True Blue Pistons - June 2012

About Keith Langlois
Award-winning journalist Keith Langlois, most recently lead sports columnist at The Oakland Press, joined Pistons.com as the web site editor on October 2, 2006. Langlois, who brings over 27 years of professional sports journalism experience to Palace Sports & Entertainment, serves as Pistons.com's official beat writer and covers the team on a daily basis.

Questions and comments on Keith's posts can be submitted via the Pistons Mailbag. Or follow Keith on Twitter.

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Posted Saturday, June 30, 2012

There were seasons not so long ago when the Pistons, confident in Tayshaun Prince’s ability not only to play every game but give them 35 or more minutes a night, addressed small forward depth with nothing more than an annual rotation of limited veterans. Think Jarvis Hayes or Walter Herrmann. The position is suddenly stacked with depth, so much so that 2009 No. 1 pick Austin Daye – once seen as the heir apparent to Prince – might have to scrap for minutes at shooting guard or power forward next season.

Corey Maggette came from Charlotte in the Ben Gordon trade and the Pistons are high on the shooting potential of Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton, taken with the 39th pick in last week’s draft.

But don’t forget about Kyle Singler, either, the 2011 second-rounder who will be on the team’s Summer League roster that gathers Thursday in Orlando. Singler spent last season playing in Spain, first for Alicante and then for powerful Real Madrid, which purchased his contract after he opened eyes by leading Alicante in scoring. The Pistons expect to sign him to a contract shortly and have him on the team for 2012-13.

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Posted Friday, June 29, 2012

The sum of Andre Drummond’s season is there in his middling statistics: 10 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. The way those modest numbers were reached were often spectacular. On a handful of plays in most Connecticut games last season, Drummond would come from out of the screen to snare an offensive rebound and dunk, bolt from one side of the basket to the other to swat away a shot or streak past guards to finish a fast break.

“What we saw were impressive moments with him,” Pistons personnel director George David told me Friday morning, about 12 hours after the Pistons ended Drummond’s draft-night slide by taking him ninth. “If we saw more than that, you wouldn’t be looking at him in a Pistons uniform at No. 9. Somebody would’ve taken him where we had originally projected him going into the season, which was two.”

The Pistons won’t go into the season expecting Drummond to suddenly emerge as a skilled scorer with an array of back-to-the-basket post moves. They’ll work diligently on his offensive package, of course, but the emphasis will be on drawing out consistency from Drummond in those areas where he already flashes such immense promise.

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Posted Thursday, June 28, 2012

Andre Drummond, meet Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight. The three players the Pistons have plucked from the draft over the past three years have more in common than the NBA uniform they’ll wear next season. They also share this: None of them were supposed to be Pistons. And now they’re at the heart of the team’s future.

Just as Monroe was supposed to be gone before the Pistons picked No. 7 in 2010 and Knight off the board before the Pistons’ turn came at No. 8 a year ago, Drummond was considered a possibility to be drafted as high as No. 2 but tumbled all the way to ninth for the Pistons on Thursday night.

The second-youngest player in the draft – Drummond won’t turn 19 until August and was headed for prep school until a late-August 2011 decision to reclassify and enroll at UConn – Drummond was considered a prospect the equal of Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick of New Orleans, coming into the college season.

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After solidifying their frontcourt when Andre Drummond fell to them at No. 9 in the first round, the Pistons beefed up their perimeter in the second round by taking Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton and Missouri’s Kim English.

Middleton, 6-foot-8½, is a junior out of Texas A&M who averaged 13.2 points and 5.0 rebounds last season. He’d put up a strong sophomore season, averaging 14.4 points and shooting 36 percent from the 3-point line, but struggled a little in the adjustment to a new coaching staff in his junior year and missing 12 games with a knee injury.

English had a tremendous senior season at Missouri and had been impressive according to various reports during individual workouts for NBA teams. English averaged 14.5 points and grabbed 4.2 rebounds in shooting 46 percent from the 3-point line.

“All three of our picks tonight, we feel extremely lucky to get them,” Pistons personnel director George David said. “I don’t know if we’ve had a draft here where that many guys, three guys we had ranked higher, fell to us like that. We’ve been pretty fortunate here the last three years.”

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Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2012

NBA teams began pointing to the 2012 draft as soon as the early-entry deadline for 2011 came and went with several prospects considered lottery locks deciding to return to college basketball. Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Thomas Robinson, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Perry Jones III all would have been strong lottery candidates a year ago.

