True Blue Pistons - June 2013

Keith Langlois
About Keith Langlois
Award-winning journalist Keith Langlois, most recently lead sports columnist at The Oakland Press, joined 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'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 Friday, June 28, 2013

In the 1985 draft, Jack McCloskey was looking for a long-term partner for Isiah Thomas in his backcourt. Not too many miles west of the Silverdome seemed an obvious solution. Sam Vincent was a local hero, Michigan’s first Mr. Basketball winner in 1981 and a decorated All-American at Michigan State.

When Dallas took Indiana center Uwe Blab with the 17th pick, the way was clear for McCloskey to draft Vincent. At least one prominent person expected him to do exactly that.

But when Trader Jack told Pistons owner Bill Davidson that the pick was going to be a guard from tiny McNeese State instead, and spelled out his name, Mr. D roared, “Who the hell is Joe Dumars?”

Across the street from the Silverdome, at the lounge where they were holding a draft viewing party for fans, the boos cascaded down the M-59 corridor. Joe Dumars was not a popular pick, not with Sam Vincent still on the board.

In Joe D's Footsteps >>

Posted Thursday, June 27, 2013

About 20 minutes after taking Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and lauding the athleticism he’d bring to the Pistons, Joe Dumars volunteered that the quest wasn’t over.

“You need multiple wing athletes in today’s NBA,” he said.

A few hours later, he proved it.

The Pistons took one of the top handful of pure athletes in the 2013 draft when they selected Tony Mitchell of North Texas State with the 37th pick. At 6-foot-8¾ and 236 pounds with a 38-inch vertical leap and 5.6 percent body fat, Mitchell was viewed as a lottery pick when the college season started.

But he had an underwhelming sophomore season in the Sun Belt Conference, averaging 13.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots after posting 14.7, 10.3 and 3.0 numbers as a freshman. His shooting also dropped off, from .567 to .440, and his stock plunged.

“From a talent standpoint, this is somebody who could very well be the best athlete in the entire draft,” Pistons assistant general manager George David said.

The Pistons interviewed Mitchell at last month’s NBA draft combine in Chicago, but did not get the chance to bring him to Auburn Hills for a workout because Mitchell was expected to be long gone by the 37th pick.

Continue reading Upping the Athleticism >>

Posted Thursday, June 27, 2013

Joe Dumars pulled no punches: The Pistons went into Thursday’s draft with a laser focus on drafting an athlete who could beat everyone from one end of the floor to the other and stretch it to give Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe maximum room to operate around the rim.

They snowed everyone who believed they were hoping someone like Anthony Bennett might fall to them as Monroe, Brandon Knight and Drummond had the last three years, or that they were agonizing over the merits of point guards Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. McCollum.

All along, they were fixated on one of the two shooting guards they believed would give them major jolts of size, athleticism and perimeter shooting: Ben McLemore and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

When Phoenix took Maryland 7-footer Alex Len at No. 5, both McLemore and Caldwell-Pope were on the board. Dumars said every indication he knew pointed at New Orleans passing on a shooting guard, so he knew one of this two coveted targets would be available. Sacramento grabbed McLemore at No. 7, leaving Caldwell-Pope to the Pistons at No. 8.

Continue reading Welcome, KCP >>

Posted Thursday, June 27, 2013

If you want to root for the Pistons to come out of the draft with the best possible player at the best probable fit, then root for Alex Len to be taken before they pick. Considering he’s firmly in play at No. 1 for Cleveland – with obvious landing spots at four (Charlotte) and six (New Orleans) if the Cavs go elsewhere – there’s a good chance that wish will be fulfilled.

The fact it’s draft day and we still can’t rule out Len, Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter or Ben McLemore as Cleveland’s pick at No. 1 is only one reason it’s a shot in the dark to guess whom the Pistons might take at No. 8.

Not knowing who’s there – not knowing which player they don’t expect to drop but might, in fact, be available to them – is just a part of the uncertainty for the Pistons.

