Draft is Business as Usual for Pistons

David Stern poses with NBA Draft prospects.
Mike Stobe (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Draft night will be different for the Pistons this season – the first one of the millennium without Joe Dumars telling the guys at the other end of the phone line which prospect to send to the podium to shake David Stern’s hand.

But until June 26, it’s very much business as usual at 6 Championship Drive.

George David has been Pistons point man on the draft for several years, setting up scouting assignments, arranging predraft workouts and orchestrating the critical management team evaluation sessions in the days leading to the draft.

The way fans commonly view the draft process is starkly different than the way NBA teams go about it. While fans follow top 100 lists at various websites that cements in their minds a certain preconceived order, teams are still very much in the information-gathering stages that will inform their eventual ranking of prospects. Spirited debates on the merits of one prospect vs. another, or on the top players within a position group, will continue to take place up until the draft is called to order by new commissioner Adam Silver.

“We’re getting ready for the draft process in a very similar capacity to what we’ve had to do in years past,” said David, who along with director of basketball operations Ken Catanella is running day-to-day business while ownership conducts its search for a new head of Pistons basketball operations. “It very much is a process and the first step was attending the Portsmouth camp a few weeks ago in April.”

The Portsmouth Invitational, for college seniors, has evolved over the years into a place where fringe draft prospects hope to earn an invitation to the mid-May Chicago draft combine, where the 60 players the NBA deems likely draft candidates are put through physical and skills testing and made available for interviews with both team executives and NBA media.

Pistons personnel evaluators this year attended Portsmouth assessing players both as potential draft candidates and as possibilities for the new Grand Rapids D-League team that will be exclusively affiliated with the Pistons starting in the fall.

Between Portsmouth and Chicago, set for May14-17, David will coordinate the winnowing process, from the roughly 100 prospects who sat on his draft board during the college season to the players prioritized for bringing to Auburn Hills for individual or, more commonly, workouts in groups of six – the most allowed by the NBA.

“The next step in the process between Portsmouth and the predraft camp is preparation, meetings, film work, getting your individual workouts scheduled, bringing all your intelligence together that our scouts have combined to do,” he said. “That’s the time period we’re in now.”

The Pistons will go to Chicago uncertain if they’ll have a lottery pick. That determination won’t be made until May 20. They enter the lottery in the No. 8 position and can’t afford to be leapfrogged by a team with a lesser position. If that happens – there’s a 17.6 percent chance of the Pistons getting jumped – then they must convey this year’s No. 1 pick to Charlotte.

David, despite that uncertainty, is in favor of holding the Chicago combine before the lottery for the greater access it gives teams without favorable lottery odds in interviewing prospects considered top-three or top-five picks. Prior to 2013, when the lottery order was determined prior to the combine, such prospects would often limit their interviews to teams picking only at the top of the lottery.

The Pistons will have their second-round pick, No. 38, right in the range where they’ve had solid success in recent years. They picked up Kyle Singler at No. 33 in 2011 and both Khris Middleton (2012) and Jonas Jerebko (2009) at No. 39. Last year, they grabbed promising Tony Mitchell with the 37th pick. And David thinks this year’s draft lends itself to finding another long-term rotation candidate in the 30s.

“I think it’s a deep draft,” he said. “I think it’s a draft where you can get a lot of quality players deeper than in some of the previous drafts.”