In a wide-open draft, Pistons could benefit as teams ahead of them zero in on roster fit

James Wiseman
Memphis freshman James Wiseman is one of the contenders to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft.
Steven Dykes/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

At some point, there will be a draft. Before that, at some point, there will be a draft lottery.

In most drafts, the lottery has a modest impact on the order of the players coming off the board. In this one, it could be the difference between someone going first or fifth ... or sixth, seventh or eighth.

For the 2013 draft – the recent draft that feels most comparable to the 2020 edition, which lacks a consensus top player or two – in which Anthony Bennett wound up going No. 1 to Cleveland, there was a similar lack of clarity. In the hour leading to the draft, the Pistons front office took a call from Bennett's frenzied agency hoping to get a commitment that they wouldn't let Bennett get past them. The Pistons were drafting eighth that year.

So, yeah, everybody other than a handful of Cavs employees – everybody – was clueless how that draft would unfold once it was called to order.

Bennett played for four franchises over four seasons, scored 658 career points and has been out of the league for three years. The Pistons took Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at No. 8. Giannis Antetokounmpo was the 15th pick.

If the Pistons were to get the No. 1 pick, I doubt we'd know the identity of their addition until Adam Silver steps to the podium – hopefully not from his basement, a la Roger Goodell – and makes the announcement.

If the Pistons were to stay where they are – at 20-46, they were in the No. 5 spot in lottery odds when the season was suspended following their March 11 loss at Philadelphia – then it's anyone's guess who'd be off the board after four picks.

For all of the uncertainty, it appears that Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards is the favorite to be the top pick and LaMelo Bell and James Wiseman are the top challengers and likely to be 2-3 or 3-2. But no one would bet even money on either end of that equation.

When there’s a Zion Williamson, Anthony Davis or LeBron James on top of the draft, it doesn’t matter who wins the lottery – and it doesn’t matter what the rosters of any potential lottery winner look like.

In years like this one, the order very much matters and the rosters of the teams picking come into play.

And that last nugget – that rosters will matter this year more than ever – could possibly benefit the Pistons. Teams more willing to draft for roster fit might allow a more talented player to slip down a rung or two. The Pistons probably aren’t one of the teams that will pay much (or any) attention to their roster when it’s time to exercise their pick.

If Cleveland were to be picking ahead of the Pistons, for one example, after having traded for Andre Drummond and using lottery picks for guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland the last two years, would the Cavs be more likely to draft a stretch four like Obi Toppin or a wing like Deni Avdija than a Ball or a Wiseman?

We’ll take a closer look at making the case for the best player regardless of position – looking at positions across the board – in Thursday and Friday’s blog.

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