Detroit Pistons can not just draft ‘best player available’

Bill Laimbeer. Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Bill Laimbeer. Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images /
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.The Detroit Pistons have a draft quandary.

One of the oldest bromides fed to the public by general manager’s in approaching a draft is that they will pick ‘the best player available’ and not base it on need. Simply the best for our fans. Sounds good, which is why GM’s say it, but it is not necessarily true.

Different sport, but current Lions quarterback Jared Goff was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. You think he was the best pro prospect that year? The Rams made him first strictly on need, because he was a quarterback.

The NBA is no different. Until the three-point shot became all encompassing, it was believed a team needed a dominant  post player  to be a championship contender.  History was certainly on the side of that opinion.

George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, Moses Malone, Bill Laimbeer, Tin Duncan and so on. All of them won titles and had multiple finals appearances.

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Here is a partial list of NBA teams who went perceived need first and took a center with the No. 1 overall pick, hoping they were a ticket to prominence, and next to that name is who they could have picked if they truly drafted the ‘best player available’.:

Draft info courtesy

  • 2007: Greg Oden (Kevin Durant went next)
  • 2006: Andrea Bargnani (LaMarcus Aldridge went next)
  • 2005: Andrew Bogut (Chris Paul was fourth)
  • 2001: Kwame Brown (Pau Gasol went third)
  • 1998: Michael Olowokandi (Vince Carter was fifth)

It was the second pick, but Portland’s decision in 1984 to draft based on need changed NBA history:

  • 1994: No. 1 Hakeem Olajuwon, No. 2 Portland: Sam Bowie, No. 3  Chicago: Michael Jordan.

Portland was not even getting the best center in the draft at No. 2, the Rockets’ already taking future Hall of Famer “Hakeem the Dream’.

If a team is looking for one final piece in the puzzle to winning a championship (like the Lakers taking Magic Johnson), that is one thing, but, usually, teams that draft first need everything, that is why they are drafting so high.

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The Pistons will have a high draft pick this year, but they do not need everything.