On Deck

With the season behind them, Pistons dig in on draft prep

Lawrence Frank expects Greg Monroe to become a defensive anchor for the Pistons.
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
Joe Dumars was sifting through the remains of his team’s 30-win season on Thursday, darting in and out of meetings. That’s a process that will continue over the next several days, but not much longer than that. The focus is about to go full bore on the future. And the most immediate channel that must be navigated to get there is the draft.

On all calendars in the offices that back up next to Joe D’s on the second floor of the Pistons’ practice facility, a few key dates are circled. The first is April 24, the deadline for players not automatically eligible for the draft to declare their intention to be included.

Next is May 8. That’s the NCAA-mandated deadline for underclassmen who wish to retain their college eligibility to withdraw from the draft. May 17 will be the draft lottery, where the Pistons will learn how narrow or broad their focus will be in poring over candidates for their first-round pick. Then comes June 13, the NBA’s deadline for withdrawal from the draft, which has become a de facto deadline date only for internationals. Finally, the draft itself is set for June 23.

The Pistons will go into the May 17 lottery with the No. 7 position. That means that if the lottery goes according to form, they’ll pick seventh – just as they did last June, when they grabbed Greg Monroe. Their chances to go No. 1 (4.3 percent), 2 (4.9) or 3 (5.8) give the Pistons a 15 percent chance to draw into the top three. But that’s less than their chance of falling back one spot to No. 8 (23.2 percent). Their most likely scenario is staying put; the Pistons have a 59.9 percent shot at drafting No. 7. They cannot draft lower than No. 10.

Already, what was considered a draft light on impact players – though many scouts feel there will be a deep pool of rotation-worthy NBA players and perhaps enough future All-Stars to make it an average overall draft – has been diluted by the apparent decisions of Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Baylor’s Perry Jones to return to college for sophomore seasons. Both were likely to be picked ahead of No. 7. A third player who had a shot at going in the top 10, North Carolina sophomore John Henson, has also said he’s headed back to college.

The consensus top two picks appear to be Duke freshman Kyrie Irving, a point guard; and Arizona sophomore Derrick Williams, a hybrid forward who has drawn comparisons to Carlos Boozer with greater athleticism.

If the Pistons were to land the No. 1 pick, one of those players would likely be theirs. If they get the No. 3 pick, the choice could come down to two foreign big men: Turkey’s Enes Kanter, who was supposed to be a Kentucky freshman this season but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, and Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas.

At No. 7 or 8, the field is much wider.

It could even include Kanter or Valanciunas, because after Irving and Williams at the top, right now there’s a cluster roughly 10 to 12 deep.

Among them are point guards Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight, forwards Harrison Barnes (who might return to North Carolina even though some think a few teams would consider him with the No. 1 pick) and Terrence Jones, shooting guard Alec Burks and two more foreign big men, Jan Vesely and Donatas Motiejunas. A wild card has emerged in the past few months: Congolese power forward Bismarck Biyombo, whose physique and defensive impact draws comparisons to Ben Wallace.

Biyombo’s emergence makes it likely that six international players will be first-rounders this year and most of them are still competing. The Eurocup Final Four will be held this weekend in Treviso, Italy, and many NBA teams will be in attendance, the Pistons among them. Motienjunas’ Benetton team is one of the contenders.

Much can change between now and the draft, but that’s the view from April 15. Individual workouts and the Chicago draft combine, scheduled for the days after the May 17 lottery, will affect the outlook.

Stay with us. Pistons.com will again have extensive predraft coverage.