Posted Monday, July 2, 2012

Joe Dumars felt comfortable drafting 18-year-old Andre Drummond in large part because he believes in the environment the Pistons have established and the mettle of young leaders Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight. By the time draft night was over, he felt even better about that environment, thanks to spending the 44th pick on Missouri’s Kim English.

English brings to the Pistons a deadly jump shot and a killer personality, a player so dedicated to improvement he slept in the locker room as a Missouri freshman to get up jump shots before 7 a.m. reveille. Before he left 6 Championship Drive last weekend he loaded 10 Pistons games on his iPad to begin absorbing Lawrence Frank’s offense before Summer League practices open on Thursday.

When I asked Joe D last week if the presence of serious-minded young leaders like Monroe and Knight gave him greater security that Drummond would fall in with the right influences as a teenage professional, he answered by immediately referencing English.

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Posted Friday, June 29, 2012

The sum of Andre Drummond’s season is there in his middling statistics: 10 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. The way those modest numbers were reached were often spectacular. On a handful of plays in most Connecticut games last season, Drummond would come from out of the screen to snare an offensive rebound and dunk, bolt from one side of the basket to the other to swat away a shot or streak past guards to finish a fast break.

“What we saw were impressive moments with him,” Pistons personnel director George David told me Friday morning, about 12 hours after the Pistons ended Drummond’s draft-night slide by taking him ninth. “If we saw more than that, you wouldn’t be looking at him in a Pistons uniform at No. 9. Somebody would’ve taken him where we had originally projected him going into the season, which was two.”

The Pistons won’t go into the season expecting Drummond to suddenly emerge as a skilled scorer with an array of back-to-the-basket post moves. They’ll work diligently on his offensive package, of course, but the emphasis will be on drawing out consistency from Drummond in those areas where he already flashes such immense promise.

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Posted Thursday, June 28, 2012

After solidifying their frontcourt when Andre Drummond fell to them at No. 9 in the first round, the Pistons beefed up their perimeter in the second round by taking Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton and Missouri’s Kim English.

Middleton, 6-foot-8½, is a junior out of Texas A&M who averaged 13.2 points and 5.0 rebounds last season. He’d put up a strong sophomore season, averaging 14.4 points and shooting 36 percent from the 3-point line, but struggled a little in the adjustment to a new coaching staff in his junior year and missing 12 games with a knee injury.

English had a tremendous senior season at Missouri and had been impressive according to various reports during individual workouts for NBA teams. English averaged 14.5 points and grabbed 4.2 rebounds in shooting 46 percent from the 3-point line.

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Andre Drummond, meet Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight. The three players the Pistons have plucked from the draft over the past three years have more in common than the NBA uniform they’ll wear next season. They also share this: None of them were supposed to be Pistons. And now they’re at the heart of the team’s future.

Just as Monroe was supposed to be gone before the Pistons picked No. 7 in 2010 and Knight off the board before the Pistons’ turn came at No. 8 a year ago, Drummond was considered a possibility to be drafted as high as No. 2 but tumbled all the way to ninth for the Pistons on Thursday night.

The second-youngest player in the draft – Drummond won’t turn 19 until August and was headed for prep school until a late-August 2011 decision to reclassify and enroll at UConn – Drummond was considered a prospect the equal of Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick of New Orleans, coming into the college season.

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Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2012

NBA teams began pointing to the 2012 draft as soon as the early-entry deadline for 2011 came and went with several prospects considered lottery locks deciding to return to college basketball. Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Thomas Robinson, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Perry Jones III all would have been strong lottery candidates a year ago.

The 2012 draft is still considered relatively deep – the Pistons expect they’ll get somebody with the 39th pick who in the right circumstances can help them as a rookie – but it doesn’t seem quite as dripping with future stars as it appeared destined to have a year ago.