Continue reading Still Murky>>

Posted Wednesday, June 26, 2013

(Editor’s note: Last in a recurring series that previews the 2013 NBA draft.)

There was a time when the draft was as simple as analyzing the available talent and figuring out which player offered the most talent at the best fit for your roster.

That day might not have ended the moment the salary cap came to be, but the evolution of a world governed by a cap has made it inevitable that talent and fit are no longer the sole considerations.

That trend is likely to be only hastened by the onset of new and more punitive luxury tax consequences for the 2013-14 season. Two types of teams, with that in mind, figure to go into Thursday’s draft intent on avoiding having a 2013 first-round draft choice on their opening night roster: teams like Dallas and Atlanta, perhaps, who’d like to create maximum cap space; and teams facing stiff tax bills who’d like to trade out of the first round altogether.

Continue reading 4 for 4?>>

Posted Wednesday, June 26, 2013

(Editor’s note: Seventeenth in a recurring series leading to Thursday’s draft. Coming next: the True Blue Pistons 2013 NBA mock draft.)

When evaluating players for a late second-round draft pick, it’s usually better to be a master of one skill than a jack of all trades. If Minnesota power forward Trevor Mbakwe is going to complete a circuitous path to the NBA, it will be because somebody sees in him a player who can come off the bench and stir things up with his ability to dominate the glass.

Mbakwe is cut from the Jason Maxiell cloth, an undersized power forward who compensates for his lack of height (6-foot-8, 236 pounds as measured at the NBA draft combine in Chicago last month) with exceptional reach (7-foot-4 wing span), a solid frame and tenacity.

Continue reading Draft Preview: Bigs at 56>>

Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I took a look in Monday’s True Blue Pistons blog at the consensus top seven and laid odds on each of those players’ chances of slipping to No. 8 and joining Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond among a core that was never supposed to be available to the Pistons. Today I’ll look at the five other players profiled over the past month as possibilities with the No. 8 pick and how things appear to be shaking out with the draft two days away.

Before we get to that, keep in mind that four days after the draft is the start of free agency, and the timing of those two events is a complicating factor for a team with the more than $20 million in cap space the Pistons are about to possess.

We don’t know what Joe Dumars knows – or has reason to believe, at least – about what is going to happen when the doors to free agency open on July 1. But it’s fair to assume that because the Pistons opened the door to free agency 2013 exactly one year ago – two days before the 2012 draft, when they traded Ben Gordon to Charlotte – there is a huge body of exploratory evidence at his fingertips for what might happen.

Continue reading Options at 8>>

Posted Monday, June 24, 2013

When we launched our draft series back on May 20 – the day before the lottery set the draft order – I started from the premise that there were only two players who would certainly be gone before the Pistons picked if they didn’t move into the top three: Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore.

Now we’re three days before the draft, at a time when the picture most years is at least coming into a soft focus, and I’m less sure that Noel and McLemore will be unavailable than I was then. Yeah, it’s that volatile this time around.

The odds are still lopsided that Noel and McLemore will go in the top five, but they’re no longer the sure-fire 1-2 or 2-1 combination they were a month ago. In fact, you can talk yourself into believing that anyone and everyone is a potential Pistons pick at No. 8.

Continue reading Potential Pistons>>

Posted Monday, June 24, 2013

(Editor’s note: Sixteenth in a recurring series leading to Thursday’s draft. Coming Wednesday: a look at big men who are candidates to be the pick at 56 in the second round.)

Just as UCLA once churned out dominant 7-foot centers for NBA teams and Penn State became a linebacker mill for the NFL, Marquette is gaining a reputation among NBA front offices for producing a certain brand of player: tough, gritty, blue-collar, team-first perimeter defensive aces.

Wesley Matthews, Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder have already carved out NBA niches for themselves, each one propping the door open a little wider for the next. Who might that be? This year’s candidate is Vander Blue, who left Buzz Williams’ program after helping another typically take-no-quarters Marquette team to the elite eight of the NCAA tournament with a season of eligibility remaining.

