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Winning tiebreakers good way to kick off draft process for Pistons

Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight
The Pistons were fortunate to pick where they did in the last few drafts.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
It barely registered a blip on the Richter scale of Pistons fandom, but there were a few high fives around the executive offices late Friday afternoon when the Pistons won both of the NBA draft tiebreakers that involved them.

One puts them ahead of Washington in the lottery pecking order, the other gives them a bonus late second-round pick. Assistant general manager George David wasn’t in position to exchange any of those high fives – he was in Portland along with scouting director Doug Ash at the Nike Hoop Summit – but it’s safe to say he cracked a smile.

The tiebreaker win with Washington gives the Pistons a slightly better chance to draw a top-three pick, but the bigger benefit is being slotted one spot ahead of the Wizards.

“The difference between having six or seven, or seven or eight, or five or six, becomes – as Pistons fans, I’m sure, recognize – extremely valuable to our team over the last three or four drafts,” David said. “If we were one slot lower than where we were in Andre’s draft, Brandon’s draft or Greg’s draft, there’s a very, very high probability that none of those guys are on our roster. When you’re picking that high, the difference between one slot is really, really big.”

The Pistons lost a similar tiebreaker with Philadelphia in 2010, which ultimately enabled the 76ers to draw into the No. 2 position. But the lottery played to form in that no team leap-frogged the Pistons; they went into the lottery slotted seventh and stayed there. Had they been one slot lower, they very likely wouldn’t have been able to draft Greg Monroe.

They got Brandon Knight with the No. 8 pick two years ago and Andre Drummond at No. 9 last June.

The Pistons will have their own second-round pick – it will be 38th unless Washington beats long odds to draft ahead of the Pistons in the first round, in which case the Pistons would pick 37th – and also the 56th pick.

The Pistons in recent drafts have selected both Jonas Jerebko (2009) and Khris Middleton (2012) with the 39th pick. David sees this draft as being consistent in talent with those in that draft range.

“That range stays pretty consistent draft to draft,” he said. “When people talk about a draft being different in a positive or negative way from year to year, usually they’re talking about the top six or seven. If you were to look at the past 15 drafts, most of the time you’re calling it a great draft or a poor draft based on that first six or seven. When you get past that, especially when you get into the range of the 30s, most of them are pretty consistent in terms of the level of player you’re going to get.”

The last pick, which likely will be made after most fans have clicked off the television on draft night, could turn out to be a valuable asset, David believes.

“It becomes valuable for a few reasons,” he said. “The first reason is it’s a chip you can use. There’s only 60 chips and there’s not a lot of easy ways to acquire additional chips, so when you get one you weren’t necessarily expecting, it’s very valuable. It increases your flexibility.”

It could be used on a player the Pistons believe could help them now. In 2005, the Pistons picked Amir Johnson at 56. (Coincidentally, they picked Alex Acker with the 60th and final pick that year, and the 56th pick they’ll receive from the Clippers is a result of the 2009 trade-deadline deal that sent Acker to Los Angeles.) But the two more promising uses of it are to draft an international player who isn’t likely to offer immediate help, thus depressing his draft stock, or combine it with another asset as a sweetener.

The Pistons could, for example, combine it with their pick at 37 or 38 and attempt to move into the late first round with a team looking to avoid luxury taxes or clear cap space that a guaranteed first-round salary slot would occupy

In the days ahead, we’ll go into more depth on how the Pistons will attack the draft process over the next two months.