Even before Sullinger’s back produced red flags at the Chicago draft combine, more questions about his ability to score in the paint were emerging. Perry Jones III, after a sophomore season no more productive or consistent than the previous year, is viewed much differently. Barnes, once compared to Kobe Bryant, is now seen in a lesser stratosphere.

And so it goes.

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(Editor’s note: continues its 14-part draft series with a look at international prospects. Coming next: The first round mock draft.)

Four of the first seven picks in the 2011 NBA draft were spent on international players and seven of the first 22. There might not be seven international players drafted total this year, even including the speculative second-rounders spent by teams looking to stash players so as not to take up a roster spot or cap space. There is flagging consensus that the 2012 draft is a particularly deep one, but little dispute that the international crop is the weakest in a decade.

Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely and Bismack Biyombo were all off the board last season before the Pistons got around to picking Brandon Knight with the No. 8 pick. It’s possible no international players will be taken in the first round this time, though it’s likely that French teen Evan Fournier will go in the 20s, probably to a team looking to avoid luxury tax consequences and happy to have Fournier spend at least another season working on his skills in Europe.

Fournier was the only international prospect among the original list of 60 invitees to the NBA draft combine in Chicago earlier this month. When he pulled out with an ankle injury, Czech guard Tomas Satoransky took his place. Satoransky isn’t expected to go until the middle of the second round, where he is on a short list of international possibilities for the Pistons, who pick 44th with Houston’s pick in addition to their own pick at 39.

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Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Editor's note: continues its 14-part draft series with a look at second-round perimeter possibilities. Coming Wenesday: a look at the thin international crop.

If the Pistons land a big man in the first round they feel confident is ready to step into their frontcourt rotation, the focus with their two second-round picks might shift toward adding to their perimeter depth and versatility.

That could mean adding a player who stretches the floor offensively with shooting ability – or it could mean finding players who shrink the floor defensively with plus size or athleticism for their position.

In the first group would be players like Kentucky’s Darius Miller, Tennessee Tech’s Kevin Murphy and Missouri’s Kim English. In the second you might find Marquette’s Jae Crowder, Memphis’ Will Barton and Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham.

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Posted Monday, June 25, 2012

(Editor’s note: continues its 14-part draft series with a look at a group of nine big men who could be under consideration by the Pistons with either of their second-round picks, 39 and 44. Coming Tuesday: a look at perimeter players for those two picks.)

Merely mention the name of Mike Mamula and every NFL general manager will know exactly the implication. In 1995, Mamula cashed a dazzling performance at the NFL draft combine into the No. 7 pick, by Philadelphia, despite a Boston College career that didn’t seem to warrant such status.

NBA general managers perhaps will bear Mamula’s name in mind as they consider what to make of Miles Plumlee, whose senior-year averages of 6.6 points and 7.1 rebounds were the high-water mark of a four-year stay at Duke that fell far short of lofty expectations.

Never a full-time starter, Plumlee was quickly overshadowed by his younger brother Mason. (A third Plumlee, Marshall, redshirted at Duke last season.) Yet tales of Plumlee playing spectacularly in pickup games persist, and his dazzling performance at the Chicago combine give NBA personnel executives something else to chew on as Thursday’s draft approaches.

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Posted Sunday, June 24, 2012

Posted Friday, June 22, 2012

(Editor’s note:’s 14-part draft series continues with a look at a group of players projected to go either in the late first or early second round but could slip to the Pistons’ pick at No. 39 in the second round. Coming Monday: A look at the group of big men who could be considered with either of Detroit’s second-round picks at 39 and 44.)

It was every bit the surprise to the Pistons when Kyle Singler fell to their pick early in the second round last June that it was when Brandon Knight tumbled to No. 8 in the first round. Chicago had two picks late in the first round and the Bulls were suspected to have a high level of interest in the four-year Duke product.

But the Bulls swapped one of those picks away to Miami and used the other on another small forward prospect, Marquette’s Jimmy Butler. Three picks into the second round – using a pick they had obtained from Toronto in the Carlos Delfino deal four years earlier – the Pistons grabbed Singler for themselves.