Continue reading Draft Preview: Perimeter at 56>>

Posted Friday, June 21, 2013

(Editor’s note: Fifteenth in a recurring series leading to Thursday’s draft. Coming Monday: A look at perimeter options with the 56th pick.)

One of the biggest head scratchers to college basketball fans when the list of NBA early entrants came out in mid-April was Grant Jerrett. He played 18 minutes a game as a freshman and didn’t exactly tear up the Pac-12 Conference, averaging 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds a game.

Many speculated the real reason Jerrett made the surprising decision to leave Arizona after a less than spectacular debut was concern that his role would be further reduced next season, when ballyhooed McDonald’s All-American Aaron Gordon – already a projected top-five pick in a top-heavy 2014 draft – arrives on campus. That will further crowd a frontcourt that also includes Jerrett’s classmates, NBA prospects Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley.

Jerrett denied that pushed him to the NBA prematurely while at the NBA draft combine in May.

“It was a goal, a dream,” he said. “I feel like it was a good time for me to go. I enjoyed (Arizona). Honestly, it’s hard to say anything bad about it. It just felt like if I wanted to make my dream, my goal, it was better to leave now.”

Continue reading Draft Preview: Bigs at 37>>

Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013

The last living coach to guide the Pistons to an NBA title couldn’t be more certain that Joe Dumars hired the right guy to put them on a path to the next championship.

“You’re getting a star,” Larry Brown told me this week about Maurice Cheeks. “He’s great.”

I’ve talked to a handful of people about Cheeks over the past week since he was introduced as Lawrence Frank’s successor and a consistent picture is emerging of the type of coach he’ll be. He’s a teacher, foremost. He’s flexible, someone who dissects a game quickly after the ball goes up and is willing to go away from the scouting report. More than anything, those who’ve known him say, he connects to players very quickly and very deeply and has the ability to infuse them with confidence.

Continue reading Larry Brown: Cheeks ‘A Star'>>

Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2013

(Editor’s note: Fourteenth in a recurring series leading to the June 27 draft. Coming Friday: centers and power forwards that might be under consideration with the No. 37 pick.)

History says there will be a talented wing player available somewhere around where the Pistons are picking in the first third of round two in the June 27 draft. The Pistons themselves have plucked two forwards from that area over the past four drafts, Jonas Jerebko in 2009 and Khris Middleton in 2012, both with the 39th pick.

Two years ago, Houston grabbed Chandler Parsons with the 38th pick. In 2010, New York found Landry Fields at 39 and Indiana took Lance Stephenson at 40.

Two such candidates this season, each offering something quite different than the other, are Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. and Colorado’s Andre Roberson.

Hardaway, leaving Michigan after a junior season that ended with a loss in the NCAA title game, has moved himself into first-round consideration with a strong predraft showing that began at the May combine in Chicago. Hardaway’s shooting performance in drill work was among the most dazzling and he tested better than anticipated athletically.

Continue reading Draft Preview: Wings at 37>>

Posted Tuesday, June 18, 2013

There’s a decent chance the Pistons come out of next week’s draft with a point guard. It could happen with their lottery pick, where you can find no shortage of mock drafts that have either C.J. McCollum or Michael Carter-Williams tied to the Pistons. It could happen with the 37th pick, where I’ve identified eight point guards who could start coming off the board in the latter third of the first round.

The front office runs the draft for the Pistons with varying degrees of input from the coaching staff, which is how it works for most teams. NBA coaches are simply too consumed by the demands of their 82-game regular season to pay any attention to the college game. Coaches get involved on some level once the round of predraft group or individual workouts starts in the weeks leading to the draft, often leading those workouts and sometimes delving into videotape study.

But it’s the scouts who spend 12 months a year identifying and following draft prospects, seeing lottery prospects in person a few dozen times cumulatively and every one of the top 100 or so prospects at least a few times whose opinions count most when Joe Dumars gets on the phone to make the call.

