The Detroit Pistons have the worst NBA Draft Lottery luck ever

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum speaks during the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum speaks during the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons Draft Lottery woes continue, adding to their long history of never moving up.

Pick Number 7? I’d be lying if I said I was surprised. The Detroit Pistons haven’t been able to catch a break in quite some time and that’s especially been true during the NBA draft lottery.

The Pistons haven’t moved up in a draft lottery since…ever. The Pistons have had 14 tries at the NBA Draft Lottery since its inception in 1985, and have not moved up once. NOT ONCE. Sisyphus has had more luck moving up than the Pistons.

The bouncing ping pong balls are cruel mistresses and care not that our favorite franchise has been spurned so many times before.

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The Pistons have the worst lottery luck of any NBA franchise. The only other team that’s never moved up in the draft is the Minnesota Timberwolves but they’ve actually won an NBA Draft Lottery!

The Pistons have never known such excitement. Even Sisyphus makes it to to the top of the mountain before it all comes crashing down. The Pistons are stuck kicking rocks at the base.

Normally, when a sports streak is this bad for this long, I like to search for signs of some sort of curse. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism.

For example, I believe in the rumored Detroit Lions curse laid by Bobby Layne when the Lions traded their franchise quarterback after his third championship with the team. Supposedly, he said the “Lions wouldn’t win a championship for 50 years” after the trade.

It’s even been backed up by his wife and believed by former teammates. Of course, it’s been more than 50 years, so the curse should be lifted and in a serendipitous twist of fate, Matthew Stafford, alumni of the same high school as Bobby Layne, is now the QB of the Lions. C’mon, Matt – break the curse!

Anyways, the Pistons bad draft luck is less exciting, there are no spurned star players uttering incantations or traded players covering the locker room in bad juju, just middling picks since 1993, the first year the Pistons entered the NBA Draft Lottery.

Looking back, the ‘93 NBA Draft Lottery was a harbinger of the things to come for the Pistons’ future lotteries. Interestingly, the draft was hosted at the Palace of Auburn Hills and Detroit native and U of M product, Chris Webber was the golden goose of that year’s draft.

The Pistons had 2 picks in the lottery, thanks to a trade with the Miami Heat, even though neither of them had a particularly high chance of landing the top pick, the night seemed like a storybook introduction to a Detroit revival.

Instead, neither of those picks moved up. The Orlando Magic, on the other hand, jumped from No. 13 (!) to No. 1 and drafted Webber.

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Since then, the Pistons have experienced nothing but an endless parade of disappointing Draft Lotteries. In 1994, they tied for the worst record in the league, with Milwaukee and Dallas, and received the 3rd pick.  That pick went on to be Grant Hill.

In their next 4 lotteries, the ‘95, ‘98, ‘01, and ‘10 drafts, the Pistons would neither move up or down, drafting in that middling no man’s land of picks 8,9,8 and 11. These picks would turn into Theo Ratliff, Randolph Childress, Bonzi Wells, Rodney White, and Greg Monroe.

Not great!

As a writer looking for signs of a curse or an interesting story, picking in the expected spot is even worse than repeatedly dropping 5 – 7 spots. At least dropping in the draft makes for an interesting story, worthy of sympathy. Instead, the bouncing, laughing ping pong balls awarded the Pistons a darker fate than comedic failure, uninteresting mediocrity.

In the 2010s, things would only get worse – the Pistons would have 7 more lottery picks, none of which landed higher than expected or higher than the 8th spot. The results are a mish-mash of players whose fates seem better suited to overqualified 6th men, than franchise-altering players: Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard.

This year, as I watched Mark Tatum announce the draft lottery in descending order and draw closer and closer to that middling range that I’ve grown accustomed to as a Pistons fan, I knew it was coming. We all knew it was coming. When the Pistons were “awarded” the 7th pick, I wasn’t even disappointed. I felt nothing. A lifetime of Pistons Draft Lottery disappointment had allowed me to transcend emotion.

When Pistons GM, Troy Weaver, was asked about receiving the 7th pick in the 2020 draft, he said “As we all see now, we received the 7th pick and we’re excited.” Sure, Troy. “Excited”.

No one begins good news with “as we all see now”! Ever!

“As we all see now, you’ve had a baby.” “As we all see now, you’re married.” No one says that, because “as we all see now” is not how you deliver good news.

Troy went on to cite the biblical significance of the number 7 in support of the draft pick. He could’ve just said, “As we all see now, Pistons fans should start praying.”

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