Pistons 2nd-round track record beats NBA’s odds

Kyle Singler was chosen by the Pistons in the second round and has been productive.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Their front office spent a frightening number of collective hours scouting players that this week’s lottery determined the Pistons would never have a chance to draft.

While the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid will audition for the right to be picked No. 1 in next month’s draft, the Pistons will be hard-pressed to get anyone projected with a shot to go in the first round to venture to Auburn Hills for a predraft workout.

That’s what happens when your first draft pick doesn’t come until 37 other players are off the board.

But recent history shows the Pistons have a pretty decent shot – and a far better shot than most teams – at coming away with a solid player with the No. 38 pick.

The list is subjective, but I count nine players drafted since 2009 who would be considered at least solid rotation players for their teams. Three of them – one-third of the total in a 30-team league – were Pistons draft picks.

From the 2009 draft, I’ve got Dante Cunningham, DaJuan Blair and Jonas Jerebko. Jeff Ayres, drafted as Jeff Pendergraph, has at times – including earlier this season – been a part of San Antonio’s rotation.

The 2010 draft was a wasteland with no players taken in the top 10 of the second round currently a part of anyone’s regular rotation and only Landry Fields, drafted 39th by New York, still in the league.

In 2011, there were two players who have been consistently solid producers since they joined the NBA, Kyle Singler and Chandler Parsons. A third, Shelvin Mack, emerged in his third season as a solid backup in Atlanta. If there’s a clear No. 10 to add to this list, right now it’s Mack.

The 2012 draft was one of the best in a long while for producing second-round talent with four players taken in the top 10 – Jeffrey Taylor, Jae Crowder, Draymond Green and Khris Middleton – looking like they’ll have long and productive careers.

The Pistons took Jerebko and Middleton 39th – the very bottom of the second round’s top 10 – and selected Singler with the 33rd pick.

There have been a few misses in there, as well. Four picks before taking Jerebko, the Pistons picked DaJuan Summers of Georgetown, a physical specimen who couldn’t translate his rare combination of size, strength and athleticism into the rebounding and defensive ability it suggested.

After two seasons with the Pistons, Summers spent a season each with New Orleans and the Los Angeles Clippers but wasn’t in the NBA last season. Four seasons in the NBA beats the odds for second-round picks by a long shot, but Summers came up short of the expectations the Pistons held for him.

In 2010 – the draft that produced only Fields in the top 10 of the second round – the Pistons took a flyer on the high-end athleticism of Terrico White. He wouldn’t work out for them before the draft because he expected to go in the first round, then broke his foot in the first preseason game of his rookie year – the same game in which Jerebko tore his Achilles tendon – and never played in an NBA game.

The Pistons took a similar gamble early in the second round of 2008 after trading out of the bottom of the first round. They picked Walter Sharpe with the second pick of the second round after a checkered college career traced to a sleep disorder that, his representatives claimed, had been only recently properly diagnosed and addressed in time for the draft.

Sharpe showed intriguing skills and potential during the 2008 Summer League, but his entire NBA career consisted of eight points in eight games as a Pistons rookie. He was traded to Denver the following summer and never appeared in another game.

A few picks later began a run of four players who’ve had solid or better NBA careers – Mario Chalmers, DeAndre Jordan, Omer Asik and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

But over 50 picks from the last five drafts atop the second round, if only 20 percent become more than a replacement-level player and a third of those were taken by one team, it reflects well on the Pistons’ ability to assess talent. The run of second-round success dovetails with the ascension in the front office of George David, who began running the point on Pistons drafts in 2008.

This year’s draft, not only strong at the top, could provide a similar yield atop the second round if the consensus proves accurate. If there’s a player destined to make an NBA impact still on the board at 38, chances are pretty good the Pistons will identify him.