The Pistons aren’t picking quite that close to the back end of the first round this year. Their own pick comes at 39 and the one they obtained from Houston for a 2009 second-rounder is 44th. But given the depth of the 2012 draft, it’s possible that a player the Pistons have ranked as a first-round talent still will be on the board at 39.

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Posted Thursday, June 21, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Terrence Jones, the last profile among the seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Friday: A look at prospects who could slip out of the first round and be available when the Pistons pick at No 39 in the second round.)

Among the headliners of John Calipari’s annual haul of McDonald’s All-Americans when the 2010-11 college basketball season opened, it wasn’t Brandon Knight who immediately broke out of the gate looking like a sure-fire 2011 lottery pick. It was Terrence Jones.

Jones was sensational at the 2010 Maui Invitational, opening with a 29-point, 13-rebound game against Oklahoma and averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots over three games in Hawaii. A few weeks later, he punished a good Notre Dame team with 27 points and 17 boards. At that point, Jones was widely expected to be another of Kentucky’s one-and-done stars with buzz that he was solidly in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick in a 2011 draft that didn’t have a clear-cut top player, a la Kentucky’s Anthony Davis in 2012.

Though Jones certainly has the physical tools to be an impact player, his draft stock has never quite regained that early momentum. Indeed, 12 months after his gangbusters college debut, Jones had NBA talent evaluators scratching their heads.

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Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Tyler Zeller, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Thursday: Terrence Jones.)

For a player characterized as a known commodity and a low-risk, moderate-reward type, Tyler Zeller defies easy categorization. No one would dare call him an elite athlete, yet perhaps his most outstanding trait is his ability to beat defenders downcourt in transition, where he converts at a high rate. While he wasn’t the shot-blocker that North Carolina teammate John Henson was, he swatted away more than two other prospects the Pistons will consider with the ninth pick, high-end athletes Arnett Moultrie and Perry Jones III.

Thought to be a finished product after four years in Chapel Hill, what do scouts make of the fact that Zeller bumped up his rebounding numbers significantly from his junior to senior seasons, averaging 9.6 a game – up from 7.2 as a junior in nearly identical minutes – despite battling ACC leader Henson on his own team for missed shots?

What more can Zeller add to his game in the NBA?

More – and more versatile – scoring, for starters, he says.

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Posted Tuesday, June 19, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at John Henson, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Wednesday: Tyler Zeller.)

Coming out of high school in Tampa three years ago, John Henson had few peers. He was a virtually unanimous top-five prospect, right there with a group that included three players who would be top-five NBA picks after their freshman seasons: John Wall, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins.

But Henson arrived at North Carolina weighing 183 pounds on a 6-foot-10 frame and many projected him as a small forward because of that spindly build. After three largely productive seasons in Chapel Hill, perhaps the number most important to Henson is 33. That’s how many pounds he’s managed to gain since, giving NBA executives picking in the 2012 lottery at least some tangible evidence he can continue to gain the strength necessary to play power forward in the world’s most competitive basketball league, where weaknesses are soon spotted and exploited.

If the Pistons are reasonably comfortable with Henson’s ability to handle his one-on-one matchup with the likes of Josh Smith, David West, Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand – among the premier power forwards in the Eastern Conference he’d have to guard – then they probably wouldn’t endure much hesitation in picking Henson among a group of big men who figure to be in range for the No. 9 pick in the June 28 draft.

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Posted Monday, June 18, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Jared Sullinger, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Tuesday: John Henson.)

If the fundamental question with Perry Jones III is why his college production didn’t match his scintillating talent level, it’s the reverse with Jared Sullinger: What chance is there, given Sullinger’s limited athleticism, that his superb college production will carry over to the NBA?

Sullinger is at the opposite end of the continuum from Jones, both as an athlete and, so far, as a basketball player.

