Does a "Weak Draft" benefit the Detroit Pistons?

Strength and agility testing at the NBA Draft Combine
Strength and agility testing at the NBA Draft Combine / Anadolu/GettyImages

On May 12, 2024, the Detroit Pistons fell to the fifth pick in the 2024 NBA Draft at the Draft Lottery despite having the worst record in the NBA. This marked two years straight that the league worst Pistons lost the Draft Lottery and three years stright that they're picking 5th.

It's more than understandable that fans are frustrated at the position the Pistons are currently in. After missing out on Victor Wembanyama in 2023 and having the worst record in team history, the last thing the team needed was to pick 5th in the draft, again.

Fans are frustrated, and the last thing needed was to essentially have the pick made for the team by who's left. And with this draft universally seen as the weakest in years, the further the pick fell, the less valuable it is in a trade. It's okay to be upset, but this could be the Pistons gain.

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Before moving futher ahead, let's get one thing straight, a weak draft doesn't mean the draft is full of bad players. Even in the worst draft in NBA history, there will be several 10-15 year players. The idea that 2024 is a bad draft stems from most of the players this year being niche players and likely role players. Role players can be a detrimental word to prospects, but role players like Robert Horry, Tayshaun Prince, and Bruce Brown have become intricate parts of championship teams.

This year's draft is less about whether the class has players, but more about their ceiling, which can also be developed by the right coach. With this is mind, how do the Pistons benefit? There are a few solid reasons to be excited about this draft for Pistons fans.

The Pistons benefit by not having to take the Best Player Available

This might not sound like the smartest idea, but this is because of the type of talent in the draft. Since there is no consensus #1 player in the draft, and many are lamenting the lack of superstar upside, there is no pressure to take the best player available. Whether it's a mock draft, top 100 prospects, or NBA GMs and Scouts, the top 5 players on the draft differ from 1-5. On top of that, the top needs of each team might not reflect the top players on their board.

This gives Detroit two advantages: 1. There will likely be teams that plan to move their picks, meaning there could be a number of players and picks shuffled. 2. Detroit is free to draft for need.

The picks moved could mean that teams could dangle players or future seconds (absolutely nobody is moving a 2025 or 2026 1st rounder without extreme protections) and Detroit could be a sneaky trade-up candidate or a trade back candidate. In the event that they stand pat, it could be chaotic to see what teams move up and down, but with the draft acting as more of a supplemental draft instead of franchise-altering, the Pistons could still wind up with a team need.

That's the better thing about this draft is that teams can gamble on a prospect that isn't a universally acclaimed player. In spite of definite skillsets belonging to the top 5 players in this year's draft, which will again differ from medium to medium, there could be a world where the top ranked player falls in the draft. Even if this happens, Detroit won't be under pressure to take the absolute best player at five.

Based on last season, Detroit needs two things: 3-point scoring and defense. If the best player falls to us, but his skills don't reflect a need, the Pistons could draft someone further down the draft board to add to a much needed skill. Cade Cunningham even spoke on the need for floor spacing around him, so why not take a flyer on a sharp shooter with the 5th pick? If this draft is as even across the board as scouts make out, will there be much of an uproar if any team, let alone the Pistons reach on a player that fills a need? Depending on who's hired as President of Basketball Operations, probably not.

Detroit Pistons' biggest needs in the 2024 NBA Draft

With need being the potential priority, who should Detroit draft? Taking the potential Front Office hire, look at the season stats. Bottom five in 3-point percentage at 34.8 percent, tied for last with 3-point makes per game at 11, dead last in steals at 6.5, 20th in blocks, and third in fouls per game with 20.6. The Pistons couldn't hit perimeter shots and couldn't defend. Either one or both need to be the focus.

Zaccharie Risacher fits the 3-and-D model that the Pistons need to add with Simone Fontecchio to space the floor, but likely won't be available at 5. Donovan Clingan established himself as a high-floor rim protector. The Pistons could go for a lights-out 3-point scorer like Dalton Knecht. Matas Buzelis has the size, athleticism, and defensive instincts that could be an immediate boost. There are many more players like Stephon Castle and Reed Shepard that could be an immediate contributor to a need in Detroit. As sure fire as all of them are, there are going to be drawbacks, so the argument for any of these players is almost equalled by their detractions, whether it is athleticism, defense, fit, there's a risk and reward for everyone, but thankfully, sitting at 5, the Pistons can take the risk.

Is there a risk drafting in a weak draft? Of course, but one thing to remember is that teams draft for the prospect, not the player. This year is a rare occasion where teams will draft for the player. Detroit knows what it needs in this year's draft, but they have more options than a normal year because the draft is expected to be hectic and reaches will happen. Detroit won't get a franchise changer this year, but that doesn't mean this draft is worthless. In reality, it can fill major needs.