Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower discuss their draft strategy

Mar 19, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy talks to guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) during the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy talks to guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) during the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower sat down with the media to discuss the Detroit Pistons’ draft and offseason strategy on Tuesday afternoon.

In the midst of a chaotic Tuesday afternoon and evening around the NBA, Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower–Detroit Pistons‘ president of basketball operations and general manager, respectively–took some time to meet with the media. With prospect workouts now at a close and the draft just a couple days away, the duo laid out some elements of their plans for the draft and offseason.

While talent is the primary factor in any pick the Pistons make in the draft, it won’t be the only thing Van Gundy and Bower focus on. “The emphasis first and foremost is on the evaluation of the prospects, in three areas: Talent, background information and behavior observations,” said Bower. “Those are really the three prongs we spend a lot of time drilling into.”

In addition to digging into a prospect’s behavior and background, the Pistons are in a peculiar spot when it comes to drafting for need versus drafting for talent. Last season the Pistons were the worst shooting team in the NBA, and this is a draft with some skilled shooters, like Luke Kennard, who may be there when they pick at 12. The general philosophy in the NBA draft, especially in lottery positions, is to draft for talent and select the best player (or prospect) available, rather than to draft for a specific need.

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Van Gundy addressed this. “I think in the draft you’re looking for talent and character. Pretty simply, I’m not looking at those  guys to fulfill a specific need or a position down the road. I always think of filling needs more in terms of what we do with trades. Right now in the draft we want to get the best talent, if the talent is comparable, and if you think the guy is ready to play right away, then you can look at need. But the first things are a mix of the guy’s talent and character.”

Of course, there may be situations where several players are comparable from a talent perspective, but the Pistons may have to make evaluations based on either readiness to compete at the NBA level or how that player might fill a current need on the roster.

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Van Gundy went further in explaining how they evaluate talent against fit or need. “Step one is getting guys in proper tiers and figuring out where the real breaks in talent come from. We wouldn’t go into the next tier of players now to get a better fit, but within the tier of guys we think are comparable talents, you do try to pick based on where your needs are,” he said. “The problem with trying to put too much emphasis on your needs at that time is that those can change. There can be a trade or some deal like that, and all of a sudden you’ve got a different need. So I think it’s more talent but certainly fit is a big part.”

Once you get past the first nine or ten players in this draft class, the NBA-ready levels drop among the prospects. While some may be prepared to perform on the floor almost immediately, other players may be projects that require patience and development before they can contribute in any meaningful way.

Van Gundy expanded upon how this affects the selection decision-making. “We’ve got a group of guys that are ahead of us that if they slid we would take, and then we’ve got a group of people that we think because they’re down to our number we can pick from. We’ve got some guys who have a decent chance of playing right away, and we’ve got a couple guys in that group that we think realistically could need a year or two before they were ready to play.”

While the Detroit Pistons are prepared to be patient if the situation demands it, that isn’t their optimal choice. Van Gundy explained, “What we’re trying to evaluate is where a guy can get to within his rookie contract. We’re not looking at a ten-year project, that wouldn’t make any sense. But there are some guys that we think maybe aren’t as ready to play physically right now but are the higher upside guys in years three or four. So you’ve gotta weigh that out.”

Bower added, “Fit many times determines the impact of the player to get on the floor. You’re always trying to make the decision, is his talent so good that it will force you to make other moves by bringing him in. You’re always looking to upgrade the talent level of your roster.”

Next: Locked On Pistons: June 20

The Detroit Pistons have the dubious luxury of being in a position to pick for talent with at least a couple players who would also be able to assist in depth and fit issues. Finally, we’re just a day away from seeing what’s in store on draft night.