The 2012 draft is still considered relatively deep – the Pistons expect they’ll get somebody with the 39th pick who in the right circumstances can help them as a rookie – but it doesn’t seem quite as dripping with future stars as it appeared destined to have a year ago.

Even before Sullinger’s back produced red flags at the Chicago draft combine, more questions about his ability to score in the paint were emerging. Perry Jones III, after a sophomore season no more productive or consistent than the previous year, is viewed much differently. Barnes, once compared to Kobe Bryant, is now seen in a lesser stratosphere.

And so it goes.

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(Editor’s note: Pistons.com continues its 14-part draft series with a look at international prospects. Coming next: The first round mock draft.)

Four of the first seven picks in the 2011 NBA draft were spent on international players and seven of the first 22. There might not be seven international players drafted total this year, even including the speculative second-rounders spent by teams looking to stash players so as not to take up a roster spot or cap space. There is flagging consensus that the 2012 draft is a particularly deep one, but little dispute that the international crop is the weakest in a decade.

Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely and Bismack Biyombo were all off the board last season before the Pistons got around to picking Brandon Knight with the No. 8 pick. It’s possible no international players will be taken in the first round this time, though it’s likely that French teen Evan Fournier will go in the 20s, probably to a team looking to avoid luxury tax consequences and happy to have Fournier spend at least another season working on his skills in Europe.

Fournier was the only international prospect among the original list of 60 invitees to the NBA draft combine in Chicago earlier this month. When he pulled out with an ankle injury, Czech guard Tomas Satoransky took his place. Satoransky isn’t expected to go until the middle of the second round, where he is on a short list of international possibilities for the Pistons, who pick 44th with Houston’s pick in addition to their own pick at 39.

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Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If next season goes as planned, the Pistons won't have a first-round draft pick - but no matter what happens next season, they'll have the ability to wade into free agency or to benefit via trades involving teams looking for financial relief.

The Pistons traded Ben Gordon and a protected future No. 1 pick - fully lottery protected in 2013 - to Charlotte on Tuesday night for Corey Maggette, a 32-year-old small forward who gives the Pistons a rim attacker that complements Lawrence Frank's offensive philosophy.

While Gordon's role was destined to shrink as Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey cemented their status as the team's primary backcourt tandem, a major impetus for the trade was the implication for the Pistons' salary cap going forward. Gordon held the largest contract on the team with two remaining years at nearly $26 million.

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If the Pistons land a big man in the first round they feel confident is ready to step into their frontcourt rotation, the focus with their two second-round picks might shift toward adding to their perimeter depth and versatility.

That could mean adding a player who stretches the floor offensively with shooting ability – or it could mean finding players who shrink the floor defensively with plus size or athleticism for their position.

In the first group would be players like Kentucky’s Darius Miller, Tennessee Tech’s Kevin Murphy and Missouri’s Kim English. In the second you might find Marquette’s Jae Crowder, Memphis’ Will Barton and Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham.

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Posted Monday, June 25, 2012

(Editor’s note: Pistons.com continues its 14-part draft series with a look at a group of nine big men who could be under consideration by the Pistons with either of their second-round picks, 39 and 44. Coming Tuesday: a look at perimeter players for those two picks.)

Merely mention the name of Mike Mamula and every NFL general manager will know exactly the implication. In 1995, Mamula cashed a dazzling performance at the NFL draft combine into the No. 7 pick, by Philadelphia, despite a Boston College career that didn’t seem to warrant such status.

NBA general managers perhaps will bear Mamula’s name in mind as they consider what to make of Miles Plumlee, whose senior-year averages of 6.6 points and 7.1 rebounds were the high-water mark of a four-year stay at Duke that fell far short of lofty expectations.

Never a full-time starter, Plumlee was quickly overshadowed by his younger brother Mason. (A third Plumlee, Marshall, redshirted at Duke last season.) Yet tales of Plumlee playing spectacularly in pickup games persist, and his dazzling performance at the Chicago combine give NBA personnel executives something else to chew on as Thursday’s draft approaches.

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Whatever appears certain in the days leading to the NBA draft can turn 90 degrees with a surprise pick or a trade that skews the logical order of a run of picks. The Pistons were reminded of that dramatically a year ago, when one surprise pick and one trade sent guards Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker tumbling and sucked up all the big men they’d focused on in the weeks prior to the 2011 draft.