All of that said, if the Pistons are going to grab a point guard with either the eighth or 37th pick in next week’s draft, I’d expect the likely candidates will have been thoroughly vetted between now and then by Maurice Cheeks.

Continue reading Valued Voice>>

Posted Monday, June 17, 2013

(Editor’s note: Thirteenth in a recurring series leading to the June 27 draft. Coming Wednesday: shooting guards and small forwards possible at 37.)

The Pistons finished last season with a four-guard rotation that consisted entirely of players who’d spent the bulk of their NBA careers running offenses from the point. Jose Calderon and Will Bynum split time at point guard with Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey occupying the bulk of their minutes at shooting guard until a late-season Calderon injury moved Stuckey back to the point.

Yet there’s a decent chance the Pistons will spend one of their first two picks on a point guard in the June 27 draft. That speaks both to the uncertainty at the position going into the 2013-14 season and the quality of the draft at the 8th and 37th picks. Calderon and Bynum hit free agency on July 1 and Stuckey, with a year left on a partially guaranteed contract, could be Joe Dumars’ most valuable trade chip assuming he doesn’t wish to dip into the young core of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Knight, whose ability to play either spot gives the Pistons flexibility both on the draft and trade fronts.

The three likeliest possibilities with their lottery pick are Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum and Michael Carter-Williams, all profiled previously in our True Blue Pistons draft preview series. If the Pistons are wowed by German teen Dennis Schroeder’s potential, he’s a long-shot possibility to be their lottery pick.

Continue reading Draft Preview: Point Guards at 37 >>

Posted Friday, June 14, 2013

(Editor’s note: Twelfth in a recurring series leading to the June 27 draft. Coming Monday: A look at a group of point guards who could be under consideration for the Pistons with their first of two second-round picks, No. 37.)

With two major interior building blocks in place and more than $20 million in cap space looming to rebuild their perimeter, the Pistons go into the 2013 NBA draft empowered to take purely the best talent.

Over the past three weeks, we’ve identified players at every position who could be in the mix. Not all of them will be available at the No. 8 pick, but half of them – assuming Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore are off the board – will be within reach of the Pistons from among the group that includes center Alex Len, power forwards Cody Zeller and Anthony Bennett, small forwards Otto Porter and Shabazz Muhammad, shooting guards Victor Oladipo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and point guards Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. McCollum.

But the search for another franchise cornerstone to join forces with Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond – the fruit of the past three NBA drafts – isn’t limited to that list. The Pistons are likely to bring in a number of other players generally considered as top-20 talents for individual or group workouts and interviews. Most have a bit of mystery to them as only one, Duke’s Mason Plumlee, is an American native who played college basketball in the United States.

Continue reading Draft Preview: Sleepers at 8>>

Posted Thursday, June 13, 2013

It’s not always easy to go from field general to first lieutenant. Maurice Cheeks had been a field general for a good long run between his stints in Portland and Philadelphia. But he enjoyed his four years at Scott Brooks’ side in Oklahoma City. It was a good organization with great young talent and championship possibilities. He wasn’t itching to jump at just any job.

But when Joe Dumars made it known that Cheeks was under consideration to coach the Detroit Pistons … well, easy call.

“The tradition of this organization sold me, period,” Cheeks said at his introductory press conference Thursday at The Palace. “Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas, those guys, the way they played the game. I always point to the jerseys in the rafters. Those guys played right, they played committed and I think this is what this team needs to be.”

There shouldn’t be much debate about team president and coach being on the same page with Joe D and Cheeks. Their harmony couldn’t possibly be better synchronized when it comes to a vision for how a team should be molded and the qualities it should live and breathe.

Continue reading Exactly What We Needed >>

Posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Maurice Cheeks now has two outstanding reasons to be in Las Vegas in late July. Already on his docket is a 30th reunion of the Philadelphia 76ers 1983 NBA championship team. He can write it off as a business trip if he chooses, though, because Cheeks certainly will want to check in on two of the most compelling reasons he was interested in becoming Pistons coach, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

The two young franchise cornerstones will be in Las Vegas, as well, as part of USA Basketball’s National Team minicamp July 22-25.

