‘Best player available’ will guide Pistons draft, but Casey sees potential point guard starters

Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose is the only veteran point guard under contract to the Pistons for the 2020-21 NBA season.
Rocky Widner (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

The Pistons need a point guard. This draft, for all its flaws, is at least deep in point guards. And this draft, the way it shapes up, might provide the Pistons their best opportunity to get their point guard for the next generation.

Four of ESPN.com’s top 10 prospects are point guards – LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Halliburton, Killian Hayes and R.J. Hampton. Another handful will be considered for the lottery. It’s possible – probable, even – that the Pistons like one among them better than one or more of the perceived top four.

Now consider a few other factors. One, the Pistons go into the August 25 lottery in the No. 5 slot; two, the four teams ahead of them – Golden State, Cleveland, Minnesota and Atlanta – have varying degrees of logic to draft at any other position given their current rosters and situations.

No lock that the Pistons draft a point guard, mind you. They’re in position to draft a player at any spot. Should they get the No. 1 pick and agree with the loose consensus that Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards is the top prospect, the fact that shooting guard – Edwards’ spot – is their deepest spot wouldn’t dissuade them from drafting him.

But in a draft where so little separates the top prospects, point guards will win the many tiebreakers in most scenarios as the Pistons go on the clock.

“That is a very important position,” Dwane Casey said last week. “To grow as a team, we have to have a starting point guard whether it’s through the draft or free agency to help our players – because if your point guard is growing and developing, that stunts the growth of everybody else.”

Casey, in keeping with the drift of the NBA, values point guards dearly. He’d love to have three of them he could turn to in any circumstance, as he did in Toronto with Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright; he often played all three simultaneously. He spoke adoringly of Oklahoma City’s roster last season with Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

So expect the Pistons to sign at least one quality point guard in free agency – go back and read Casey’s comment; he wants a veteran pilot with his hand on the control stick – to pair with Derrick Rose no matter what happens on draft night, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 15, three days ahead of free agency. They won’t draft a point guard and pencil him in for 25 minutes a game unless he earns it.

But Casey, who’s had far more time than customary during the prolonged absence of basketball to study draft prospects, has some degree of confidence that the Pistons can find a player good enough to be a starting-caliber point guard, not immediately but within a reasonable time frame.

“There’s a lot of point guards, if we go that route, that are capable of that,” he said. “There’s no decision been made as far as what position we’re going to go with because there’s some quality players that are going to be available in that area – and there’s definitely point guards in that area. There’s an abundance of guys that fit that bill and you have confidence in that can be somebody you can build around if that’s the direction we go.”

The most important thing for this draft is that the Pistons come away with a player they feel can grow into a quality starter. Reaching to fill an immediate need is never an advisable draft strategy, but it’s especially true in a year where there might not be more than a handful of such players. So the Pistons can’t, and won’t, force it by drafting the best point guard. They’ve got to look for the best player. It just so happens this year – if Casey is right in his draft assessment, at least – that fit and talent will line up for the Pistons.

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