Sullinger was a first-team All-American as both a freshman and sophomore at Ohio State. Considered a lock to go in the top 10 of the 2011 draft, Sullinger chose to return to Columbus with the stated intention of winning a national championship. He helped carry the Buckeyes to the Final Four, where they lost to Kansas in the semifinals.

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Posted Friday, June 15, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Perry Jones III, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Monday: Jared Sullinger.)

The players held up as the model for what Perry Jones III can become range from LaMarcus Aldridge to Tracy McGrady to Paul George and every other very tall, outrageously athletic and ridiculously talented player the NBA has recently seen. It’s a pretty short list, because players who come with a ribbon wrapped around that tantalizing package are few and far between. The player he says he most resembles: Kevin Durant.

“Not so much scoring-wise – he’s the greatest scorer,” Jones said at last week’s Chicago NBA draft combine. “I’m not going to put myself on that level. But just because of my height, my length and my skill. Kevin Durant can put it on the floor and he loves to get to that mid-range game.”

So why is Perry Jones III, who was lauded as perhaps a No. 1 overall pick before ever suiting up at Baylor in the fall of 2010, suddenly in danger of sliding out of the top 10 after two college seasons?

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Posted Thursday, June 14, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Meyers Leonard, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Friday: Perry Jones III.)

To call Meyers Leonard’s name with the ninth pick on June 28 would be a leap of faith for Joe Dumars, one based on where the Pistons believe he will be a year or two or three from now more than where the Illinois 7-footer is today. Yet given the leap Leonard made from freshman to sophomore seasons in college, perhaps not all that big a leap for the Pistons.

Leonard played just eight minutes a game as an Illinois freshman, but 32 as a sophomore when he averaged 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds for the traditional Big Ten power that wilted late, missing the NCAA tournament and getting Bruce Weber fired as coach. Despite the staggering finish for the Illini, Leonard continued his upward arc, averaging 17.4 points and 9.2 rebounds over his final five games with a tournament bid at stake.

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Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at Arnett Moultrie, one of seven big men who could be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. Coming Thursday: Meyers Leonard.)

If Joe Dumars wrote a formal job description for the ideal power forward to pair next to Greg Monroe, Arnett Moultrie would check off nearly every item on his list.

At one-quarter inch shy of 6-foot-11 and one of only three players at the Chicago draft combine to record a maximum vertical reach of 12 feet or better, the Mississippi State junior has the length and willowy athleticism that would seem the textbook complement to Monroe, who for all of his strengths is not yet a menacing rim protector.

Who thinks Moultrie meshes ideally with Monroe? Well, Moultrie, for one.

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Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons continues a 14-part draft series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at seven players who could be upset picks on draft night. Coming Wednesday: A look at Arnett Moultrie, one of seven big men in the mix to be the ninth pick.)

The two players in whom the Pistons have invested so much of their future were never supposed to be Pistons. Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight stand as stark reminders that the predraft consensus is just that – the collective opinions of 30 teams, which blends disparate views. When a team is on the clock, the only consensus that matters is the one reached by its personnel executives, and two years ago Golden State – perhaps alone among NBA teams – thought Ekpe Udoh a better prospect than Greg Monroe.

In the opener of our True Blue Pistons 14-part draft series, we looked at four players that the consensus holds will be long gone by the time the Pistons pick ninth: Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal. There are two other players considered likely to be gone: UConn freshman big man Andre Drummond and North Carolina sophomore small forward Harrison Barnes.

But there’s a chance either one could tumble to ninth in much the way Knight, projected to go as high as No. 3 to Utah or, more likely, No. 5 to Toronto, fell to eighth and the Pistons in 2011. If Golden State taking Udoh was the triggering event for Monroe to fall to the Pistons in 2010, it was Cleveland taking Tristan Thompson No. 4 a year ago that sent Knight to the Pistons.