Cleveland threw the first big curveball by taking Tristan Thompson at No. 4. A three-team trade that went down just a few hours before the draft vaulted Charlotte into the No. 7 spot, replacing Sacramento, which needed perimeter help and was believed to be choosing between Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette.

When Cleveland unexpectedly took Thompson, Toronto happily snapped up Jonas Valanciunas. Had the Cavs taken the 7-foot Lithuanian, as widely anticipated, Detroit and Toronto might well have been trade partners. Joe Dumars, after happily taking Brandon Knight, said that night he had all but completed a trade with the Raptors that would have resulted in a swap of picks, moving the Pistons up to No. 5. Charlotte, at No. 7, took Bismack Biyombo.

So where are the trap doors that could send the 2012 draft in unexpected directions?

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Posted Friday, June 22, 2012

Back when the NBA was run more like a mom-and-pop enterprise than the global corporate conglomerate it would become, general managers would show up at the draft with dog-eared copies of Street & Smith’s Basketball Yearbook under their arms.

The aimless late ’70s Pistons became the Bad Boys under Jack McCloskey because he worked harder and smarter than his peers around the NBA. He found a guard he immediately felt would make an ideal complement to Isiah Thomas at a Las Vegas holiday tournament in December 1984, sitting on his hunch until springing it on Pistons owner Bill Davidson right after Dallas drafted 7-footers Bill Wennington and Uwe Blab with the 16th and 17th picks in the 1985 draft.

It was easier to scout players 15 years later, in 2000, when that guard Trader Jack discovered off the Vegas strip, McNeese State’s Joe Dumars, had succeeded McCloskey and was running his first draft for the Pistons. You could watch players on DVD by then, not catch them on an uncharacteristically good or bad night against questionable competition and be forced to make sweeping conclusions based on sketchy evidence.

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(Editor’s note: Pistons.com’s 14-part draft series continues with a look at a group of players projected to go either in the late first or early second round but could slip to the Pistons’ pick at No. 39 in the second round. Coming Monday: A look at the group of big men who could be considered with either of Detroit’s second-round picks at 39 and 44.)

It was every bit the surprise to the Pistons when Kyle Singler fell to their pick early in the second round last June that it was when Brandon Knight tumbled to No. 8 in the first round. Chicago had two picks late in the first round and the Bulls were suspected to have a high level of interest in the four-year Duke product.

But the Bulls swapped one of those picks away to Miami and used the other on another small forward prospect, Marquette’s Jimmy Butler. Three picks into the second round – using a pick they had obtained from Toronto in the Carlos Delfino deal four years earlier – the Pistons grabbed Singler for themselves.

The Pistons aren’t picking quite that close to the back end of the first round this year. Their own pick comes at 39 and the one they obtained from Houston for a 2009 second-rounder is 44th. But given the depth of the 2012 draft, it’s possible that a player the Pistons have ranked as a first-round talent still will be on the board at 39.

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Posted Thursday, June 21, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Terrence Jones, the last profile among the seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Friday: A look at prospects who could slip out of the first round and be available when the Pistons pick at No 39 in the second round.)

Among the headliners of John Calipari’s annual haul of McDonald’s All-Americans when the 2010-11 college basketball season opened, it wasn’t Brandon Knight who immediately broke out of the gate looking like a sure-fire 2011 lottery pick. It was Terrence Jones.

Jones was sensational at the 2010 Maui Invitational, opening with a 29-point, 13-rebound game against Oklahoma and averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots over three games in Hawaii. A few weeks later, he punished a good Notre Dame team with 27 points and 17 boards. At that point, Jones was widely expected to be another of Kentucky’s one-and-done stars with buzz that he was solidly in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick in a 2011 draft that didn’t have a clear-cut top player, a la Kentucky’s Anthony Davis in 2012.

Though Jones certainly has the physical tools to be an impact player, his draft stock has never quite regained that early momentum. Indeed, 12 months after his gangbusters college debut, Jones had NBA talent evaluators scratching their heads.

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Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Tyler Zeller, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Thursday: Terrence Jones.)