Twenty-seven of the NBA’s most promising young players, representing 19 teams, will assemble under coach Mike Krzyzewski, who recently agreed to another stint as National Team coach after leading the United States to gold medals in each of the past two Olympic games. Only Cleveland – with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller invited – has more than the Pistons’ two representatives.

“It’s a great honor and opportunity for Greg and Andre to be a part of the USA Basketball minicamp,” said Joe Dumars, who drafted Monroe with the No. 7 pick in 2010 and grabbed Drummond in 2012 with the No. 9 pick.

Continue reading Team USA Twosome >>

Posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In the 2010 draft, there were four small forwards considered worthy of being picked in the lottery. They went in this order: Wesley Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Gordon Hayward and Paul George, which matched predraft evaluations. Three years later, the order of those picks likely would be exactly reversed, with George a lock to be the first taken.

Coming into the 2011 draft, there is the same near unanimity among NBA front offices that the top two shooting guards available are Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo. The Pistons probably won’t get a chance to draft either one with the No. 8 pick, though so much is uncertain about this year’s draft that no one would be stunned if one managed to slip through the top seven spots.

The No. 3-ranked shooting guard, by most accounts, is Georgia sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Three years from now, will Caldwell-Pope prove to be the most promising young NBA player of the bunch?

Both Caldwell-Pope and McLemore came out of high school two years ago, though McLemore was a Kansas freshman last season after being academically ineligible for the 2011-12 season. Caldwell-Pope was widely seen as the better prospect back then, ranking No. 12 in his high school class by both and to McLemore’s 34 and 55.

Continue reading Draft Preview: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope >>

Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You’re right to be leery when you hear broad generalizations about a coach, any coach. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an essential truth to the characterization of Maurice Cheeks as being a good coach for young players, but the caveat is that young players come in all shapes, sizes and dispositions.

Different young players require various motivational approaches, same as for stars in their prime or role players near the end of the line. Any coach who adopts a cookie-cutter mentality to reach players is destined to fall short of pulling out the best in his team. That holds for any era, but it’s fair to say it’s probably never been more essential than it is today with life-altering money at stake in a way it wasn’t to graying generations of NBA stars. That’s an equation changer and a complicating factor for the modern NBA head coach.

The Pistons will introduce Cheeks as their next head coach later this week and I suspect one of the lines of questioning for him will be his work with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, and before him, with the likes of Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams in Philadelphia. There are a lot of young players across the NBA who will speak highly of Cheeks’ role in shepherding them through their formative, sometimes traumatic, early years in the NBA.

Continue reading A Logical Choice >>

Posted Monday, June 10, 2013

Earl Cureton arrived in the NBA in 1980 to a loaded Philadelphia 76ers roster filled with big names and powerful personalities. Julius Erving, Darryl Dawkins and Andrew Toney were headline-grabbing stars, but the 76ers also had Doug Collins, Lionel Hollins and Bobby Jones dotting the lineup of a team that won 62 games. By the time they were ready to win a championship two years later, smack in the middle of the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era, the Sixers had added another gargantuan talent and outsized personality, Moses Malone.

But it didn’t take the Detroit native long to find out whom another legendary name with a powerful personality, Billy Cunningham, trusted to run his team: Mo Cheeks, a second-round pick out of West Texas State by way of Chicago who was in his third NBA season when Cureton arrived.

“Billy had a lot of confidence in Mo,” Cureton told me Monday from Phoenix, where he serves as an assistant coach with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. “He ran the team. He came from a small college, but we had some high-profile players on that team. To be able to come in there and be able to control the egos and manage the team the way he did, he did a great job of keeping people happy. I think that translates into becoming an NBA coach. He’s really good with players. You never see Mo being too riled up.”

Cureton, who played three seasons with the Pistons after his time in Philly, was a teammate of Joe Dumars’ during the latter’s rookie season. He and the members of the 1983 NBA championship 76ers remain close, he said, with a 30th reunion planned for late July in Las Vegas. He talks frequently to Cheeks and knew of his interest in the Pistons job.

