Dumars Raises Questions and Pulses with Draft

Jay Wierenga@@JayWierengaCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27:  Trey Burke (R) of Michigan poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner David Stern after Burke was drafted #9 overall in the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2013 NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 27, 2013 in in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. Burke was traded later in the evening to the Utah Jazz. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Just what exactly was he thinking? 

If the NBA draft party you were at was anything like mine, that was the prevailing question being asked. 

The draft certainly was filled with surprises right from the beginning. UNLV's Anthony Bennett went No. 1 overall, Indiana's Cody Zeller went easily five spots above where anyone could have imagined and Ben McLemore slid all the way out of the top five. 

But for Pistons' fans, the real surprise was that hometown hero Trey Burke from Michigan fell right into Detroit's lap. 

However, the biggest surprise was that team president Joe Dumars passed on the talented point guard. 

So before I start to delve into whether or not this was the wise move, let's try to get into Dumars' mind. 


Roster with holes, questions

The Pistons' have a very young, very talented core of players but they have plenty of needs. They also have a few questions that have yet to be sufficiently answered regarding the personnel that they have on board. 

And how they answer these questions regarding said personnel basically determines what holes they believe they have on the roster.

Their two talented big men, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, are slated to start alongside one another starting next season. This means that Monroe is going to have to shift the the power forward spot. Whether or not this is going to work in my mind is immaterial; the simple fact of the matter is that this is an unanswered question. 

Last season, Kyle Singler spent the majority of the season in the starting lineup, but many view this as a case of necessity not necessarily a true fit. 

But the biggest question concerning the Pistons is whether or not Brandon Knight can be the point guard of the future for Detroit. 

If the Pistons believe in Knight as the point guard, then it makes sense to pass on Burke. 

However, for a player that has not shown a true knack for playing the position, this is staking a lot on Knight's relatively slight shoulders. 

It has been argued that Knight has not been put in a position to succeed as a point guard, and there is a lot of validity to that argument. 

With a new coaching staff on board led by former star point guard Maurice Cheeks, the Pistons apparently believe that Knight can be groomed to be their floor leader. 

Obviously time will tell on this argument, but it the signs aren't good that this gamble will pay off. 


The argument against Burke

There were a number of prognosticators that argued that Trey Burke was just another example of Mateen Cleaves—a talented local point guard that would fizzle out under the big lights. 

Sure, both were fiery leaders that used excellent court vision and strong wills to lead their college squads to tremendous tournament runs. 

But that really is where the comparisons should end. Burke is quicker, a better athlete and a much better shooter. 

Cleaves was basically a fringe NBA player that was drafted way too high. Burke is at worst a Mike Conley type of talent that should be running an NBA team for years to come. 

Those that continue to compare these two are re-hashing a lazy argument. 

Who knows if this went into Dumars' decision-making here, but it shouldn't.

The biggest argument against drafting Burke was that even if he did fill a need for a true point guard, there were perceived holes in his game.

Obviously draft gurus are paid to find holes in every players' game, so all arguments must be taken with a grain of salt.

The argument was that Burke was undersized and not ideally athletic.

Now the first part of this argument is a matter of subjection. For generations, a 6'1" point guard like Burke was pretty standard.

Even going back to the best years to be a Pistons' fan, they were led by a point guard that was this height if not slightly smaller in Isiah Thomas.

Obviously times change, but even today's NBA has players that are excelling at this height.

The Atlanta Hawks' George Teague, Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo, Denver Nuggets' Ty Lawson and Memphis Grizzlies' Conley are just some examples of players that are around the size of Burke. Each of them is viewed as one of the best point guards in the league.

Not to mention Chris Paul, who is the unquestioned best point guard in the league.

Sure, the league is trending towards taller point guards, but would Pistons' fans argue with possessing any of the above players?

The second part of the argument is a little harder to answer. Athleticism is a completely subjective discussion.

The old adage is that athleticism is hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

Now I don't know exactly what most analysts see when they look at Burke, but if they were watching him during the NCAA tournament, they would see a player that not only had the ability to force a back court violation, but the leaping ability to block an attempted layup well above the rim.

The Burke that most people saw during the tournament was a player that refused to be denied at any level against any competitor.


Dumars' argument

Dumars never outwardly stated why he didn't select Burke, only that he was prepared to make unpopular decisions.

"Drafts aren't popularity contests," Dumars said after the draft.

True, draft moves shouldn't be dictated by what others may like. But if the popular move just so happened to be the right one, why should it matter?

Dumars essentially stated by making the move that he did, drafting a shooting guard instead of a point guard, was that he either already had his point guard of the future or he was interested in securing a different one.

Who knows, maybe Dumars just wasn't wild about Burke's game. Maybe he saw something that rubbed him the wrong way. It could even be a personality issue that fans can't necessarily see themselves.

It could even be that Dumars really likes Knight's game and viewed a backcourt of Burke and Knight as being too small.

Or maybe Dumars just really liked Caldwell-Pope's game that much more than Burke's.

These are all arguments that could have gone into Dumars' thinking, but they all seem to hinge on Knight being the answer at point guard, an argument that seems inherently flawed.

Nobody is doubting that Knight isn't talented enough to be successful in this league. He certainly has shown the ability to score in bunches.

But he hasn't shown the ability to find open teammates or make the game easier for his big men. He can take players off the dribble, but once he reaches the second level it rarely leads to a distribution situation.

He also hasn't shown the ability to make shots off the dribble, an essential component of a point guard.

Additionally, he tends to turn the ball over quite a bit (2.7 for his career) in comparison to a low assist rate (3.9).

Sure, critics can point all they want to the precarious situations that Knight has been thrown into, but at the end of the day this just results in more questions and no answers of production.


A missed opportunity

I have stated on more than one occasion that I believe that Burke should have been selected for a variety of reasons.

The Pistons have lacked a true leader on the court since Chauncey Billups was dealt to Denver.

They also have lacked a true distributor for an entire season since Billups left town.

More than these two traits, the Pistons need a point guard that can spread the court with his ability to hit the deep jumper and create opportunities for cutters by slashing to the hoop and penetrating.

Burke fills all of these roles. He has the ability to penetrate and get off shots in traffic. He also has the range to knock down perimeter jumpers extending beyond the three-point line. Additionally, he has tremendous court vision and has shown the ability to make things easier for his big men.

No other point guards truly fit this bill like Burke in this year's draft. Michael Carter-Williams lacks any type of consistent jump shot and was marginalized badly in this year's tournament (by Burke). C.J. McCollum is an excellent scorer but has not shown the ability to set up teammates. And each of the other point guards in this year's draft are much lesser talents.

In free agency, there are very few good options. Paul is re-signing with the L.A. Clippers, Jose Calderon is not a long-term answer and Will Bynum and Jarrett Jack are better served as backups. Brandon Jennings is super talented, but as a restricted free agent, he is likely heading back to the Milwaukee Bucks.

There also don't appear to be any legitimate options on the trade front, as most teams that find their point guards tend to hold onto them tightly.

So either the Pistons hope that they can somehow get lucky and grab a hidden gem, or they are going to roll the dice with the flawed Knight.

But for argument's sake, let's say that Dumars didn't like Burke and saw other options via trade or free agency. Why then didn't he look at a similar deal to what the Utah Jazz were offering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 9 pick? He could have traded down and still had a shot at a good wing player like Shabazz Muhammad and Tim Hardaway Jr.

No matter how you slice it, the Pistons missed a great opportunity.

The only way that Dumars is justified in doing what he did is if Caldwell-Pope has a stellar career and both Muhammad and Burke flame out.


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