For a player characterized as a known commodity and a low-risk, moderate-reward type, Tyler Zeller defies easy categorization. No one would dare call him an elite athlete, yet perhaps his most outstanding trait is his ability to beat defenders downcourt in transition, where he converts at a high rate. While he wasn’t the shot-blocker that North Carolina teammate John Henson was, he swatted away more than two other prospects the Pistons will consider with the ninth pick, high-end athletes Arnett Moultrie and Perry Jones III.

Thought to be a finished product after four years in Chapel Hill, what do scouts make of the fact that Zeller bumped up his rebounding numbers significantly from his junior to senior seasons, averaging 9.6 a game – up from 7.2 as a junior in nearly identical minutes – despite battling ACC leader Henson on his own team for missed shots?

What more can Zeller add to his game in the NBA?

More – and more versatile – scoring, for starters, he says.

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Posted Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Monday’s sobering report on Jared Sullinger’s medical concerns over back issues announces the unofficial opening of silly season. Not because concerns over the durability of Sullinger’s back are trifling, necessarily – without knowing of the medical reports from the recent NBA draft combine in Chicago, I speculated that Sullinger’s back spasms from last season, given his heft, could give some teams pause – but because of the way information leaks as the draft nears and how teams use it to throw head fakes at the competition.

Get ready for more. In the nine days leading to the June 28 draft, you’ll hear about draft promises made by anonymous teams to certain players, about workouts being called off and what the implications might be, about teams picking in the lottery calling a certain player back for a last-minute return visit, about picks being shopped and veterans being dangled and … well, absorb all of this information at your caution.

Some of it will be true, of course, but most of it will be subterfuge. It’s like trying to find Waldo – he’s there, but you’ve got to study the big picture pretty intently to sort the wheat from the chaff.

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(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at John Henson, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Wednesday: Tyler Zeller.)

Coming out of high school in Tampa three years ago, John Henson had few peers. He was a virtually unanimous top-five prospect, right there with a group that included three players who would be top-five NBA picks after their freshman seasons: John Wall, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins.

But Henson arrived at North Carolina weighing 183 pounds on a 6-foot-10 frame and many projected him as a small forward because of that spindly build. After three largely productive seasons in Chapel Hill, perhaps the number most important to Henson is 33. That’s how many pounds he’s managed to gain since, giving NBA executives picking in the 2012 lottery at least some tangible evidence he can continue to gain the strength necessary to play power forward in the world’s most competitive basketball league, where weaknesses are soon spotted and exploited.

If the Pistons are reasonably comfortable with Henson’s ability to handle his one-on-one matchup with the likes of Josh Smith, David West, Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand – among the premier power forwards in the Eastern Conference he’d have to guard – then they probably wouldn’t endure much hesitation in picking Henson among a group of big men who figure to be in range for the No. 9 pick in the June 28 draft.

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Posted Monday, June 18, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Jared Sullinger, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Tuesday: John Henson.)

If the fundamental question with Perry Jones III is why his college production didn’t match his scintillating talent level, it’s the reverse with Jared Sullinger: What chance is there, given Sullinger’s limited athleticism, that his superb college production will carry over to the NBA?

Sullinger is at the opposite end of the continuum from Jones, both as an athlete and, so far, as a basketball player.

Sullinger was a first-team All-American as both a freshman and sophomore at Ohio State. Considered a lock to go in the top 10 of the 2011 draft, Sullinger chose to return to Columbus with the stated intention of winning a national championship. He helped carry the Buckeyes to the Final Four, where they lost to Kansas in the semifinals.

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Posted Friday, June 15, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Perry Jones III, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Monday: Jared Sullinger.)

The players held up as the model for what Perry Jones III can become range from LaMarcus Aldridge to Tracy McGrady to Paul George and every other very tall, outrageously athletic and ridiculously talented player the NBA has recently seen. It’s a pretty short list, because players who come with a ribbon wrapped around that tantalizing package are few and far between. The player he says he most resembles: Kevin Durant.

“Not so much scoring-wise – he’s the greatest scorer,” Jones said at last week’s Chicago NBA draft combine. “I’m not going to put myself on that level. But just because of my height, my length and my skill. Kevin Durant can put it on the floor and he loves to get to that mid-range game.”

So why is Perry Jones III, who was lauded as perhaps a No. 1 overall pick before ever suiting up at Baylor in the fall of 2010, suddenly in danger of sliding out of the top 10 after two college seasons?

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Keep this in mind as you assess which big man would most appeal to Joe Dumars and the Pistons in the June 28 draft: This decision, like all a forward-thinking front office must execute, will not be formulated in a vacuum.

