Welcome to the second installment of the Detroit Sports Site’s preview of the 2012 NBA Draft. Today, we’ll shed some light on what we believe the Detroit Pistons should do with the ninth overall pick and beyond, what they will do, and discuss some players and other implications of this draft for the franchise moving forward.
I asked our contributors to respond to six questions regarding this year’s draft from the Pistons’ perspective. Below are their roundtable responses, with a bit of my own commentary included. As your humorous and pithy moderator, I reserve all right to lash out at Joe Dumars, any particular player, the Pistons organization as a whole or my fellow writers at any time. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get busy.
1. In your opinion, what position is most important for the Pistons to upgrade in this draft?
Chris Burke: It has to be center — or power forward, depending on how the Pistons view Greg Monroe’s development. Personally, I think they’d be better off nabbing a legit center, who can help Monroe on the glass and with interior defense but also would allow Monroe some more favorable matchups on the offensive end. Right now, the best on-court partner for Monroe is Jason Maxiell, and we don’t even know if he’ll be back.
Andrew Tomlinson: The Pistons need a shooter. I don’t really care at what position they get him at. When you stand back and look at this team, there is no outside presence what so ever and who are they really counting on to take the important shot as time winds down? None of the answers are really suitable for an NBA team. Everyone has fallen in love with some of the big men available, but what good is being able to play solid defense if you can’t score at the other end? At the end of the day, this team is sub-par at everything other than point guard and either center of power forward, depending on where they play Monroe. What they need is their own Ricky Rubio who can create and make the players around him better.
Max DeMara: I enter into the discussion and immediately see a vast difference in opinion. On one hand, the Pistons do need someone to pair with Monroe in the post, but on the other, they lack anything from the outside other than Brandon Knight. Can we say with certainty that any of these post players are “can’t miss” or “once in a lifetime” type talents? Not at all. I suppose my take is a mix of these opinions. Last year, Dumars and company went with the best player available. This year, they can do that again and I will be satisfied, be it Jeremy Lamb, Austin Rivers, Andre Drummond or another one of the big men you’ll see referenced below. For as tough as Detroit’s position is, they might actually luck out again if the right players slip a few picks. Meanwhile, Tomlinson’s Rubio love is overblown and slightly creepy, but more on that later.
2. Out of all the players I previewed in part one, which one do you believe is most underrated? Overrated?
Burke: I think Tyler Zeller is being underrated because he doesn’t bring the highlight-reel game that some of the other possible picks here do. But let’s face it: The Pistons are not going to find a Kevin Durant/LeBron James-type guy at No. 9. Aside from being banged-up a bit in college, Zeller was a reliable big, and the Pistons could use that. I think Myers Leonard is the most overrated of the group, even more so than Jared Sullinger. I get why teams like Leonard — terrific height, decent inside-outside game, etc. — but he’s soft. You don’t just teach a guy to get more aggressive.
Tomlinson: Max, you and I touched on this in the podcast, but I think Meyers Leonard is probably one of the most overrated players in the draft. He has some great intangibles and even a guy like me, someone who knows little about the NBA, knows he has a ton of red flags. Just look at the tape and you can see he is not the kind of player a developing team like the Pistons can afford to make a mistake on. He is big, but doesn’t play his size. I think people get wrapped up at looking at him and think he can be the next Blake Griffin, but Griffin uses his size to his advantage, Leonard gets pushed around with his.
I have said it before, I will say it again, I love Austin Rivers. Maybe it was his game winning shot against UNC last season, or just his ability to make plays, but I think he is getting wildly passed up this year. Sure, he may not fit with this team, but outside of Knight and Monroe who is really untouchable? The NBA is a superstar league, I think Miami showed us that and so did the Thunder. You have to shot the ball to win the game, Rivers can certainly shoot but he has a pedigree too. I don’t usually love Duke players as I think they benefit for Coach K’s system, but Rivers comes from a family entrenched in basketball. If he is there, the Pistons need to take him.
DeMara: Though I’m tempted to go with Rivers based on mere potential alone as underrated, I’ve got to agree with Burke here and say Zeller. There’s something about a guy who does everything well, knows where he has to be on the floor and is excellent rebounding the ball from both ends. He was quietly the ACC player of the year, too, so he’s got that going for him. Where overrated is concerned, I’m agreeing with both Tomlinson and Burke on Meyers Leonard. I don’t care what the ficticious NBA combine results seem to have said; I will maintain until I die that I watched a bust this season playing for Illinois. I’ll keep maintaining that even if Leonard becomes a perennial all-star, NBA champion and defensive player of the year, as well. Tomlinson may be known as our resident flip flopper, but I’ll never have that distinction.
