As I’ve frequently said, I think Joe Dumars and the Pistons have executed their chosen plan well. I just think that plan – the main pieces being trading Ben Gordon and a first-round pick to get cap space a year earlier and signing Josh Smith – limits the Pistons’ long-term potential. In the short term, Smith makes them better than stomaching another year with Gordon would have, but keeping a pick in the 2014 draft could have been big in a few years.
Draft prognostications by Kevin Pelton of ESPN supports that theory. Here’s his methodology:
I simulated each of the next two seasons 1,000 times and applied the lottery weightings to determine how often teams could expect to have various picks. I also applied the various protections on picks that have been traded to attempt to assign them as accurately as possible. The last step was multiplying everything by the average value of each draft pick in terms of WARP based on historical performance.
The final result were these rankings, which indicate how much value each team can expect to get from its 2014 and 2015 picks during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. That last part is key — 2014 picks are more important to these rankings than 2015 picks since they will play two years (and have the opportunity to improve) within the three-year scope of the Future Power Rankings. Also note that these ratings are not adjusted for the projected strength of the 2014 draft class, which could make next year’s top picks even more valuable than they appear.
And the result:
30. Detroit Pistons (0.3 WARP from draft picks)
Part of the incentive for Detroit loading up with Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith this summer is that the Pistons owe Charlotte a top-eight protected pick this year. Since Detroit was likely to lose the pick anyway, may as well make it as bad as possible. After the upgrades, SCHOENE doesn’t see any chance of the Pistons keeping their pick.
I like the Pistons’ roster, but this illustrates Detroit’s relatively limited means of improving. Every other team in the league is projected to have an opportunity to improve more in the first round of the next two drafts. That makes it hard for the Pistons to catch the teams ahead of them and hold off the teams behind them.
But here’s the twist: This is good news. Really good news.
Which teams get the worst draft picks? The best teams.
Yes, the Pistons are low in the rankings because they will lose their 2014 pick, but they’re not the only team without a first-round pick next year. The Nets, Warriors and Pacers (lottery protected, but it’s all but assured Indiana makes the playoffs) have also traded their 2014 first rounders.
That means Pelton’s system – one I trust as much as one can trust these things – projects the Pistons will be better than the Nets, Warriors and Pacers in 2014-15. Obviously, it’s early, but those are pretty good teams and it would bode very well to rank ahead of all three in two years.
Pelton cautioned that SCHOENE (his projection system) doesn’t account or doesn’t account well for the Pistons’ two biggest question marks: coaching and player fit. Although those are important factors, a baseline prognosis of being ahead of the Nets, Warriors and Pacers in 2014-15 sounds great to me.