For the sake of argument, let’s limit the possibilities to the seven big men we’re in the midst of profiling now as part of a 14-part True Blue Pistons draft series. (It’s not even that simple, of course, as we outlined other possibilities in Part II of the series on Tuesday.)

It will not come down merely to the player among those seven – Arnett Moultrie, Meyers Leonard, Perry Jones III, Terrence Jones, Jared Sullinger, John Henson and Tyler Zeller – the Pistons believe is the best pure player, though surely that will be a factor.

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Posted Thursday, June 14, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Meyers Leonard, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Friday: Perry Jones III.)

To call Meyers Leonard’s name with the ninth pick on June 28 would be a leap of faith for Joe Dumars, one based on where the Pistons believe he will be a year or two or three from now more than where the Illinois 7-footer is today.

Yet given the leap Leonard made from freshman to sophomore seasons in college, perhaps not all that big a leap for the Pistons.

Leonard played just eight minutes a game as an Illinois freshman, but 32 as a sophomore when he averaged 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds for the traditional Big Ten power that wilted late, missing the NCAA tournament and getting Bruce Weber fired as coach. Despite the staggering finish for the Illini, Leonard continued his upward arc, averaging 17.4 points and 9.2 rebounds over his final five games with a tournament bid at stake.

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Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Arnett Moultrie, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Thursday: Meyers Leonard.)

If Joe Dumars wrote a formal job description for the ideal power forward to pair next to Greg Monroe, Arnett Moultrie would check off nearly every item on his list.

At one-quarter inch shy of 6-foot-11 and one of only three players at the Chicago draft combine to record a maximum vertical reach of 12 feet or better, the Mississippi State junior has the length and willowy athleticism that would seem the textbook complement to Monroe, who for all of his strengths is not yet a menacing rim protector.

Who thinks Moultrie meshes ideally with Monroe? Well, Moultrie, for one.

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As NBA teams burn the midnight oil with the clock ticking loudly now on the draft, the boss should pull his staff aside in the 28 franchises where they’re not competing for a title and impart this object lesson: We’re putting together a basketball team, not a track club.

The two teams deciding the 2012 NBA championship are led by players at the opposite end of the athletic spectrum, at least athleticism as they measure it at the Chicago draft combine. The numbers from last week’s combine for this year’s draft came out Tuesday and you can bet teams were poring over the results.

The smart ones, after the poring over is complete, will fold them into context and not let those raw numbers overwhelm what their eyes and their gut tell them about the players they’ve scouted in person, watched exhaustively on tape, arranged individual workouts with and interviewed in many cases at the Chicago combine.

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Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part draft series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at seven players who could be upset picks on draft night. Coming Wednesday: A look at Arnett Moultrie, one of seven big men in the mix to be the ninth pick.)

The two players in whom the Pistons have invested so much of their future were never supposed to be Pistons. Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight stand as stark reminders that the predraft consensus is just that – the collective opinions of 30 teams, which blends disparate views. When a team is on the clock, the only consensus that matters is the one reached by its personnel executives, and two years ago Golden State – perhaps alone among NBA teams – thought Ekpe Udoh a better prospect than Greg Monroe.

In the opener of our True Blue Pistons 14-part draft series, we looked at four players that the consensus holds will be long gone by the time the Pistons pick ninth: Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal. There are two other players considered likely to be gone: UConn freshman big man Andre Drummond and North Carolina sophomore small forward Harrison Barnes.

But there’s a chance either one could tumble to ninth in much the way Knight, projected to go as high as No. 3 to Utah or, more likely, No. 5 to Toronto, fell to eighth and the Pistons in 2011. If Golden State taking Udoh was the triggering event for Monroe to fall to the Pistons in 2010, it was Cleveland taking Tristan Thompson No. 4 a year ago that sent Knight to the Pistons.

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Posted Monday, June 11, 2012

If Isiah Thomas isn’t the most fascinating and complex athlete I’ve encountered over the past 25 years, he makes the cut to five. Or to 12, which is more than he managed 20 years ago when they picked the players who would represent the United States at the first Olympic games that allowed basketball pros – the Dream Team.

Judging by the teasers that have aired throughout the NBA playoffs, the NBA TV Dream Team documentary that airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday will more than casually address the failure to include Isiah on the roster of the most talented team in basketball history.

