In case you haven’t noticed, although I’m sure you have, this has been a pretty quiet off-season for the Pistons since the draft. So, in the spirit of having something (anything) to write about, I’m going to try to help pass the time by profiling some of my favorite Pistons who never made much impact on the team despite the fact that I irrationally expected great things from them.
In the 1995 NBA Draft, the Pistons used all three of their draft picks that year to infuse some youth into their frontcourt, and at the time, there was reason to be excited about each pick.
First round pick Theo Ratliff, a relatively unknown skinny shot-blocker the Pistons took 18th overall out of Wyoming, was certainly a bit raw coming into the league, but his shot-blocking was an intriguing commodity for a Pistons team that hadn’t really had a legitimate rim protector since John Salley left town. Ratliff was in and out of then-coach Doug Collins’ doghouse as a rookie, but he did play in 75 games and 3.2 shots per 36 minutes, showing the potential that would eventually help make him an All-Star (though not in Detroit) and one of the top shot-blockers in the league during his era.
Plus, his athleticism, dunks and rattler sound effect whenever he came into the game or made a play helped make him an immediate crowd favorite.
Don Reid, who the Pistons selected 58th overall out of Georgetown, as the opposite of Ratliff. He was undersized, he went to a big college, he wasn’t particularly skilled in any one area, but he was also intelligent, well-coached and hard-working. He maximized his ability by working extremely hard, earning minutes and he even earned the trust of Collins, a coach who proved to be hesitant to play more mistake-prone young players. Reid started 46 games as a rookie for the Pistons. He wasn’t exciting or a crowd-pleaser like Ratliff, but as a starter on a team that exceeded expectations and won 46 games, Reid’s hustle was always appreciated.
Sandwiched in between those two players, however, was the real prize of that draft, at least to my naive eyes. Lou Roe, a chiseled forward out of UMass, fell to the Pistons with the first pick in the second round, 30th overall.
Roe was a key part of another of my favorite college teams. Coached by John Calipari and featuring players like Roe, Marcus Camby, Edgar Padilla, Donta Bright and Carmelo Travieso, those UMass squads were always exciting to watch. Roe averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game for his career at UMass. He was a possible first round pick had he declared for the draft after his junior year, when he averaged 18.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. His stats slipped a bit as a senior, plus questions about whether he could adjust to playing the small forward spot in the NBA, caused him to slip to the second round.
Unfortunately, those questions turned out to be legitimate ones. Roe, though a great college player, was a bit too small to guard NBA power forwards and he didn’t have the perimeter game to adjust offensively to being a small forward. He played in just 49 games as a Piston, starting to, and shot just 36 percent that season. He did have a couple of good moments — scoring 14 points with 9 rebounds in a loss to Orlando and getting 11 points and 4 rebounds in a loss to Utah — but the Pistons ultimately released him after the season. Roe played briefly in Golden State and then went on to a strong international career, playing in Spain, where he won a Spanish League MVP in 2001, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Argentina. In the spring, UMass announced that Roe would join the men’s basketball coaching staff.