3. Of those listed, which do you think the Pistons could end up going with? Is it someone else?
Burke: I think all but Austin Rivers are legit options — I don’t see the Pistons taking another guard/wing guy when there are so many viable frontcourt possibilities. The only guy not mentioned in Part I that’s intriguing is Perry Jones III. He has a lot of question marks, but his athleticism is elite.
Tomlinson: Ultimately, I think they will settle and take Tyler Zeller. A nice player, someone who had success at North Carolina, but ultimately a ho-hum pick. This team needs skill players, but for some reason they continue to think big men are their answer.
DeMara: Arnett Moultrie has become a sneaky proposition for the Pistons in my mind, based on his explosive hops, athleticism and raw talent down low. If developed in time, he could become a very nice, serviceable NBA talent. All of that comes at the price of two creaky knees, however, making the risk high in the lottery. As Burke mentioned, there’s definitely something to be said about Perry Jones as well, being he was a solid player at Baylor. Those are definitely options. Just like Tomlinson says, my bet is it will be a big man as well.
4. You’d be angriest if the Pistons took this player:
Burke: Sullinger. I don’t think his game translates all that well to the NBA, especially on the defensive end. He seemed to get rattled by physical defense in college, and that’s pretty much the norm in the NBA.
Tomlinson: Jared Sullinger has bust written all over him. Injury prone in college and a magician, making disappearing acts in the biggest spots. Sullinger is a player who may kick around the league for a while like Mike Bibby, but never truly be anyone a team will consider a must have. Until he bulks up and plays a more mature game, Sullinger will always be pushed around and look out of place.
DeMara: I’m going to go with Meyers Leonard simply for consistency’s sake. I’d stay far, far away from him. If Dumars falls in love with him and he’s the pick at 9, it will feel like Darko Milicic is happening all over again. Much like the flu, that’s not a feeling I particularly enjoy. Sullenger is overrated as well while being way too cocky, so for good measure I will include him here too. If either of those two are holding up a Pistons jersey soon, mission not accomplished.
5. When all is said and done, with the 9th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select:
Burke: John Henson. I’m tempted to guess that Leonard goes here, because he fits the Pistons’ needs, but I just get the sense that Henson’s going to be too tough for them to pass on. The Tayshaun Prince comparisons are obvious — tall, lanky lefthander, who blocks shots and plays defense but needs to bulk up and improve offensively. Considering Prince’s career is winding down AND the Pistons need someone to play the 4, Henson’s the pick
Tomlinson: Austin Rivers – Duke – Budding Superstar. What more is there to say? He could be Detroit’s Rubio.
DeMara: I hate to do this to myself, but I said a few nights ago on The Detroit Sports Show that I felt it would be Leonard, so I’ll unfortunately stick with that. Of course I hope I’m wrong, considering Henson, Drummond Moultrie, Zeller, Rivers, Lamb, and even Austin Thornton would all be better lottery picks, but it just feels like a typical Dumars move to take Leonard here. Tomlinson once again references Rubio, making you wonder, just how many posters does he have in his bedroom?
6. In the second round (picks 39 and 44), the Detroit Pistons select:
Burke: JaMychal Green, F, Alabama and Tyshawn Taylor, PG/SG, Kansas
Green’s stock has risen lately and he’s the type of guy the Pistons seem to like — somewhat undersized but with a high upside. I really like Taylor’s game, even if he’s more suited to be a scoring 2 than a true point guard. Detroit could use some versatile depth at those spots.
Tomlinson: I won’t lie, after the big names we have officially reached the limit of my vast and deep basketball knowledge. The Pistons need to remember what their weakness is: offense. This team couldn’t score last year and needs to keep that in mind. In the NBA, if you can create an offensive team first, you will be able to tweak it for defense. It is not the other way around anymore.
DeMara: Time to score this one. +10 Rubio heads to Tomlinson for being honest and -10 to Burke for attempting to analyze. Though we can forgive Burke because he’s used to breaking down the NFL’s second round where true difference makers exist, the NBA is hardly like that. Here, you’d be just as apt to find a quality player handing a monkey a dart in the war room and letting him hit a name on your second round board, so who knows. With that being said, at 39 I’m taking Georgetown sharpshooter Hollis Thompson, who I believe could provide the Pistons with some excellent young backcourt depth. At 44, I’d love to see the unheralded Kyle O’Quinn from Norfolk State, who was perhaps my favorite player this past March. His heart, rebounding, defense and excellent touch down low could make him a very sneaky steal later on. As long as it’s not Draymond Green, I’ll be satisfied. The local pick never, ever works out.
Well, there’s our unfiltered opinions. Now all that’s left to do is sit back, relax, watch the draft and wait. As always, we’ll have plenty regarding what actually happens with the Pistons on The Detroit Sports Site tomorrow, including our grades for the picks and information about all the new guys, so stay tuned!