In the pre-COVID world, the NBA draft was 11 days ago and the Pistons are now preparing for this week’s Summer League tipoff in Las Vegas with their new lottery pick.
An important piece in the rebuilding has been added, slotting in next to Sekou Doumbouya, still nearly six months away from turning 20. The Pistons will come out of Las Vegas with a snapshot of where their two youngest players stand and formulate a development plan for the rest of their summer.
Instead in the world still at the mercy of a pandemic, they await word on whether the NBA – consumed with relaunching the 2019-20 season in Orlando amid spiking Florida cases of the novel coronavirus – will permit the eight teams, the Pistons among them, whose seasons have ended to engage in any summer competition beyond individual workouts.
And they scout … and scout … and scout in advance of the Oct. 16 draft, still 102 days off.
If the Pistons could order their ideal draft prospect from central casting, it likely would be a rangy point guard with deep shooting range, playmaking chops and charismatic leadership qualities.
They might have to settle for one or two of those qualities – at point guard or elsewhere. Everyone from owner Tom Gores through the front office and on to Dwane Casey and his staff are aware that once a franchise chooses to rebuild, as the Pistons have, it might take a few trips to the lottery before a transition to phase two can begin. But if you don’t get the lottery right, it could take many more than a few trips to begin that transition.
So above all else, the Pistons must come out of the October draft, where they’ll have a top-nine pick guaranteed with a 42 percent chance of landing a top-four pick, as certain as can be that they’ve added a player good enough to be in the rotation for any NBA team within a two- to three-year window.
Weaver stated his draft philosophy pretty concisely last month. At the top of the draft, he said, you make sure you understand the character of the person. If you nail that, the basketball part follows. Later in the draft, when attractive options dwindle, you’re more willing to overlook a wart, be it a character flaw, a physical attribute or a lacking skill.
The Pistons will have vastly more information at their fingertips than what fans can find in media reports and video clips, but the breadth of that information available might provide useful breadcrumbs if you’re parsing Weaver’s words.
The players considered top 10 prospects who consistently draw high marks for personality traits – based on the views of sources ranging from their college coaches to anonymous NBA scouts or personnel executives – include Isaac Okoro, Onyeka Okongwu and Tyrese Halliburton. None of them are considered consensus top-four prospects, so it might not require the Pistons hitting in the August 25 lottery in order to add one.
As the lone point guard in the group, Halliburton might hold special appeal. Versatile wing defenders with the makeup and potential to be elite at that end are always in demand, elevating Okoro’s stock. Big men might be devalued, but athletic ones who can defend from the 3-point line to the rim still hold appeal and that’s Okongwu’s profile.
None of that means the homework the Pistons have already logged prior to Weaver’s arrival, now augmented and colored by his expertise, doesn’t also give high marks for character to others. And being the likeliest Eagle Scout of the group might not overcome advantages another prospect might accrue in other areas. If Weaver feels like LaMelo Ball, to throw out one random example, projects as an elite starting point guard then that could well overwhelm all other options.
But Weaver’s words about getting the person right first when exercising a premium draft pick are worth bearing in mind as Oct. 16 approaches.