The Pistons began the NBA’s 2020-21 business year with zero second-round picks and emerged from it with three. The likelihood of them actually exercising all three of them a week from tonight when the NBA draft goes down? Probably somewhere around the NBA’s collective 3-point percentage, 36.7 percent. Maybe lower than that.
And the likelihood of the Pistons carrying four drafted rookies on their roster next season as they did last? Practically nil.
They won’t have the roster space, almost certainly. Of the few spots available, one will certainly go to the player the Pistons draft with the No. 1 pick next week and one or two more to veteran free agents signed to fill specific needs and better balance the roster from both a skills and experience standpoint.
There’s nothing unusual about teams engaging in draft-night trades that see second-round picks flipped elsewhere. The second-rounders the Pistons hold currently came from Brooklyn in the Bruce Brown trade, from New York in the Derrick Rose trade and from Sacramento in the Delon Wright trade. Their own second-round pick was traded on draft night two years ago.
It says something about the fungibility of second-round picks that none of the three incoming are originally picks from the Pistons’ trade partner. The Brooklyn pick comes from Toronto and will be 37th overall. The New York pick belonged to Charlotte and will be 42nd overall. The Sacramento pick was routed from the Los Angeles Lakers and will be 52nd overall.
Historically, picks in the 30s yield two or three players from most drafts that wind up having long, successful NBA careers. Since 2009, the Pistons have drafted a number of players in the 30s who made a mark. Khris Middleton, the 39th pick in 2012 who helped Milwaukee to the 2021 NBA title and will join the United States Olympic team in Tokyo, stands out. The Pistons had to throw him in as the sweetener in the 2013 exchange of point guards that sent Brandon Knight to the Bucks for Brandon Jennings.
Other players the Pistons drafted in the 30s since then include Jonas Jerebko (39, 2009), Kyle Singler (33, 2011) and Spencer Dinwiddie (38, 2014). The list of players they’ve drafted in the 30s since then who had little to no NBA impact includes DaJuan Summers (35, 2009), Terrico White (36, 2010), Tony Mitchell (37, 2013), Darrun Hilliard (38, 2015) and Khyri Thomas (38, 2019).
Rookie Deividas Sirvydis, the 37th pick in 2019, had a strong finish to the 2020-21 season and Saben Lee, the 38th pick in 2020, is part of the group Pistons general manager Troy Weaver calls the “core four” along with 2020 first-rounders Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey.
The deeper you get into the second round, generally, the longer the odds of finding a player who sticks and leaves a mark. Brown was the 42nd pick in 2018 and should stir some interest on the free-agent market this summer. The only other players the Pistons have drafted since 2009 in the 40s were Kim English (44, 2012) and Michael Gbinije (49, 2016).
The 2014 draft had an interesting four-player run that began with the Pistons’ selection of Dinwiddie, whose college season had ended with a January knee injury that caused him to slide. The next three players taken have all gone on to meaningful to spectacular NBA careers: Jerami Grant at 39, Glenn Robinson III at 40 and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic at 41. The four players who went immediately ahead of them: Cleanthony Early, Jarnell Stokes, Johnny O’Bryant and DeAndre Daniels. Yeah, it’s a crapshoot.
In the 50s, it’s pretty much throwing darts. The Pistons have drafted 10 players in the 50s since 2000 and the only one who enjoyed a fruitful NBA career was Amir Johnson, the 58th pick in 2005 – the last draft for high school players to be eligible. Johnson had signed with Louisville but was ruled academically ineligible, pushing him to enter the draft.
So if the expectation is that the Pistons aren’t going to draft three players they intend to be part of the 2021-22 roster, what are the possibilities? They could trade one or more picks for future second-rounders, an option that grows in appeal given the fact the Pistons have traded all of their second-round picks through 2027, though they have picks coming from elsewhere in both 2023 and ’24.
The pick at 37 could probably yield two future second-rounders. That was the price the Pistons paid to acquire the 38th pick two years ago from Philadelphia, using it for Thomas.The Pistons could also use the pick and sign that player to a two-way contract as they did with Lee last season. The pick at 42 could also yield two future second-round picks, perhaps, though it’s a little less certain of its value given the typical cutoff range for expected outcomes at that point of the draft.
Another possibility is to use at least one of the picks on an international player who would continue to play overseas and develop rather than immediately occupying a precious roster spot for 2021-22. But the ranks got thinned last week with several prospects withdrawing from the draft. Among them were a handful or more who were projected anywhere from the late first round into the 50s: Roko Prkacin, Carlos Alocen, Malcolm Cazalon, Olek Balcerowski, Ibou Badji and Gabriele Procida.
We’ll take a look at some of the players remaining in the draft as potential second-round prospects next week.