LAS VEGAS – What are the Pistons getting in Jordan Bone? In their view, a first-round pick.
“Our scouts saw him all year. For us, we thought he was a first-round talent,” said Gregg Polinsky, Pistons director of player personnel. “It happens every year. There’s guys that I’m shocked (go late or undrafted). No knock at any other team because they might look at us and say the same.”
Bone, 21, blew away the competition in athletic testing at the NBA draft combine in May. He was No. 1 among all athletes in lane agility, shuttle run and standing vertical; second by one-half inch in maximum vertical; and fourth, four one-hundredths of a second off of first, in the sprint.
That wasn’t a tipping point for the Pistons, but it affirmed what they saw all season as Bone led Tennessee to a 31-6 record and a stay at No. 1 at mid-season. Bone, a junior, averaged 13.5 points and a team-leading 5.8 assists. He led a team that included draft picks Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield in minutes played and shot .465 overall and .355 from the 3-point arc.
The Pistons went into the draft with the 45th pick, in the middle of the second round. They used that pick and two of four future second-rounders they picked up from Cleveland by dealing out of the 30th pick – one they acquired the night before the draft from Milwaukee while adding Tony Snell in exchange for Jon Leuer – to get the 37th pick, taking Lithuanian teen Deividas Sirvydis there.
When Bone slipped past the 45th pick, the Pistons might have winced. When he was still available into the 50s, they got busy, calling all the teams with picks to gauge interest in trading for one to use on Bone.
“Let’s just say any player sitting there on the board that you had ranked in your first round and is available – and possesses qualities that are hard to find in this league,” Polinsky said. “To have a speed guard, to have a guy that has elite quickness … we laugh, to go from zero to 60 like that,” and here Polinsky raises his hand at a sharp upward angle. “There’s certain car brands, you step on the gas, they get there really quick.”
Polinsky is close to Tennessee coach Rick Barnes, “and he thinks the world of him.” One of the Pistons college scouts, Maury Hanks, is based in Knoxville, Tenn., and saw plenty of Bone as he scouted SEC teams that came through town.
Because the pick used to take Bone was involved in the convoluted Anthony Davis trade, the acquisition of Bone didn’t become official until Sunday after the moratorium period lifted on Saturday and the NBA began clearing the backlog of transactions. Bone has been with the Pistons in Summer League but has been unable to practice or participate in the first two games.
“Credit to our guys in the draft room that night,” Polinsky said of the scramble to find a trade partner with a pick in the 50s. “Everybody was working the phones. We were scrambling. (Assistant general manager) Malik Rose happened to be the guy that got it done. When it came together, we were very excited about it. It’s another young player. We’re trying to grow this organization and be competitive and at the same time get some young guys that have some sizzle to them and can help us in the future to sustain a winning culture.”