Coming off two brutal losses and injuries to key young players Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond, the Detroit Pistons are probably not going to make the playoffs this year.
This would represent the fourth straight year that the team from Michigan will not be represented in the postseason.
While it is somewhat disappointing in the short term, it actually works out quite well in the long term.
The Pistons traded a first round pick last year to unload Ben Gordon to the Charlotte Bobcats. That pick was lottery protected through this year, but after that it's value increases. Next year it is top eight protected, the year after that it is number one overall protected and in 2016 it will be unprotected.
That means that Detroit, a franchise that is desperate for more young talent, will genuinely feel the ramifications of losing the pick this season. They just can't afford to lose out on their first round pick this year.
So under the assumption that the Pistons are drafting in the lottery, let's take a look at some of their options.
I will be previewing one new player each week through March.
Scouting Trey Burke, PG-Michigan
In the name of full disclosure, I chose Trey Burke to begin this series due in large part to the fact that I have seen nearly his entire career.
As a lifelong Michigan Wolverines fan, I rarely miss a game (even out here on the West Coast!).
Burke came to Michigan as a relatively untouted player from Columbus, Ohio. Despite winning Mr. Basketball for the state of Ohio, Burke was not even offered a scholarship from his hometown Buckeyes.
Michigan swooped in and after suffering the loss of stud point guard Darius Morris to the pros, Burke immediately snatched the starting job as a true freshman.
Last year he played very well; this year, he is the best point guard in the nation.
Burke is a scoring point guard that calls to mind great scorers like Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups. But what is truly amazing about Burke and what sets him apart from other good point guards is his handle for the offense.
Burke runs the offense and he plays smart. He has excellent instincts on the court and rarely makes dumb mistakes.
When the game is on the line, you are comfortable with the ball in Burke's hands.
His overall game is as close to flawless as you can get for a point guard. He has great range, excellent quickness and court vision that calls to mind some of the greats.
His passing ability is elite, his ball-handling is superb and he moves very well without the ball. He puts his teammates in the right position to succeed and knows how to get to the hoop to set up easy hoops.
Defensively, he lacks elite size but makes up for it with good instincts. He plays aggressively, but under control, patrolling passing lanes with flair and zeal.
When he was scouted back in high school, the biggest knock on him was a perceived lack of athleticism. Burke has answered those questions and then some, displaying elite quickness and a surprising ability to finish near the hoop.
He is slowly developing a running jumper when attacking the hoop, a shot that has prolonged the careers of players such as Steve Nash and Andre Miller.
Once he truly develops this weapon, Burke will be a player that can step in right away and lead an NBA franchise; he has that type of leadership in him and is a high character guy.
How he fits in Detroit
Ever since they dealt Chauncey Billups, the Pistons have been relying on combo guards to run their point guard spot.
Team president Joe Dumars himself was sort of a combo guard, so it's easy to see why he has an affinity for that type of player.
But it also is important to note that the Pistons only ever won with a real point guard. They won their first two titles with Isiah Thomas running the show, and they won their third with Billups. Those two could score, but they really flourished by running the offense and setting up their teammates.
The combo guard experiment in Detroit has been an unequivocal failure. Rodney Stuckey could score at times, but his judgement and court vision are lacking.
Brandon Knight has had his moments and still might develop into a point guard, but he has been wildly inconsistent and it is hard to see him as a true point guard at this point in his career.
Everyone points to Billups and says that it took him years to develop into the type of player he is now. Sure, that could definitely be the case with Knight, but how long did it take Billups to figure it out? Five or six years? And how many players never developed into point guards along the way?
The Pistons just can't afford to take that kind of gamble.
Sure, Jose Calderon could and should be re-signed given how well he has played this year. But at age 31, he is probably not the long-term answer at the point guard position in Detroit.
If the Pistons are able to draft Burke, they need to jump on that without any hesitation.
Drafting Burke would give the Pistons options. They could take their time developing Burke, allowing the young guard to learn behind Calderon for a year or two.
They could also elect to make either Calderon or Knight available for trade and help bolster another position of weakness.
The fact of the matter is that drafting Burke would give the Pistons their point guard of the future. Burke is also a Midwest guy, meaning that he probably won't be bummed about playing in the chilly state of Michigan.
Burke's game seems tailor made for the NBA. He has the quickness to get to the hoop, the range to spread the defense and the instincts to know when to do both.
On the Pistons, Burke would pair well with the current roster. A pairing of Burke and Andre Drummond could be the next lob city and his ability to step back and knock down the three would work well in pick-and-roll situations with Greg Monroe.
Burke is not a big guy (6'0",190lbs) so a backcourt of Burke and Knight could be problematic. He also plays best with the ball in his hands, so Stuckey might not fit either.
If the Pistons could find a way to get someone like O.J. Mayo or even bring back Arron Afflalo, they would be wise to do so.
As it stands today, the Pistons would be in the running for Burke.
Most scouting services put Burke somewhere between picks 12-16 and as it stands right now, the Pistons would be drafting somewhere between eight and 10.
So technically, Burke might represent somewhat of a reach. But let's take a look at Burke's draft stock in a month or two. He has the talent to do exceptionally well in the NCAA tournament and could enjoy a Kemba Walker-like run.
Personally, I would be shocked if Burke doesn't have a great tournament and catapult his way up the draft board.
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