Detroit Pistons still haunted by ghosts of past NBA Drafts

Bojan Bogdanovic (44) drives as Detroit Pistons guard Luke Kennard (5) defends. Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Bojan Bogdanovic (44) drives as Detroit Pistons guard Luke Kennard (5) defends. Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

I don’t mind the Darko Milicic selection as much as many Detroit Pistons fans. At the time, Darko was seen as an exceptional talent and potential generational center. They were adding a player to a team that was already very good, took a swing and missed, big time. There have been worse blunders In my humble opinion, and two recent drafts made me contemplate cancelling my League Pass.

Key Word: Contemplate

As long as George Blaha and Gregory Kelser, Mr. Special K himself, continue to call games, you’ll have to pry my League Pass from my cold, dead…internet connection.

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But the Detroit Pistons have made some draft mistakes that still haunt them to this day.

Detroit Pistons: Choosing Stanley Johnson over Devin Booker was a mistake.

Every time I see Devin Booker change the momentum of a game, I think of what could’ve been. I didn’t see it at the time.

I didn’t think Booker would become the best two-way guard in the league, which I believe he is today. Everyone knew Booker would be an excellent scorer. I don’t know of anybody who thought he would be the best player in that draft. At least twelve teams didn’t think so, and we were all wrong.

Stanley Johnson was known as a staunch defender, and he had the physical gifts to defend at an incredibly high level in the NBA. He showed as much at times during his first three years in Detroit, and showed promise later on the Lakers. Unfortunately, immaturity hampered his development and undermined his contributions.

The Pistons, if we’re honest, may not have had the culture necessary to keep young, impressionable players focused on daily habits and in-game details.

With the benefit of hindsight, I now see the mistake.

I never understood passing on Donovan Mitchell.

Drafting Luke Kennard over Donovan Mitchell truly hurts. In my opinion, it hurts more than any other draft in Piston history. Luke Kennard is a great shooter, career .455 and .437 from beyond the arc. In twenty-four games in Memphis at the end of this season, he shot .526 from the field and a blistering .540 from outside. My fingers feel hot typing that.

In his first year, Kennard proved to be a willing defender, a better defender than I ever expected him to become. He’s not a great defender. He works hard, and he’ll get an arm out even if the opponent blows by him. I tip my hat to that, but he doesn’t have the lateral foot speed or length to stay in front of a lot of guys in the NBA. Neither do I, and that’s not our fault.

Luke Kennard is a one-dimensional role player who can add elite shooting to any team, not a bust by any means but…

Donovan Mitchell is a foundational player for a team with championship aspirations.

Mitchell isn’t a great defender either, though he could be. He appears to put less effort into his defense than Kennard. In the playoffs against New York, Brunson and others often blew past him, and Mitchell did little more than wave a hand at the ball. That might’ve been frustration or exhaustion, but I suspect it’s defensive awareness. The pace of the NBA game is so fast, if you’re not a step ahead, you’re late.

But he’s a good shooter, career percentages of .448 from the field and .365 beyond the arc, and his offensive awareness is elite. He can attack the basket, collapse defenses, and score against double teams or dish to teammates as he did so often in Utah, who relied way too heavily on putting Mitchell in a high pick and roll and spreading the floor for his attack.

Mitchell is a four-time All-Star and has made an All-NBA team while making the playoffs every year of his career so far. He’s a guy the Detroit Pistons could have built around and is currently leading a Cleveland team that should be in the playoffs for years to come.

It’s incredibly difficult to know who a player will become. As the Detroit Pistons approach the draft this week, the key will be finding the player or players with the mental acuity, emotional capacity, and physical abilities to contribute to a core group who can contend for a championship in the future.

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