Detroit Pistons: Top 10 draft busts in past 30 years

Serbia's Darko Milicic (R) shoots against Greece's Dimosthenis Ntikoudis. AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO (Photo credit should read JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)
Serbia's Darko Milicic (R) shoots against Greece's Dimosthenis Ntikoudis. AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO (Photo credit should read JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images) /
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The Detroit Pistons are relying on the development of their draft picks to bring them back to NBA prominence. That is not a fool-proof strategy. In a review of the past 30 drafts, what appeared to be sure things at the time, turned into busts.

It might be fun for fans this season to not mind losing as the Detroit Pistons ‘Tank for Cade’. but it does not guarantee anything.

The theory is, if the Pistons have one of the worst records in the NBA (which are they are on track to achieve), they are guaranteed to have a high draft pick. Detroit then can draft a ‘transformative’ player (like Cade Cunningham) who will lift Detroit back into contention.

The only problem with that plan is, the strategy only works if the person doing the drafting is a good evaluator of talent.

However, having a high pick in the draft does not automatically give a team a great player. It just means they get to pick from a wider pool of players, before other teams get a chance to draft.

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver seems to be a decent talent evaluator, based on his first draft. His three first-round picks (Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey) have all shown potential to be long-term NBA contributors. Second round selection Saben Lee also has shown flashes he can be a player.

However,  there are plenty of times in the past whoever the Pistons general manager at the time was, whiffed on a high draft pick.

As kind of a warning that nothing is guaranteed, here is a ranking of the 10 Detroit Pistons worst draft picks of the past 30 years (1981-2021).

(The Pistons have been in the NBA Draft since 1948 , but we will keep this to a more modern era.) 

The criteria is weighted by: the place in the draft, how big an impact the player drafted had, and who did they by-pass to take that player.

(all draft information is courtesy

10. Fred Banks, UNLV (1987, 24th)

The Pistons did not have a first-round pick in the 1987 draft, but they did have the first slot in the second round. Nowadays, the 24th pick is in the first round, but, back then, there were less teams, so it kicked off the next round.

Detroit got the draft choice from the Seattle SuperSonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder) as part of the John Long trade.

Detroit took ‘Fearless’ Freddie Banks, a 6-foot-2 guard out of UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels were a powerhouse then under coach Jerry Tarkanian.

Banks in his senior year helped UNLV to the Final Four where they lost to Indiana in the semifinals. It was not Banks’ fault they lost. He had 10 three-pointers, and scored 38 points in the loss to the Hoosiers.

Banks has been inducted into the Southern Nevada and UNLV Hall of Fames.

However, he was not able to make the Pistons, and he never played a game in the NBA. Banks saw action in the Continental Basketball Association (now G-League), then in Greece, and even in the World Basketball League, which was set up for players 6-5 and shorter.

Banks eventually went into high school coaching in his native Las Vegas.

Yes, Detroit had a great team by 1987, but, the first pick in the second round should make the team.

Sorry, that is a whiff on management’s part.