Continue reading Cureton: ‘The Right Guy’ >>

Posted Monday, June 10, 2013

Coaching isn’t the only profession where being in the right place at the right time under the right circumstances is more often than not what separates success from failure. But under the public glare of coaching in professional sports, labels are harder to shake than they are for a district sales manager who has a tough year because the company he represents had to issue a product recall.

Mo Cheeks comes to the Pistons with essentially a .500 career record across two coaching stops. He’s 284-286 in six full seasons and parts of two others with both Portland and Philadelphia. In an NBA off-season where it appears a full 40 percent of jobs will turn over – assuming Memphis eventually splits with Lionel Hollins after granting him permission to look around – his wasn’t considered a glitzy name.

You know who else wasn’t considered a very glitzy coaching name less than a decade ago? Doc Rivers, who shares with Cheeks a background as products of Chicago’s prep basketball scene and careers as NBA point guards. Now he’s the second-longest tenured head coach in the NBA, behind only Gregg Popovich, and if Rivers hits the free-agent market the only suitors who need to queue up are those with championship-ready rosters and contract offers that start somewhere north of $5 million a year.

Continue reading Mo's Moment >>

Posted Monday, June 10, 2013

(Editor’s note: Tenth in a recurring series leading to the June 27 draft. Coming Wednesday: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.)

As if there wasn’t enough uncertainty in a draft with no clear-cut pecking order at the top, throw in the fact that three near-certain top-10 picks are coming off of recent surgeries and can’t work out for NBA teams with millions to invest in their futures.

If they were baseball pitchers, then Anthony Bennett’s shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff might be more worrisome than Nerlens Noel’s ACL tear or Alex Len’s ankle stress fracture. In the big picture, teams might have more pressing concerns about Bennett’s asthma that could limit his conditioning level or even a back issue that caused him to miss time in each of his last two years at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, where the Ontario native played before landing at UNLV.

Even though Bennett comes to the NBA after just one college season, teams probably feel like they have a pretty clear picture of him. Bennett’s shoulder surgery – it’s to his left, non-shooting shoulder – prevented him from traveling to Chicago last month for the combine, but at the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit he measured in at 6-foot-7 in shoes. That makes him an undersized power forward in the strictest sense, but his wing span at the same event was recorded at an outstanding 7-foot-1.

Continue reading Draft Preview: Anthony Bennett >>

Posted Friday, June 7, 2013

(Editor’s note: Ninth in a recurring series leading to the 2013 NBA draft. Coming Monday: Anthony Bennett.)

The college player who most surprised NBA personnel executives by not declaring for the draft in 2013 is Marcus Smart, projected as a top-three pick before announcing he’d return for his sophomore season at Oklahoma State. Last year’s big surprise was Cody Zeller.

The last of three high-profile Indiana brothers – Luke played at Notre Dame and last season debuted with the Phoenix Suns, Tyler went to North Carolina and was a 2012 No. 1 pick – Cody Zeller was projected to go ahead of the Pistons, picking ninth, a year ago.

This year, in a draft considered among the weakest in recent seasons, most credible projections have Zeller available when the Pistons pick at No. 8.

Continue reading Draft Preview: Cody Zeller >>

Posted Thursday, June 6, 2013

The surprise Joe Dumars and his staff expressed at being able to pluck Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond from the past three drafts wasn’t the typical drummed-up enthusiasm common to breathless postdraft celebrations. The fact not one of those players agreed to come to Auburn Hills prior to their drafts to work out for the Pistons is compelling proof that their agents, too, were taken aback by their draft-night plunges. It’s the job of agents to put their clients in the most favorable light during the draft process, a balancing act that includes resistance to granting workouts to teams below what they see as their client’s deserved landing spot.

