Stand-Up Guys

After a season filled with drama and conflict, the Pistons doubled down on character in Thursday’s draft, following their first-round pick of Brandon Knight by grabbing Duke’s Kyle Singler early in the second round.

“It was reflected in the picks,” Pistons vice president Scott Perry said of the value the Pistons placed on citizenship. “Character was obviously of utmost importance to us and I think you win with character. That’s what this organization has historically done. To get two guys, such high-class individuals where we were able to get them (and) both kind of slid into our range. Going into the day, we probably didn’t expect either one would be at either of those picks.”

The Pistons finished the draft by taking Florida’s Vernon Macklin at 52, another player Perry said exuded selflessness. Macklin, 6-foot-10, played two years at Georgetown but saw little time because he was behind Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert, then transferred to Florida where he averaged 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds as a senior and began stirring the interest of NBA scouts with a new-found scoring flair during the NCAA tournament.

The Pistons went into the draft, Perry said, looking to add a big man, a small forward and a point guard. The surprise was the order, taking Knight in the lottery and a big man with their last pick. But the common denominator with all three is that their talent was matched by their character.

“I think we’ve taken some major steps in doing that tonight,” Perry said. “We all feel great about that. I think it’s important going forward to continue to enhance our culture here, because when you get guys that are used to winning, used to sacrificing, about the right things, I think good things will happen and you set yourself up for an opportunity to win.”

Singler was a four-year starter at Duke, averaging 16.9 points and 6.8 rebounds as a senior and earning high praise from Mike Krzyzewski for the way he morphed into whatever Duke needed him to be as the cast around him changed over the years. Singler had a terrific run in helping Duke to the 2010 NCAA title and nearly entered the draft after his junior season.

With Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady and DaJuan Summers all headed for free agency, Singler could have an immediate opening to a spot in the rotation. Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko will also compete for minutes at that spot, and the Pistons could also use free agency to address the position.

“That will work itself out on the court,” Perry said. “I’m not going to pencil him in anywhere right now. He’s got to come in and compete, which he’s done all his life. That’s what we expect him to do. The guy brings some toughness to the floor. You’re talking about a polished, accomplished player.”

Macklin will compete for a roster spot in a frontcourt that will feature Greg Monroe. Ben Wallace is expected to return for his final season and Charlie Villanueva will join the fray at power forward along with Jerebko and, perhaps, Daye. Jason Maxiell will back up at both center and power forward. Chris Wilcox is a free agent but might possibly be back.

Macklin piqued the Pistons’ interest on Tuesday when he was part of a workout that included lottery picks Tristan Thompson and Bismack Biyombo, first-rounder Markieff Morris and second-rounders Jordan Willians and Keith Benson.

“He came in and worked out great,” Perry said. “He definitely held his own and played well. He made an impression on us. He’s got long arms, he can block shots, he does a decent job of defending in the low post. What he really started to do, especially going through that tournament run, was show his ability to score in the low post and he’s got good hands. He really started to get his confidence back.”