Unlike last year’s draft, the Detroit Pistons aren’t in control of their destiny. There were no barriers to selecting Cade Cunningham first overall.
It’s easy when you win the lottery.
It’s harder to draft when you don’t have a top-three pick, and it’s impossible to say who will be available when the Pistons take the fifth overall pick during Thursday’s draft.
Any move ahead of the Pistons in the draft will influence their decision tree. They will spend the next two days finishing up the last of their pre-draft preparation. On Thursday, they will be prepared for whatever happens.
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“There’s still a lot to do: meetings, setting up the board and going over different parts of the process that we formulated to come up with best-case scenarios,” Troy Weaver said during his predraft availability at the Pistons Performance Center on Monday. . “At five, you’re at the mercy of the board. It’s not like we can make the first decision. At five, we’re at the mercy of the board. We have to have multiple scenarios ready to go.”
Weaver said he has seven to nine players he would be happy with the Pistons’ selection. That list probably includes Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, who confirmed he worked out for the Pistons and Orlando Magic during his pre-draft availability Monday, or Keegan Murray, who met with the Pistons in Detroit last week. There also remains the possibility that Jerami Grant could be moved on or before draft night and get the Pistons an additional first-round pick.
Here are the key takeaways from Weaver’s press conference:
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Pistons prioritizing long-term upside potential
The Pistons’ rebuild is far from complete. Drafting Cunningham last year gave the franchise a potential superstar to build on, but they’ll need at least one more senior player alongside him, as well as more roster depth, to comfortably make the playoffs going forward.
Weaver confirmed that the Pistons want to draft whichever player has the biggest long-term upside on Thursday.
“We’re going to get the best player that we see that has the most long-term potential, but absolutely that’s where you would hope he could contribute,” he said. “We want the best long-term player.”
One would assume the Pistons are fully committed to Ivey, one of the most explosive guards in the draft and believed to have a superstar ceiling. It could also imply that Kentucky flanker Shaedon Sharpe, who was recently coached by the Pistons and is in the mix for the fifth pick, has an advantage.
But Weaver also said he doesn’t buy the idea that age can limit a player’s ceiling. That’s good news for Murray, who will be 22 when he begins his rookie season.
“For me, the silver lining is a growth mindset,” Weaver said. “I don’t subscribe to, ‘The guy is 23 and he can’t grow up, he has no potential.’ Or, there are some guys who are 19, 18 years old who limit themselves. I’ve seen a couple of young players and said ‘it’s going to be a while because he just doesn’t get it’. It’s just the mental aspect and how the player approaches things and where he’s been, how he approaches and what hasn’t been exploited.”
Weaver preparing for a potentially chaotic draft
The 2021 draft had several surprises in the lottery. The Toronto Raptors chose Scottie Barnes fourth overall over Jalen Suggs, widely considered the fourth-best prospect in the draft. And the San Antonio Spurs took Joshua Primo, projected as a late first-round pick at best, with the 12th pick.
The 2022 draft could also have surprises. The Oklahoma City Thunder are rumored to have interest in Ivey with the second pick, and the Sacramento Kings are a wild card. Will they take Ivey or Murray, or trade the fourth overall pick for immediate help?
Weaver said anything can happen, and the Pistons won’t be caught off guard by any curveball.
“You have to be prepared for that,” Weaver said. “I remember how many years ago D’Angelo Russell jumped up and went two. That’s why I’m a little shaken by so many reports trying to figure out everyone’s choice right now, it’s ridiculous. No, you have to be prepared for anything.” to happen. Because if you don’t and you haven’t done your job, then somebody says you haven’t done your job, then you’re stuck. So no, we anticipate something happening above us.”
Cunningham’s presence should ease any concerns about the fit.
The Pistons won the lottery at the right time. Cunningham was one of the most versatile players in recent draft history, and that versatility was on display last season. He established himself as the best all-around playmaker of his and was just as comfortable scoring or giving it to his teammates. He defends, rebounds and also took on a leadership role.
With Cunningham already in tow, the Pistons aren’t worried about drafting a player who fits him. Cunningham can fit in alongside most players.
“There isn’t a player that we’re looking at that we don’t see who can fit in with Cade,” Weavers said. “Absolutely. The versatility of him lends itself to anyone we drafted being able to fit him. Drafting him made it easier to not have to worry about fit as much.”
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