kings
7 Josh Richardson Denver Nuggets
8 Montrezl Harrell Detroit Pistons
9 Terry Rozier Charlotte Hornets
10 Justise Winslow Miami Heat
11 Larry Nance Indiana Pacers
12 Christian Wood Utah Jazz
13 Norman Powell Phoenix Suns
14 Frank Kaminsky Oklahoma City Thunder
15 Bobby Portis Washington Wizards (from Hawks)
16 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Boston Celtics
17 Royce O'Neale Milwaukee Bucks
18 Kevon Looney Houston Rockets (from New Orleans)
19 Tyus Jones New York Knicks (from Atlanta Hawks and Wizards)
20 Willie Cauley-Stein Toronto Raptors
21 Cedi Osman Dallas Mavericks
22 Delon Wright Chicago Bulls
23 Richaun Holmes Brooklyn Nets (from Blazers)
24 Pat Connaughton Minnesota Timberwolves (from Cavs)
25 Trey Lyles Memphis Grizzlies
26 Willy Hernangómez San Antonio Spurs
27 Quinn Cook Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston)
28 Jahlil Okafor Boston Celtics (from L.A. Clippers)
29 T.J.McConnell Brooklyn Nets (from Atlanta)
30 Malcolm Miller Golden State Warriors

2016 NBA Draft

I’ve always hated this draft. It was a mess that everyone saw coming. Sort of like this year’s draft, actually. This is the year the Pistons had a low pick thanks to an actual playoff appearance and there was a mess of uncertainty all over the board. This is the year of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss and Thon Maker and Georgios Papagiannis. Yuck. And Henry Ellenson who was originally taken by the Pistons. Double yuck. As always, there were good players to be had in the first round — Malcom Brogdon, Caris LeVert, Malik Beasley, Fred VanVleet. But there was not really 18 really good players in this draft year so picking for the Pistons was kind of tough.

Ultimately, I was choosing between Taurean Prince, Kris Dunn, Juan Hernangomez and a young, balding man named Alex Caruso. And, yes, poor readers, I chose Caruso. Originally, I had Prince, who I have liked from afar during his Atlanta years. But something about his first season in Brooklyn really took the shine off of him for me. Another feather in the cap of Brooklyn’s bleak, soul-crushing season, I guess.

So why Caruso? Not because I buy into the hype and highlight videos on YouTube. I actually really like his defense, and his energy is perfect for a bulldog role player, and Detroit always appreciates a bulldog off the bench. Plus, he’s got decent enough point guard skills for a bench player and could go from pretty good to really good if he could ever lock in a consistent 3-point shot. Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where Alex Caruso has the appropriate amount of hype associated with his game? Wouldn’t we all enjoy that?

Here is how the full first round shook out.


1 Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers
2 Brandon Ingram Los Angeles Lakers
3 Jaylen Brown Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn)
4 Pascal Siakam Phoenix Suns
5 Jamal Murray Minnesota Timberwolves
6 Domantas Sabonis New Orleans Pelicans
7 Buddy Hield Denver Nuggets (from New York)
8 Malcolm Brogdon Phoenix Suns (from Kings)
9 Caris LaVert Toronto Raptors (from Denver via New York)
10 Dejounte Murray Milwaukee Bucks
11 Malik Beasley Oklahoma City Thunder (from Orlando Magic)
12 Fred VanVleet Atlanta Hawks (from Jazz)
13 Ivica Zubac Sacramento Kings (from Suns)
14 Dorian Finney-Smith Chicago Bulls
15 Jakob Pöltl Denver Nuggets (from Houston)
16 Cheick Diallo Boston Celtics (from Dallas)
17 Furkan Korkmaz Memphis Grizzlies
18 Alex Caruso Detroit Pistons
19 Taurean Prince Denver Nuggets (from Portland)
20 Kris Dunn Brooklyn Nets (from Pacers)
21 Danuel House Atlanta Hawks
22 Bryn Forbes Sacramento Kings (from Hornets)
23 Juan Hernangómez Boston Celtics
24 Yogi Ferrell Philadelphia 76ers (from Miami via Cleveland)
25 Derrick Jones Jr. Los Angeles Clippers
26 Jake Layman Philadelphia 76ers (from Oklahoma City via Cleveland and Denver)
27 Skal Labissière Toronto Raptors
28 Patrick McCaw Sacramento Kings (from Suns)
29 Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot San Antonio Spurs
30 Marquese Chriss Golden State Warriors

So how did the Pistons do in the re-draft? Certainly better than the real Pistons, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you had better ideas on who the Pistons should have taken in each of the three season were they able.

Who did the best collectively in the redraft? Who did the worst? A little easier to ace the test with the benefit of hindsight, but are there any head-scratchers you see among the selections?