Recent Draft History is a new series I’m starting to look at the past five years (2011-15) of draft classes for each team in the NBA, looking at possible regrets, busts, hidden gems and coming up with an overall grade each franchise deserves for their most recent draft picks. I will be taking into consideration a variety of aspects for each team’s grade, like projected growth of a player, where each was drafted, and how trades might have impacted their future.
Today, we will continue with the Detroit Pistons, who have really struggled drafting towards the end of the top-10 in four of the past drafts – but have shown a keen eye when projecting second round talents to the NBA. The Pistons overall stability has struggled with the lack of a coach and GM. With Stan Van Gundy at the helm, there’s a system and plan in place to succeed.
The 2011 draft might be the best overall for the Pistons in the last five years – although neither former eighth overall pick Brandon Knight or second round forward Kyle Singler remain with the team. Knight proved to be well worth his value, and might’ve been an All-Star for the Bucks this past season had he not been traded to the Phoenix Suns. Singler showed promise bringing shooting and depth on the wing for Oklahoma City, and could be in the league for a while longer. The Pistons also took big man Vernon Macklin, who hasn’t ever stepped on an NBA court in the regular season.
The 2012 draft was both good and bad for the Pistons. The good? Drafting sliding big man Andre Drummond at pick number nine who arguably was the second-most talented prospect in that draft. The Pistons also drafted a smooth-scoring swingman at pick 39 in the second round when selecting Khris Middleton – who was sent over to the Milwaukee Bucks just like Knight. They took swingman Kim English five picks later, and he never made an NBA impact either. This was a very strong draft by the Pistons, who selected a potential All-Star in Drummond and an underrated swingman – although they gave away Middleton cheaply.
The Pistons have yet to reap the rewards from their 2013 eighth overall pick in shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope has shown progress, increasing his efficiency across the board as a second-year player and showing increased playmaking ability, but still has a ways to go as a defender. Second round forward Tony Mitchell was traded away in December 2014 to the Phoenix Suns, and later in the second, the team selected point guard Peyton Siva who was waived following the 2014 Summer League.
The 2014 draft was probably the most disappointing for the Pistons, who traded away their 2014 first round pick in the 2012 Ben Gordon – Corey Maggette trade. The team only had one pick in the second round at pick 38, and they selected combo guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie had more downs than ups throughout his rookie season, but still has plenty of growth in him in his second year following an ACL injury.
Swingman Stanley Johnson was a curious pick for the Pistons at the time, with Justise Winslow falling into their laps at pick number eight. But Johnson was arguably the most impressive rookie throughout all of summer league, which is a statement to his maturity as a basketball player. Johnson looked good as a shooter, slasher and defender and has the physicality to make it through the rugged 82-game schedule. The Pistons also selected swingman Darrun Hilliard in the second round. Hilliard is a versatile, hard-nosed player who can finish with either hand near the basket. The 2015 draft has a promising outlook for the Pistons, who seem to have Johnson as their building block of the future on the wing and a potential bench guy in Hilliard.
Overall, the Pistons could have done much better with their selections over the past five years. The Pistons have struggled with their free agent signings and coaches (before Stan Van Gundy), and still need development out of their younger talents before moving to the upper-echelon in the East. If Drummond can continues to develop like he has been, Caldwell-Pope can take another step alongside the newly-selected Johnson and re-signed Reggie Jackson, the Pistons could have a core to grow around for the next five years.
It all depends on development, and that comes with the right coach. Van Gundy has shown in his previous stops that he can develop big men, so Drummond should continue his ascent. The Pistons will need some time to develop these talents on the wing, so don’t be shocked if they remain near the Central Divison’s basement for a few more years. Without a couple interesting trades, the Pistons draft grade might be slightly higher, but all things considering – the front office seems to have an eye for talent.