Taking Shape

Absence of Sullinger, Jones, Barnes weakens Pistons’ draft position

Lawrence Frank expects Greg Monroe to become a defensive anchor for the Pistons.
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
On the 83 percent likelihood that the Pistons will draft seventh or eighth – they have a combined 15 percent chance to move into one of the top three spots – the decisions by Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones and Harrison Barnes to return to college will shrink the pool of candidates capable of making an immediate impact for them next season.

The draft evaluation process doesn’t stop when the college season ends, of course. That’s just one phase of it. So opinions of many players can and will change in the two months between now and the June 23 draft. A year ago at this time, it was unfathomable that Ekpe Udoh would be picked ahead of Greg Monroe, yet that’s just what happened.

So we can’t definitively say that Sullinger, Jones and Barnes, had they undergone the draft process – been measured and interviewed in Chicago at the May draft combine and gone through the paces at individual workouts for lottery teams – would have wound up being taken ahead of the No. 7 pick. But all three seemed very likely to be picked in the top six, based on potential and production.

In fact, depending on which team drew the No. 1 pick, any one of them conceivably could have been picked first. Now that will likely be either Duke’s Kyrie Irving or Arizona’s Derrick Williams.

Had everybody projected to be a top-10 pick come out, there was a decent chance the Pistons could have sat at No. 7 and seen one of the two European big men who both would appear to be nice complements to Monroe – Jonas Valanciunas and Enes Kanter - fall to them.

That seems like more of a long shot now.

NBA teams are still waiting on word from three other likely lottery picks – Kentucky freshmen Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones and Colorado sophomore Alec Burks. Deadline for declaring for the draft is Sunday at midnight, with the NBA releasing the list at mid-week.

If Irving, Williams, Valanciunas and Kanter are all off the board at No. 7, assuming the Pistons don’t beat the odds at the May 17 draft lottery, then their next building block is likely to come from a list that includes Knight, Jones, Burks (assuming all three are in the draft), Kemba Walker, Czech big man Jan Vesely and Lithuanian 7-footer Donatas Motiejunas. A wild card is Bismarck Biyombo, a 6-foot-9 power forward and native of the Congo, who wowed scouts earlier this month at the Nike Hoop Summit against a group of elite American high school players.

In addition to Sullinger, Jones and Barnes, a fourth player who was a candidate to be a top-10 pick – and might have been a consideration for the Pistons at seven or eight – is also not entering the draft: John Henson of North Carolina.