Luck wasn’t with the Detroit Pistons on lottery night last week. As Laz said on his Pistons Vs Everybody podcast, that’s OK.
The top pick in this year’s draft isn’t especially valuable. The top three prospects, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, and LaMelo Ball, all aren’t particularly great prospects. Sure, one or all of them may wind up hitting. But if they do, it will be because they landed in the right situation. They’ll look much different in Golden State or even Minnesota than Detroit or Charlotte.
Besides, the top pick will earn a deal around four years and $44 million. If we were operating on the open market, would you be excited to pay any of these dudes a contract like that?
No, it’s just as well that Detroit fell rather than rose in the lottery. Sure, pick Nos. 5 or 6 would have been preferred as it gives new general manager Troy Weaver a greater likelihood to get his guy. But falling to seven opens up another possibility: trading down.
There’s always plenty of talk about trading up or down in a draft even though it rarely actually happens. But at seven, the Pistons are well positioned to do just that.
One route for that is aiming for an additional 2021 draft pick. But given the uncertainty of the upcoming season along with the stronger draft class next year, two sides being able to finalize a deal could be tough to accomplish.
Boston, however, could be a perfect trade partner. They have three first round picks in the 2020 NBA Draft — 14, 26, and 30. If a team was trading down from the fifth pick that’d likely be too small of a return. But from seven, it could be just about the right value for both sides.
As I’ve said before, this isn’t a bad draft. But it isn’t strong at the top. There are plenty of guys who could emerge from this one as solid starters or excellent rotation players. In five years, I’ll gamble that the overall win shares of 10-15 combined is better than 1-5.
There would be some risk involved. There are some really nice players projected to go between pick seven and 14. The team’s favorites could be off the board by the time their turn comes around. But certainly, someone will slip who is worth their liking.
Of course, the logic of trading down relies on the 26 and 30 picks having value as well. In this draft, they do. One of my favorite players in the draft should still be around at that point, Paul Reed. He’s a tremendous defensive prospect, averaging 2.6 blocks, 1.9 steals, and 10.7 rebounds last year, while also serving as his team’s second leading scorer.
The point guard position should be quite strong as well. Perhaps top tier prospects Cole Anthony or Kira Lewis Jr. fall to that spot. Even if they don’t tumble down the board, there are still plenty of others to like. Tyrell Terry is an electric shooter, Tre Jones and Cassius Winston are experienced guys who would be ready to contribute quickly, Malachi Flynn is a terrific defender, and Grant Riller is a solid offensive prospect.
There could also be some nice value picks at big man between Isaiah Stewart and Vernon Carey. Stewart averaged 17/9 and Carey 18/9 (in less than 25 minutes per game), numbers that meant lottery slots for 19 year old freshman in past years.
I’m also a fan of the Pac 12 DPOY Tyler Bey, who posted 1.5 steals, 1.2 blocks, and 9 rebounds per game and won the award over Onyeka Okongwu. Leandro Bolmaro might actually be the best international prospect in this class. Cassius Stanley likes slam dunk shots. Jordan Nwora and Desmond Bane look like NBA players.
Even picking first in this year’s class, you’re not getting a blue chip prospect. But at seven, the Pistons are in position to get a solid one. But if they feel like they could get three solid prospects at 14, 26, and 30, well, that makes plenty of sense.
They don’t need three first round draft picks. They don’t want three first round draft picks.
Meanwhile the Pistons only have nine players under contract, eight if they decline their option on Khyri Thomas, which seems likely. They have the roster flexibility where three first round picks would be welcome.
There are also openings in the rotation at both big man spots and injury concerns for starters at point guard, shooting guard, and power forward. That makes it a great time for scratching lottery tickets.
Plus it’d give the team a clear direction moving forward. They’re going young. They’re rebuilding, finally.
Along with all of their cap space for the summer, Tony Snell has a great contract for sin eating, with a $12 million expiring contract. And that ability will play to even greater value as the league’s owners start seeing their profit and loss statements come in over the next strange season. Of course, Derrick Rose has even more value in that front, but we’ll see - the franchise seems to legitimately be infatuated with him.
It’d have all the makings of a real life rebuild. And it’d fit the reason why the Pistons brought in Troy Weaver in the first place: because they trust his ability to find diamonds in the rough. At pick number seven, he’s still scratching on a lottery ticket. Three lottery tickets have a better chance of being a winner than just one.