Ben Wallace was the lucky charm when he represented the Pistons in the 2021 NBA draft lottery where they landed the No. 1 pick and the right to draft Cade Cunningham. Karma caught up to him – and the Pistons – on his return trip to the lottery.
The Pistons wound up with their worst possible outcome, falling to fifth, with San Antonio winning the No. 1 pick followed by Charlotte, Portland and Houston. They’ve been a part of 16 lotteries over the 39-year history of the system and moved up exactly once, 2021.
But general manager Troy Weaver says he wasn’t crestfallen by the result because he had no expectations coming into the lottery – and he’s confident the Pistons will get a value pick commensurate with what happened last year when the fifth pick yielded Jaden Ivey, who had a dynamic rookie season.
“My grandfather said the man who expects nothing can’t be disappointed, so I’m not disappointed,” Weaver said from Chicago where he’s attending the NBA draft combine. “It’s not one or bust. I’m watching LeBron James, who was (the first pick), who’s been a tremendous player, but he’s playing against (Nikola) Jokic who was 41 and back-to-back MVPs.”
The silver lining for the Pistons is that the strength of the draft through the middle of the lottery is in wing players who fit a roster need. The big prize, of course, is 7-foot-5 French teen Victor Wembanyama, who’ll shake commissioner Adam Silver’s hand June 22 wearing a Spurs cap. Other players almost certain to be off the board when the Pistons go on the clock with the fifth pick are G League Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson and Alabama wing Brandon Miller.
Charlotte, Portland and Houston also will pick ahead of the Pistons. Among the prospects who figure to be on Weaver’s short list include the 6-foot-7 Thompson twins, Amen and Ausar, of Overtime Elite; 6-foot-7 Cam Whitmore, a Villanova freshman; and 6-foot-8 Jarace Walker, a Houston freshman.
“You look at where we’re picking, a lot of the strength of the draft is wings,” Weaver said. “We’ll make sure we add something that fits us, has the same attitude and mentality to grow with the group. I owe it to those guys in the locker room to bring in a guy that fits and come in and work and want to be a part of what we’re doing in Detroit. So, absolutely, I’m excited about that.”
Weaver alluded to Wembanyama being the cream of the draft crop, saying, “We like the draft. We think it’s another high-end draft where there’s a lot of high-end talent at the top. Obviously, one was a different tier. But we’re excited about where we are to add another young player to our core.
“I think you can get a very good player at five. I like the talent pool. I think you could scramble it up pretty much from three to eight and we’re in that range at five. We’re excited to land there and get another young player.”