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Posted Monday, June 11, 2012

(Editor’s note: True Blue Pistons today starts a 14-part draft series leading to the June 28 draft with a look at the consensus top-four players – the only players certain to be gone before the Pistons pick at No. 9 in the first round. Coming Tuesday: A look at seven off-the-radar prospects for the No. 9 pick.)

Barring the improbability of a trade that vaults the Pistons from No. 9 into the top four of the June 28 draft, Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal will not be wearing their hat while striking a pose with David Stern on draft night.

It’s not quite as absolute that Robinson, Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal will be the next three players off the board after New Orleans makes Davis the No. 1 pick as it is that Davis, in fact, will be the No. 1 pick. It’s possible Andre Drummond goes as high as No. 2 to Charlotte. It’s possible Cleveland would take Drummond or Harrison Barnes at No. 4 if Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal go 2-3.

But it is unthinkable that any one of Robinson, Kidd-Gilchrist or Beal would slide all the way past Sacramento, Portland, Golden State and Toronto – teams holding picks 5 through 8 – to the Pistons.

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Posted Thursday, June 7, 2012

CHICAGO – The first day of the NBA draft combine did little to dispel the pervasive sense that there is very little certain about the 2012 draft beyond Anthony Davis going No. 1 to New Orleans.

Who might go No. 2? Six months ago, the overwhelming consensus pointed to Andre Drummond, who was viewed as a prospect with perhaps even more upside than Davis at that point. He’s been compared to the likes of Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire, but a lackluster freshman year at UConn also drew less flattering comparisons to names like Kwame Brown or Emeka Okafor.

But it’s clear that Drummond’s side – his agent is Rob Pelinka, the former teammate of Michigan’s Fab Five who also represents Kobe Bryant among many high-profile NBA stars – doesn’t believe he’ll slide very far on June 28. Drummond told me he’ll work out for five teams without identifying them – “you’ll find out next week,” he said – but here’s a pretty good guess: Charlotte, Washington, Cleveland, Sacramento and Portland. Those are the teams that hold the second through sixth picks, three spots ahead of the Pistons.

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Posted Thursday, May 31, 2012

A year ago, when we were pondering the possibilities for the Pistons with their pick at No. 8, I looked back at the 2010 draft and detailed why it’s not only where a team is slotted in the lottery that determines whom it will pick but also the order of the teams that pick ahead of it.

Maybe only Minnesota picking No. 4 would have taken Wesley Johnson, leaving DeMarcus Cousins to Sacramento at No. 5, where the Kings most likely would have taken Greg Monroe had Cousins been gone. Maybe only Golden State among all other NBA teams would have taken Ekpe Udoh at No. 6, leaving Monroe to the Pistons. It took Golden State getting bumped back a pick, too, to prevent the Warriors from their shot at Cousins.

So let’s apply that sort of analysis to the 2012 lottery, which played to form except for one minor blip: New Orleans moved up from No. 4 to No. 1, bumping the favored 1-2-3 teams down a notch.

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Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Joe Dumars and Lawrence Frank might have briefly fantasized about the impact that adding Anthony Davis to their young core would have had on the Pistons, but the 1.7 percent chance of it becoming reality steered their preparation for 2012-13 and beyond in other directions.

The Pistons will pick No. 9 in the June 28 draft after the lottery played to form. Other than New Orleans jumping from No. 4 to No. 1 – pushing Charlotte, Washington and Cleveland down a spot apiece – there was no disruption in the 1-14 order. That means they’ll go into overdrive starting now to set up individual workouts for the candidates who fall within that range – with the emphasis on big men, considered the strength of the 2012 draft.

“I think the depth from the bigs this year is a little deeper, so just from a depth standpoint it probably gives you more of a chance,” Dumars said by phone from New York, where the lottery was held. “It’s going to come down to who that guy is - those guys coming in to work out and sitting down to interview to see if any of those guys are a fit for you.”

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Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars spoke with local media Wednesday, May 30 following the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery. The Pistons hold the 9th overall pick for the 2012 NBA Draft on June 28.

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