Top Five Greatest Detroit Pistons First Round Draft Choices
This list compiles the five best players the Pistons have ever taken in the first round—a list that's not too hard to narrow down seeing that many of their great teams have been made up of rejects from other teams.
However, the Motor City Bad Boys have made a few good and some straight up lucky choices in the first round.
Disclaimer: Not all of these players led the Pistons to a championship or even to that many playoff appearances. Some of them just kept the franchise alive.
Also, I would include Dennis Rodman on this list if he was drafted in the first round, but he wasn't.
If John "Spider" Salley had a more productive career as a player for the Pistons, he would have made this list, but he did not.
Bob Lainer would probably have made this list if he had been here before Dave Bing. While he undoubtedly helped keep the then failing franchise alive as a player, Bing's accomplishments and dedication to the city of Detroit overshadow him in my mind.
Jimmy Walker was a great shooter and a compliment to Bing in the backcourt in the late '60s and early '70s, but he didn't stay with the team long enough to warrant making it.
If Kelly Tripucka hadn't been traded for Adrian Dantly in the move that essentially made the Pistons contenders in the 1980s, he probably would have made this list.
If Allan Houston had stayed with the Pistons longer and not signed with the Knicks after his first three seasons, he might have been in contention for this list as well. But the fact that he bolted too soon destroys his candidacy as well.
5. Grant Hill-1994
Not exactly the most popular guy in Detroit since the turn of the millennium, but without him, the Pistons might have moved in the late 1990s.
Although he never led the Pistons farther than the first round of the playoffs during his six season stay from 1994-2000, his ability and his versatility made him one of the best players in the NBA when he was in his prime.
After sharing the Rookie of the Year award with Jason Kidd in 1995, he showcased his versatility in his second season by leading the NBA in triple doubles with 10.
After the season ended, he won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics.
He then became the leader on the well-playing, but awful looking "teal jersey horse" team, getting them to the playoffs three times in a four year period, before barely missing the playoffs in 2000.
After that season, his contract was up and then-new General Manager Joe Dumars was unable to meet the star's salary demands. He left for the Orlando Magic in a sign-and-trade deal that sent Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace to Detroit, which would lead to the building of a new era in Detroit.
Which is why he is merely at the fifth spot in this slide show.
4. Dave Bing-1966
While it is great to see a former athlete become the mayor of the city he played professional basketball for, it's not the main reason why he's in the countdown.
Dave Bing was a great individual basketball player who gave his heart for a team that didn't initially want to draft him.
In 1966, the top pick in the draft came down to a coin toss between the Detroit Pistons and the New York Knicks.
Both teams wanted the same player, Michigan's 6'5" swingman Cazzie Russell, who had won the Naismith Award during that season and led the Wolverines to three straight Big Ten titles.
The Pistons lost the coin toss and Russell was on his way to New York. The Pistons wound up with Bing.
Bing wound up becoming a less-recognized pacifying sports figure in the city's turbulent history during the '60s. He won Rookie of the Year and led the NBA in scoring in 1967-68, considered one of the first great scoring guards in basketball.
However, what he did was more than that. With white teammate Dave DeBusschere, he helped show a city that had torn itself apart in a race riot that there still could be unity amongst people. Their harmony on the court helped heal the open wound that the city was at that time.
He was also a player of great determination and grit, he fought through one of the most brutal playoff series of the 1970s in 1974 against the Chicago Bulls.
Although the Pistons lost that series in seven games, in which the home team won each game, Bing was the captain on a team that was determined not to go down without a fight.
That series also eventually became the establishment of a great rivalry that the teams would have later on in the 1980s.
3. Tayshaun Prince-2002
Prince was an amazing college player it seemed like nobody wanted until the Pistons drafted him 23rd overall as their second first round pick.
This wound up being a very bittersweet draft, because their first pick wound up being Darko Milicic—one of the greatest draft busts in NBA history. The other wound up being the Prince of the Palace.
Prince gets a lot of ink for his defensive skills, mainly because of his clutch block of Reggie Miller in game two of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals. However, the long arms of the law, as George Blaha refers to them, are not simply there to block shots and grab rebounds.
He has amazing range as a shooter and can drive to the basket. He can dunk it home whenever he feels necessary and never at the expense of teamwork.
He has never been selected to an All-Star Game and to my knowledge has never complained about seeing his teammates there while not being on the court himself.
2. Isiah Thomas-1981
"Zeke" guaranteed a championship when he came to Detroit as the No. 2 pick in the draft in 1981.
Up to that point, the Pistons had been a joke, the laughingstock of the NBA. At the time, they had to move into the Pontiac Silverdome, the home of the Detroit Lions because they couldn't build a stadium of their own and nobody seemed interested in coming to their games.
One of the greatest point guards of all time, Isiah Thomas quickly became the Pistons franchise and the cornerstone of the Bad Boys teams that won championships in 1989 and 1990, allowing him to make good on his promise.
He was the unquestioned leader. Although he was the smallest guy on the team, he never backed down from a confrontation and was quite possibly one of the toughest players to ever play in the NBA.
The reason why he's not No. 1 isn't because of his playing career. As far as that is concerned, he is number one. But the impact of the number one player on the team extends beyond his playing career, to the point that if the Pistons didn't draft him, their history would be drastically different.
1. Joe Dumars-1985
Who knows how the history of the Detroit Pistons might have turned out had they not drafted a great shooting guard from an unheralded college who had largely been passed over because he played for a small school in Louisiana called McNeese St.
He was largely unknown. But when he stepped onto the basketball court, he had a fierce competitive streak in him that wouldn't rest until the team won a championship.
Whatever shortcomings he had, he would work to overcome and would go above and beyond the call to get the job done as a player. He refused to accept defeat.
He was normally the one who forced up the last-second shot attempt at the end of a close game the Pistons were losing. He also normally was the player who wound up guarding Michael Jordan for most of the time whenever they played the Bulls.
He once blocked a shot of the LA Lakers' James Worthy in the 1989 NBA Finals who was seven inches taller than him. When asked when was the last time he blocked a shot, he said, "I dunno, college, maybe."
During the Finals the next season, not even the death of his father could stop him from leading the Pistons back-to-back.
However, that alone can't justify why he's above Isiah Thomas. The reason why he's above Isiah is because after he retired and was made General Manager and President of Basketball Operations, he took a mediocre team and made them great again.
He revitalized the sleeping bad boy persona with players like Ben and Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. He traded the team's leading scorer, Jerry Stackhouse, for a youngster named Rip Hamilton and it paid off in the form of an NBA championship in 2004.
Without Joe D, there is no Three Championship Drive in Auburn Hills, MI.