For Monroe, it was Golden State, picking one spot ahead of the Pistons. For Knight, it was Toronto, picking three spots ahead of them. A year ago, Drummond’s agent Rob Pelinka held off on workouts beyond the top six teams or arranging a meeting with the Pistons until two nights before the draft, when he invited Dumars and assistant general manager George David to New York for a meeting.

What are the odds the Pistons will again draft a player who doesn’t come to Auburn Hills prior to the draft?

Continue reading Scoping Out the Draft >>

Posted Wednesday, June 5, 2013

(Editor’s note: Eighth in a recurring series leading to the June 27 draft. Coming Friday: Cody Zeller.)

While there isn’t much definitive about the 2013 NBA draft, a loose consensus top six has emerged that consists of Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke and Anthony Bennett.

And that might present a dilemma for the Pistons, picking at No. 8. No outsider can say for certain, of course, how their draft board will stack up after they complete the individual workouts for candidates they’ll consider with that pick. Those workouts almost always take place in the final 10 days or so before the draft, giving the Pistons the latest possible feel for how the draft might shake out and the most recent impression of the players under consideration.

But what happens if those top six are all off the board and the clear best value, in their estimation, for the No. 8 pick is Maryland sophomore 7-footer Alex Len? Andre Drummond might be many things, but right now it’s clear that all of those things involve him playing close to the rim on both defense and offense – to protect it at one end and punish it with emphatic lob-dunk or put-back finishes at the other.

Len is a pure center, as well, in the view of nearly every draft evaluator. The most common comparison made is to Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft. Len came to Maryland from Ukraine, also home to Pistons backup center Slava Kravtsov, not far from Valanciunas’ Lithuania. He didn’t put up eye-popping numbers for the Terrapins – 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game – but shows flashes of dominance that make many believe he could grow into a top-tier NBA center.

Continue reading Draft Preview: Alex Len >>

Posted Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cleveland owns the No. 1 pick in the June 27 draft and the widely held expectation is that the Cavs take Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, despite the ACL rehabilitation that clouds his rookie availability. But Cleveland hasn’t done the expected in the past two drafts and, in fact, it’s been the Cavaliers’ unpredictability that has steered both Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond to the Pistons.

Cleveland made the two eyebrow-raising picks in each of the past two draft’s top five with Tristan Thompson in 2011 and Dion Waiters in 2012, both with the No. 4 pick. Almost nobody saw those moves coming a week or less ahead of them happening. And this year’s draft is murkier at the top than those two by a safe margin, so good luck figuring out who’ll be off the board when the Pistons go on the clock in 23 days.

The Cavaliers could go in a number of directions: (1) play the chalk and draft Noel; (2) throw another curveball, a la Thompson and Waiters, and take neither Noel nor Ben McLemore, seen as the only alternative to Noel on NBA upside; or (3) trade the pick and start converting some of their assets to veteran help.

Whatever the Cavs do, it sets the path that leads to No. 8, where the Pistons hope the draft’s twists and turns benefit them as they have each of the past three seasons.

Continue reading Twists & Turns >>

Posted Monday, June 3, 2013

(Editor’s note: Seventh in a recurring series previewing the 2013 NBA draft. Coming Wednesday: Alex Len.)

In a draft filled with uncertainty at the top, Otto Porter stands apart as a player seen as relatively fool-proof. Scouts might wonder about his athleticism and doubt he’ll ever rise to the level of All-Star, perhaps, but the general manager who takes the Georgetown sophomore on June 27 probably will sleep pretty well that night, even if his dreams don’t start with championship parades.

The current NBA player most often evoked in a Porter comparison is Tayshaun Prince, who was a rock for the Goin’ to Work era Pistons and a 2004 NBA champion. But he was never an All-Star and he was taken 23rd in a historically weak draft. Porter, it seems, is destined to be a top-five pick, perhaps a top-three pick.

Over the past month, I’ve separated Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore as the only two players who would certainly be unavailable to the Pistons unless they pulled a top-three lottery pick, which they failed to do, falling instead from seventh to eighth.

Continue reading Draft Preview: Otto Porter >>