Pistons to pick 8th

In a draft of great unknowns, one-spot fall might not hurt Pistons

If there’s good news in dropping one spot in the NBA draft lottery, as the Pistons did Tuesday night, it’s that this might be the best draft for that to happen. As long as the Pistons didn’t nab the No. 1 overall pick and the right to take Kyrie Irving, no draft in recent years appears as likely as this one to produce uncertain results throughout the top 10.

In other words, the Pistons might land at No. 8 a player they wouldn’t have been disappointed to take at No. 2 or 3. And if the player taken at No. 8 this year turns out to be better than the one selected second, it won’t cause many jaws to drop.

“We still feel like we’re going to get a good player,” Joe Dumars said by phone from New Jersey, where he attended the lottery drawing at which Greg Monroe was the Pistons’ on-stage representative. “Obviously, we’re disappointed we dropped back one spot. That’s not what we were hoping for. But we’ve done our homework and we know we’ll get a good player, even dropping back one spot.”

The likelihood is that they’ll wind up taking a big man, Dumars said, which is thought to be the strength of a draft that could see five international big men go in the top 10 picks, complicating the evaluation process.

Dumars, along with vice president Scott Perry and personnel director George David, will head to Chicago on Wednesday morning from New Jersey, where for the rest of the week they will observe and interact with roughly 50 players invited by the league for its draft combine. But the international prospects won’t be there, except for Turkish-born Enes Kanter, who has been in America for two years but had to sit out what would have been his freshman season at Kentucky due to NCAA eligibility issues.

“George, Scott and I will be hopping on a plane and heading back (to Europe for the Treviso, Italy camp in early June),” Dumars said. “We’ll get a chance to put our eyes on those guys and see them in person again in a different setting. We’ll go through the same process in Europe that we do at the predraft camp here.”

Cleveland, in a bit of circuitous karma, drew the No. 1 pick it received from lottery perennials, the Los Angeles Clippers, and will choose No. 1 following a year of pain inflicted by the July 2010 departure of LeBron James.

The two teams that moved into the top three – pushing Minnesota, Toronto, Washington and Sacramento down two spots and the Pistons down one – were Cleveland and Utah and both did so with picks acquired in mid-season trades. The Cavs sent Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers for Baron Davis (and his onerous contract) plus the No. 1 pick; Utah acquired New Jersey’s No. 1 pick in the Deron Williams trade.

The only near-certainty to come from the lottery’s results is that the Cavaliers will pick Irving with the No. 1 pick. In keeping with a lottery of great risk, Irving was limited to 11 games as a Duke freshman with a big toe injury on his right foot.

After that, all bets are off.

The Pistons had a 23 percent chance of having one team leapfrog them to slip to No. 8. That was the second most likely scenario; there was a 59 percent chance they would stay at No. 7, as they did a year ago.

Here’s a look at how the lottery order could affect the thinking and what might happen with the first eight picks:

1. Cleveland – The Cavs could talk themselves into Arizona’s Derrick Williams, the consensus No. 2 talent, since they already have Davis and Ramon Sessions to play point guard. But Davis is likely to be shopped – good luck moving him immediately, but if he shows up in shape and plays well next year, it won’t be impossible to move a point guard who still can be an impact player – and Sessions is best used off the bench. Irving, who could have the same immediate impact as Derrick Rose and John Wall, seems almost certain to go No. 1.

2. Minnesota – Williams would make sense – the T-wolves need scoring punch. But he also has a similar skill set to Michael Beasley. Ex-Pistons executive Tony Ronzone, who made his name for his expertise scouting international ball, could influence Minnesota’s direction in a draft filled with international big men. Jonas Valanciunas, Enes Kanter and Bismack Biyombo are all possibilities – even though there’s an outside shot that more than one could still be available when the Pistons pick. Let’s pencil in Biyombo – his athleticism, Minnesota might be convinced, would be the best complement to Kevin Love.

3. Utah – The Jazz seem pretty well stocked up front – Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, the first major installment for the Williams trade. So if Minnesota passes on Williams, he makes sense here for a team that is likely to lose Andrei Kirilenko to free agency.

4. Cleveland – The Cavs have their hustle guy/rebounder/defender up front in Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson emerged this season as a valuable piece up front. But Cleveland is going to grab the top-ranked big man on their board with this pick. If they get a favorable vibe from Jonas Valanciunas and believe his contract buyout makes it likely he’ll be in the NBA next season, the guess is that he’ll be the pick here.

5. Toronto – Tough to see Enes Kanter getting past this pick. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has embraced international players, in part because they embrace Toronto’s cosmopolitan feel, and Kanter will give Toronto the option to move Andrea Bargnani to power forward.

6. Washington – Jan Vesely’s athleticism will play well at power forward alongside JaVale McGee. He makes the most sense for the Wizards. The wild card to consider at this point in the draft will be San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard, an athletic small forward who did most of his damage in college near the rim. If in workouts he shows a perimeter game, his toughness and motor will make him a candidate to go ahead of the Pistons.

7. Sacramento – Getting bumped down two spots might not matter at all for the Kings, who need backcourt help and – if the draft plays out this way – will have their choice of Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight. Walker might be too much like Tyreke Evans in his score-first mentality. Knight would appear the more likely to blossom into a point guard that would function well at Evans’ side.

8. Detroit – If Biyombo, Valanciunas, Kanter and Vesely are all gone, the Pistons will be left to choose from among Texas’ Tristan Thompson, Kansas’ Morris twins – Marcus, the more skilled of the two, probably would get the nod over Markieff – Lithuania’s Donatas Motiejunas or one of the leftover perimeter players: Walker or Leonard, perhaps. You can bet they will be meeting with the Americans on that list who will be in Chicago for this week’s draft combine and contacting the agents for all of those players to begin the work of scheduling individual workouts at their practice facility. It’s too close to make a guess that carries much weight at this point, but for the purpose of completing this exercise, let’s go with Tristan Thompson. We reserve the right to change our minds daily between now and June 23.