2012 NBA Mock Draft: Who Will the Detroit Pistons Pick?
They're a bad team. Their 25-41 record is a clear indication of that. Yet they're not bad enough to have a realistic chance at the best players in the draft: Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Instead, they are a lottery team that will select near the bottom of the top 10. Odds are they will get the ninth pick.
Now if you agree with Piston's owner Tom Gores, who apparently doesn't think the Pistons need to make any moves because they're already a playoff team, then you might not think this draft is important.
For the rest of us sane people, we know this year's draft is vital for the Pistons to move forward.
They already have two players—Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight—that are exactly the kind of building blocks a team needs.
There is promise, but that doesn't mean the Pistons can simply rest on their laurels, as Gores suggests. They need to have a good draft. They can't afford a disaster like Darko Milicic or D.J. White.
With that said, here are my predictions. I'll give two predictions for each round and, since the draft order won't be announced until May 30th, I'll just assume the Pistons will pick ninth.
* Several of the ESPN links provided are viewable for Insiders only
Round 1: John Henson, PF, North Carolina
There is a massive amount of Detroit Piston-John Henson love going around right now, so if I failed to mention him I'd probably be chased out of town.
If you value ESPN's David Thorpe's opinion, then you probably think Henson is a perfect fit for Detroit. Thorpe believes that Henson would be a low-risk, high-value option who would be a defensive upgrade off the bench and could develop into a gifted scorer.
I certainly like the defensive aspect of his game. I believe the Pistons should be targeting defense first and foremost.
In fact, before Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's meteoric rise up draft boards, I had hoped the Pistons would select him because of his defensive prowess.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Henson could be a nice substitute though. He's shown improvement every year at North Carolina and there's no reason to think he wouldn't continue to develop at the NBA level.
He'll need to bulk up and work hard at improving his shooting touch if he hopes to be successful, though.
Already at 6'11, 220 lbs, he could provide a good one-two punch with Greg Monroe.
With Ben Wallace retiring, and the Pistons unlikely to re-sign free agent Jason Maxiell, they need someone besides Monroe to be a physical presence down low.
Henson would be a promising choice but unfortunately he has some risk associated with him. He's a bit of a tweener and, in that regard, reminds me of Austin Daye.
Detroit also has Vernon Macklin waiting in the wings. His play was impressive during his temporary stint in the NBA's D-League and he might be ready for more playing time in 2012-13.
For that reason, power forward might not be a position the Piston's need to target in Round 1.
Here is another, perhaps safer, option.
Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
No, I'm not a North Carolina alumni. In fact, as a former Fab-Five fanatic, I've detested Carolina Blue ever since Chris Webber's heartbreaking timeout.
That doesn't mean I can't overlook my bias and target a Tar Heel that could help the Pistons. Tyler Zeller could do just that and he will be available around pick 10.
Although no one predicts he'll be a star, as ESPN's mock draft states, he can be an impactful pro.
Since when have the Pistons won anything with a "star" kind of player anyway. They are at their best when they have a team of good players who know their roles.
Zeller is a big body who can clog up the middle, block a few shots and control the boards. After he gets stronger he will do all of those things even better.
Penetrating guards ate the Pistons alive this season. They need another player—paired with Monroe—to improve their interior defense.
Zeller would give them that. He also has an offensive game refined enough to improve Detroit's scoring down low.
In fact, many scouting reports say his strength is his offensive game. He runs the floor as well as anybody and has a soft touch around the basket. He also has a reliable perimeter shot.
He's not the flashy pick that many fans covet, but he is a logical one.
Round 1 Trade Scenario
Leonard is raw but has a big upside.
This might be wishful thinking on my part, but isn't that why mock drafts are so fun?
The Pistons need to pick up a player in Round 1 that can help them immediately if they hope to take another step forward in 2012-13.
They also have several players on their team currently whose contracts and level of play are not conducive to success—Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva come to mind.
If there is any way Joe Dumars can unload either one of them on some sorry sap, he should jump at the chance.
The draft offers a unique opportunity to do so.
Since I don't foresee Detroit unloading both players I'll focus on Villanueva. While Gordon has not lived up to his contract, at least he has proven he can be an effective scorer off the bench.
Villanueva has given Detroit no return on its investment.
I think it would be wise for Detroit to package him with their first-round pick and trade down in Round 1.
WIth a lower first-round pick the Pistons could still find a talented prospect.
Players like Arnett Moultrie, Meyers Leonard or Jeff Taylor stand out to me as solid prospects that could fill an immediate need for Detroit.
Given Orlando GM Otis Smith's proclivity for taking on bad contracts, perhaps Dumars should start there.
Round 2: Jae Crowder, SF, Marquette
Crowder might be the physical presence Detroit lacks.
Jae Crowder certainly is no NBA superstar in the making.
But, he is a physical, high-energy player who could provide scoring and defense off the bench.
I compare him to Ben Wallace—except Crowder can actually shoot. He averaged 17 points per game last year at Marquette while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.
He added eight rebounds and two steals a game, too.
Another advantage of Crowder is that Detroit wouldn't have to wait around for him to bulk up. According to DraftExpress.com, his body is more reminiscent of an NFL tight end than an NBA small forward.
The Pistons desperately need his physicality. They got pushed around last year and no one stepped up to say, "Enough is enough!" Every team needs a player to match up against the other teams physical guy.
Some of the Pistons young stars need to get a chip on their shoulder and Crowder could help set that tone in Detroit's locker room.
If you don't like Crowder, here is an alternative.
Orlando Johnson, SG, UC Santa Barbara
One thing Orlando Johnson and Jae Crowder have in common is that they both possess NBA-ready frames.
This fact would obviously improve Johnson's chances of seeing significant playing time from day one.
Another thing that could help his chances is that he's proven he is an elite scorer. Granted he didn't exactly play against elite competition in the Big West.
Scouts, including ESPN's Fran Fraschilla, were raving after his performance at the LeBron James Skills Academy last November, though. No longer are there doubts he can play with the best of the best.
He would give the Pistons another legitimate scoring threat. At 6'5", 205 lbs, he's big and strong enough to post up, and he shot over 40 percent from three-point range last season.
Some might argue that with Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon getting the lion's share of minutes, drafting Johnson would be a waste.
Gordon is not the elite scorer he once was and Stuckey plays as much point guard as he does shooting guard.
Besides, who knows if Gordon will even be around next year.
The Piston's were 27th in the league in points per game. If that's not evidence enough that they need more scorers, I don't know what is.