In that fact alone – 20 years after the 1992 Summer Olympics, still talking about a player who wasn’t on the team that was also basketball’s most exclusive ever – is about all the validation those who felt Isiah Lord Thomas III was robbed really need to prove their point.

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(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons today starts a 14-part draft series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at the consensus top-four players – the only players certain to be gone before the Pistons pick at No. 9 in the first round. Coming Tuesday: A look at seven off-the-radar prospects for the No. 9 pick.)

Barring the improbability of a trade that vaults the Pistons from No. 9 into the top four of the June 28 draft, Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal will not be wearing their hat while striking a pose with David Stern on draft night.

It’s not quite as absolute that Robinson, Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal will be the next three players off the board after New Orleans makes Davis the No. 1 pick as it is that Davis, in fact, will be the No. 1 pick. It’s possible Andre Drummond goes as high as No. 2 to Charlotte. It’s possible Cleveland would take Drummond or Harrison Barnes at No. 4 if Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal go 2-3.

But it is unthinkable that any one of Robinson, Kidd-Gilchrist or Beal would slide all the way past Sacramento, Portland, Golden State and Toronto – teams holding picks 5 through 8 – to the Pistons.

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Posted Thursday, June 7, 2012

CHICAGO – The first day of the NBA draft combine did little to dispel the pervasive sense that there is very little certain about the 2012 draft beyond Anthony Davis going No. 1 to New Orleans.

Who might go No. 2? Six months ago, the overwhelming consensus pointed to Andre Drummond, who was viewed as a prospect with perhaps even more upside than Davis at that point. He’s been compared to the likes of Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire, but a lackluster freshman year at UConn also drew less flattering comparisons to names like Kwame Brown or Emeka Okafor.

But it’s clear that Drummond’s side – his agent is Rob Pelinka, the former teammate of Michigan’s Fab Five who also represents Kobe Bryant among many high-profile NBA stars – doesn’t believe he’ll slide very far on June 28. Drummond told me he’ll work out for five teams without identifying them – “you’ll find out next week,” he said – but here’s a pretty good guess: Charlotte, Washington, Cleveland, Sacramento and Portland. Those are the teams that hold the second through sixth picks, three spots ahead of the Pistons.

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Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Two years ago at this point, Ekpe Udoh’s name was barely a blip on the radar. It was ludicrous to think Greg Monroe might fall to the Pistons only because Udoh would go ahead of him.

A year ago now, Bismack Biyombo was a man of mystery thought to have a shot at perhaps sneaking into the late lottery. Come draft night, Michael Jordan was so fearful Biyombo wouldn’t be there at No. 9 – one spot after the Pistons – that he swung a trade to get up to 7 so he could claim Biyombo for his Charlotte Bobcats, dropping Brandon Knight into old rival Joe Dumars’ lap.

I rehash those draft anecdotes as cautionary tales for those who read even the most credible mock drafts three weeks out and take them as gospel.

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Posted Monday, June 4, 2012

Instead of nearly six weeks between the lottery and the draft, this week there are four. The change won’t unduly strain NBA teams, but it does change their timelines. Things turn up a notch this week with the Chicago draft combine, where the Pistons will watch the athletic testing and measurements with interest but be intensely focused on interviewing candidates for the No. 9 pick.

While the Pistons would be thrilled to come away with a player they’ll view a year from now as being as integral to their future as Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, that’s more the expectation than the hope. They believed last spring, when a handful of near-certain 2011 lottery picks opted against entering that draft, that the 2012 draft would be deeper and at least as likely to spew out game changers as 2011 or ’10 did.

It’s likely that there will be at least one player left at No. 9 who would fit from athletic, skills, character and temperament standpoints. A huge component of determining the identity of that prospect comes during those interviews in Chicago later this week.

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Posted Friday, June 1, 2012

If you want to make it through a full Brandon Knight workout, you’d better pack a lunch. And maybe a sleeping bag. At one hour, he’s just warming up. At two hours, he gives a little head feint so coaches who might tell him to call it a day bug out. And then he keeps going.

“It’s not typical-typical,” he says after a recent four-hour workout at the Pistons’ practice facility, “but for me, it’s typical. Normally, the coaches leave after two hours and I’ll tell them I’m leaving. And then I’ll stay for another one and a half. Just doing my own things, really. That’s how it kind of works out.”

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