The player most Detroit Pistons fans wanted was still on the board when the team was preparing to turn in its pick at the No. 8 overall spot in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
Commissioner David Stern approached the podium and Pistons fans were alive with anticipation.
What they heard was a bit of a shock.
The reaction of fans was pretty much summed up by this tweet.
— Adam Mackey (@10mackey10) June 28, 2013
Dumars didn’t make a move to please or appease Thursday night. It’s wise at times to disregard public clamor, but this one looks crazy and amazingly risky. With the eighth pick in the draft and his choice of the top point guards, including Trey Burke, Dumars pulled a mini-shocker on a night of many shockers.
The Pistons selected Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and perhaps that explains the white smoke coming out of Dumars’ office (the first of many bad Pope quips). Dumars artfully defended the pick, saying the Pistons desperately need a shooting guard who can run the floor. Caldwell-Pope is a great shooter and tough defender and was SEC player of the year.
Caldwell-Pope was projected by some as a top-10 pick, although at least three mock drafts (Sports Illustrated, ESPN’s Chad Ford and DraftExpress.com) had him going No. 9 overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Our own mock draft at HoopsHabit.com had Caldwell-Pope going at the No. 11 spot to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The coincidence that many will confuse with irony is that it was Burke who went ninth to the Timberwolves, who traded the pick to the point-guard needy Utah Jazz.
Dumars told the Detroit News that Caldwell-Pope was not just a need pick, but a desperate need pick.
If you had the privilege of seeing our roster board, we’re desolate at the wing position. It was a major focus to upgrade the wing, athletic shooting. That was a priority for us.
One of the knocks on Caldwell-Pope going into the draft, though, was his lack of elite athleticism. He’s a terrific shooter and a dogged defender, but creating his own shot from the wing was not a tremendous area of strength for the Georgia sophomore, who was the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Year after averaging 18.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and two steals per game for the 15-17 Bulldogs.
More attractive to Detroit was his 37.3 percent mark from 3-point range. His shot is one that translates well to the increased distance of the NBA 3-point line.
Dumars was sold.
This is a kid that plays both sides of the ball. A fierce defender and a great 3-point shooter. We didn’t feel like we had enough of that.
The Pistons ranked 22nd in the NBA at 6.3 3-pointers per game and 24th with 17.6 attempts per game from deep. Their 35.6 percent accuracy ranked 18th-best in the NBA.
The presumption is that Caldwell-Pope can team with incumbent point guard—since they didn’t take one, the Pistons appear to have committed to him—Brandon Knight to open up space with their perimeter shooting for bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
Caldwell-Pope is a high-risk pick for Dumars, who is in the final year of his contract and hasn’t exactly looked like a genius in the wake of the Pistons’ run as title contenders from 2003-08. The free-agent “bonanza” of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in the summer of 2009 turned out to be a $90 million trip to the nether regions of the NBA standings.
Detroit hasn’t made the playoffs since making those signings.
The Pistons had two picks in the second round and used the 37th overall pick to take North Texas forward Tony Mitchell, whose draft stock plummeted due to a less-than-inspiring combination of a perceived lack of desire at pre-draft camps and a decline in production from his freshman to sophomore season.
At No. 56 overall, though, the Pistons may have found a gem in Louisville point guard Peyton Siva. He helped direct a team to a national championship, but his draft stock suffered because of his lack of size (the same knock that was leveled against Burke, by the way). But Siva has a 41.5-inch vertical leap and averaged 2.8 steals per 40 minutes for the Cardinals last season. He’s not a great shooter, but could be a great energy guy off the bench initially, with the potential to perhaps be the point guard so many Pistons fans were hoping for on draft night.