Big Ten stars Livers, Garza highlight Pistons second-round picks
Justin Casterline (NBAE/Getty)
The Pistons didn’t have to travel far to scout their first pick of the NBA draft’s second round, Michigan’s Isaiah Livers. Livers, a Kalamazoo native and Michigan’s 2017 Mr. Basketball, was taken with the 42nd overall pick – the first of three second-round picks the Pistons carried into the draft.
They stayed in the Big Ten for their pick at 52, as well, grabbing national Player of the Year Luka Garza, and finished their night by taking 7-footer Balsa Koprivica, a Serbian native who spent the past two seasons at Florida State.
Livers, 23, spent four seasons at Michigan, starting 69 of 119 career games, and averaged 13.1 points and 6.0 rebounds a game in his senior season, one ended after 23 games by a foot injury that cost him the opportunity to compete with the Wolverines in the NCAA tournament. Livers is an outstanding shooter who hit 43.1 percent from the 3-point arc and 87 percent from the 3-point line.
He’ll likely be a candidate to sign a two-way contract – that’s what Saben Lee, the 38th pick in the 2020 draft, signed for his rookie season with the Pistons – and play much of the 2021-22 season with the Motor City Cruise, who debut as the Pistons G League affiliate this fall in a new arena on the campus of Wayne State University. Garza and Koprivica could also be candidates for that type of deal, though each NBA team is limited to two two-way contracts.
The man who recruited Livers to Michigan out of Kalamazoo Central High, John Beilein, now serves as the Pistons senior adviser for player development. Beilein is renowned for his ability as a shooting instructor and all-around offensive innovator and helped Livers develop into a career 41 percent 3-point shooter at Michigan who projects as a weapon in catch-and-shoot situations and was especially deadly from the corners, a staple of Dwane Casey’s offense.
Garza, like Livers, was a four-year college player who put up eye-popping numbers for the Hawkeyes. Garza, 22, averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds as a junior and 24.1 points and 8.7 rebounds as an Iowa senior, starting 118 of 127 games over his career. Garza swept the national player of the year awards – Wooden, Naismith, NABC, Associated Press, The Sporting News.
Koprivica, 21, came to the United States in 2015 to play high school basketball in Florida, eventually winding up at Montverde Academy – where Cunningham also played. At Florida State last season, he averaged 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in 20 minutes a game.
The Pistons went into the draft holding picks 37, 42 and 52 but before the draft’s 8 p.m. start and their selection of Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick, they executed a trade – which can’t become official until after the NBA moratorium lifts on August 6 – that saw them ship 37 to Charlotte in exchange for the 57th pick.
Livers, 6-foot-7¼, gives the Pistons another young wing player with great size to go with Cunningham, Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey, Josh Jackson and Hamidou Diallo. The Pistons won’t have more than a few roster spots available for rookies, barring significant trade movement, after accounting for the relatively few free-agent departures expected and the need to add veteran free agents to fill needs at point guard and among their corps of big men.
But if they create the space to accommodate their three second-round rookies, they’ll be making way for players with plenty of experience under their belts.