John Krolik of Cavs: the blog wrote an extremely interesting piece yesterday called, “This is why the Cavaliers are terrible.” As you can probably guess, the post was about some guy named LeBron James. But it wasn’t for the reason you think.
Krolik’s argument: After LeBron, the Cavaliers became very good very quickly. That meant they didn’t have time to supplement LeBron with high picks, minimizing their chances of drafting good players.
The Pistons experienced a similar fate in the earlier part of the century. Instead of drafting a remarkable talent who immediately transformed the franchise, the Pistons did it differently. But they still went from 32 wins to winning at least 50 games the next seven seasons.
That’s a long time without having a poor enough record to land a high draft pick.* It’s mighty difficult to stay competitive with that disadvantage. Just the Mavericks and Spurs won 50 games each of those seven seasons, and they’ve only remained contenders because the Mavericks are willing to pay the luxury tax and the Spurs are the model franchise.
*Although, the Pistons lucked into a No. 2 pick during this run. You might have heard about it. It didn’t go so well.
Krolik targeted post-LeBron drafts and found seven years of gaining little in the draft. The Pistons’ run of relatively fruitless drafts lasted just six years, so they’ve got that going for them.
Let’s inspect what happened:
- No. 2 Darko Milicic – never panned out in Detroit, traded for a pick that became Rodney Stuckey
- No. 25 Carlos Delfino – played OK in Detroit, dumped to the Raptors for a pick that later became Jonas Jerebko
- No. 58 Andreas Glyniadakas – never signed with the Pistons, played 13 career NBA games (with the Seattle Sonics)
- No. 54 Rickey Paulding – never reached the NBA
- No. 26 Jason Maxiell – in and out of the Pistons rotation, currently out
- No. 56 Amir Johnson – showed some promise with the Pistons, dumped to the Raptors for cap relief
- No. 60 Alex Acker – served as a benchwarmer in two stints with the Pistons, didn’t stick in the NBA
- No. 60 Will Blalock – played 14 games with the Pistons before bouncing around NBDL and overseas
- No. 15 Rodney Stuckey – became one of the Pistons’ starting guards
- No. 27 Arron Afflalo – dumped with Walter Sharpe to the Nuggets for a second-round pick and cap relief
- No. 32 Walter Sharpe – dumped with Arron Afflalo to the Nuggets for a second-round pick and cap relief
- No. 46 Trent Plaisted – renounced, never played in NBA
- No. 59 Deron Washington – waived, never played in NBA
In this time span, the Pistons also traded their first-round pick three times:
- 2004 – helped to land Rasheed Wallace, whom the Pistons eventually let walk in free agency
- 2006 – helped to land Carlos Arroyo, whom the Pistons later threw in with Darko in the Magic trade
- 2008 – traded for Sharpe and Plaisted
That leaves the Pistons with three players they drafted or acquired by trading one of their first-round picks during this span – Stuckey, Maxiell and Jerebko. From the seven years Krolik examined, Cleveland is left with Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson and Christian Eyenga. Which group would you rather have?
To close, this post isn’t meant solely to criticize Joe Dumars. This haul is based on a number of factors – circumstance (winning 56 games per season during this span, which leads to lower draft picks), poor drafting (Darko) and failure to retain successful picks (Afflalo, Johnson and, perhaps, Delfino).
Strong drafts in 2010 (Greg Monroe) and 2009 (Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko) have the Pistons back on track, but going so long without adding young talent via the draft was obviously a setback Detroit is still working to overcome.