NEW YORK – Joe Dumars set the tone for the Pistons – who’ve spent the last three years in the lottery, their longest tenure in ping-pong paradise since 1993-95 – during Detroit’s first non-playoff season of the current run.
“When you’re talking about the lottery and what could have happened and if you would have gotten a ball, it’s kind of a bogus conversation anyway to be like, ‘Oh my God, the lottery, we could have …,’” Dumars told Dave Pemberton of The Oakland Press in 2010. “First of all, you’re pissed off that you’re in the lottery in the first place, so the fact that I’m going to sit there like, ‘Oh, you know, we could have won this.’”
After tonight’s lottery – in which the Pistons, seeded to pick ninth, drew the ninth pick – I asked Brandon Knight, the Pistons’ on-stage representative at the event, what he thought about staying at No. 9.
“It’s a good position to be in,” Knight said. “We’re still in the lottery.”
Apparently, he hasn’t learned the company line.
For now, the sound bites don’t matter. I’m sure neither Dumars nor Knight was pleased with the Pistons’ season, and no matter how they spin the resultant draft pick, nothing real changes.
Earlier in the day, Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie evaluated each team’s on-stage representatives. Here’s what he wrote about Knight and the Pistons:
9. Detroit Pistons — Brandon Knight.
Who they should have picked? Eh.
It’s the NBA’s most boring team, picking near the end of yet another lottery. Outside of springing Kwame Kilpatrick from jail to take part, and giving him a series of energy drinks along the way, I just can’t really be bothered to care.
Humorous? Yes. Accurate? Also, yes.
Nationally, the Pistons are irrelevant. Short of winning more – either games or the lottery – that won’t change. Unfortunately, the next lottery is a year away, and winning games will prove difficult as a result of tonight.
“I’m sure we’ll still get a good player, even at No. 9,” Knight continued. “Whoever comes here, we’re going to welcome him, and they’re going to be part of the Pistons family, and we’re going to get ready to work.”
I don’t doubt the second part of that quote. The Pistons’ locker room, by all appearances, is incredibly more functional than it was just two years ago. Whoever the Pistons pick will have an opportunity to develop in a professional environment.
But still getting a good player is far from a lock.
Obviously, Anthony Davis was the ultimate prize, but due to their better play in the second half and poor luck tonight, the Pistons won’t even get a crack at the next tier of prospects. Many claim there’s little difference between picking No. 2 and No. 9.
I don’t buy it.
There are five players, without considering where they’re picked, who I’d love to draft: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson, Andre Drummond and Harrison Barnes. There are two more players who would satisfy me with the No. 9 pick: Bradley Beal and John Henson.
Obviously, those are just seven players – meaning, unless at least two teams picking ahead of Detroit take others, the Pistons won’t even have a chance to draft a player I find satisfactory.
Everyone has their own preferences in prospects, but try the exercise yourself. No matter whom you want, can you name nine players you’d truly be pleased to see the Pistons draft in the first round? I’m guessing you most of you can’t.
I hope Joe Dumars can, but I’m guessing he can’t, either. Once again, Detroit must hope some non-desirable players climb into the top eight.
More importantly the Pistons must rely on their current players to improve – a prospect that scares me. I’m just not convinced this group has championship-contender upside without significant outside help.
More than anyone else, Knight bears the burden of proving me wrong.
Greg Monroe can get much better, but he’s already close to All-Star caliber. Jonas Jerebko, because of his style, and Rodney Stuckey, because of his age, are probably closer to their peaks than most realize. And I have little faith Austin Daye will make big strides.
But Knight, a talented hard-worker with ideal physical skills, can get much better. He was one of the NBA’s worst starting point guards this year, though that’s somewhat excusable given his age, the lockout and his teammates. My opinion of Knight hasn’t changed since the day he was drafted. He has all the tools, but until he uses them to become a quality NBA player, he’s not a quality NBA player.
Can he get there by next year? I’m not sure, but I’m convinced he’s going to try. I also asked Knight about his summer plans.
“Just to work out in Detroit a little bit – basically just work out for the summer,” said Knight, who added his main focuses would be the pick-and-roll and preparing his body for defense – two areas I think are perfect for him hone in on.
While I asked that question, just 34 second into my interview with Knight, a Pistons media-relations official told me it would be the final question. The Pistons, sometimes frustratingly, don’t always seem concerned about receiving publicity. But like I said, winning will be much more important for the franchise than interviews – in the same way hard work trumps lottery luck for Knight, who had said he wouldn’t bring any lucky charms to New York. To Knight’s and the Pistons credit, they’re about substance over style. Eventually, though, both must actually show some substance.
Before leaving, Knight cracked wise with Kyrie Irving about that time the Pistons led Cleveland by 50 and then followed the media-relations staffer to the exit.
As Knight squeezed through a crowded studio of reporters, NBA officials and lottery-team representatives, he slowed behind a scrum of people, the type of obstacle that prevented me from reaching him sooner.
But, with a little patience, he made his way through.