The Top 5 Best and Worst Detroit Pistons Draft Picks Since 2000
Though the Detroit Pistons' draft misses (Darko Milicic) have largely overshadowed their successes, there are actually a few impressive selections dotting the franchise's most recent hauls.
In fact, there's enough good news here to make note of honorable mentions who didn't make the list. Recall that Detroit selected Mehmet Okur with the No. 37 overall pick in 2001. He only spent two seasons with the Pistons but went on to have a successful run, averaging 13.5 points and seven rebounds for his career.
And despite the Milicic mistake in 2003, former president of basketball operations Joe Dumars later took Carlos Delfino at No. 25. He never became a star, but he's been a solid rotation player for someone taken late in the first round.
Dumars also took Amir Johnson with the 56th pick in 2005 and snagged Arron Afflalo at No. 27 in 2007.
The good has probably outweighed the bad.
In the final analysis, there's been a lot to like in Detroit's drafts since 2000. Here are the very best and very worst results of those drafts.
Best: Tayshaun Prince
Selection: No. 23, 2002
Tayshaun Prince never became a superstar, but he's proved to be exceptional value for a guy taken at No. 23. The lanky small forward spent the vast majority of his career with the Pistons until being traded in 2013 to the Memphis Grizzlies.
He averaged double figures for Detroit in every season except his rookie year, posting a career-high 14.7 points per contest in 2004-05. With a consistent mid-range game and exceptional defense, he was a staple in Detroit's lineup throughout the 2000s. Along with guys like Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, Prince is emblematic of this team's most recent success stories—including its 2004 title.
He was the last of that core to leave the team, which was a sign that Detroit was fully rebuilding and in need of a younger direction.
How's he faring in Memphis at the moment?
Bleacher Report's Tom Firme offered an outlook in February:
Justifying Prince's starting spot requires mental gymnastics related to two areas—defense and veteran leadership. Prince's metrics are barely at replacement level when he's at full health. Occasionally, he pulls an impressive play. Those occasions don't offset the numerous times he can't keep up with ball-handlers.
In short, Prince is officially past his prime. The Pistons appear to have parted with him at the right time—and not a minute too soon. Nevertheless, he will be remembered for the best of times in Detroit.
And he'll be remembered as one heck of a late first-round pick.
Worst: Rodney White
Selection: No. 9, 2001
Rodney White only played in Detroit for one season. Before long, the organization gave up and dealt him to the Denver Nuggets for a couple of players and a future first-round pick. At the time, Joe Dumars told media, per UPI.com, "It's difficult to trade a young talented player like Rodney White, but we feel this move adds depth to our front line and gives us flexibility for the future."
It wasn't a total loss for the Pistons, but it was a bitter disappointment, given that White was taken with the No. 9 overall pick.
That kind of draft position should have yielded something better.
White had talent and knew how to score the ball. But he was never a committed defender, and that ultimately threatened his ability to accrue playing time. For his career, he averaged 7.1 points in 15.4 minutes per game.
Since being released by the Golden State Warriors in 2005, White has made his career in Europe. He's played for a number of teams, most recently the Petron Blaze Boosters in 2013.
Best: Greg Monroe
Selection: No. 7, 2010
It didn't take long for Greg Monroe to make an impression on the Detroit Pistons. Now the task has become keeping him in the fold.
According the The Detroit News' Vincent Goodwill, "New Pistons president of basketball operations [Stan Van Gundy] isn’t taking his first big task lightly. With Monroe’s restricted status, the Pistons seemingly control the process because they can match any offer sheet from another team."
Per Goodwill, Van Gundy said, "[Monroe is] a very high priority for us. We have ideas on who might offer him what. Our strategy is if Greg gets a max offer, what are we gonna do? There’s only three things we can do. He can sign a qualifying offer, sign him (to a long term deal) or do a sign-and-trade."
One way or another, don't expect the Pistons to lose Monroe for nothing.
He's become too vital of a contributor. He's averaged at least 15 points and nine rebounds in each of his last three seasons, quickly becoming a model of consistency and one of the few bright spots in Detroit's attempt to rebuild.
Worst: Darko Milicic
Selection: No. 2, 2003
Per MLive's Brendan Savage, Dumars later admitted as much:
After I drafted Darko, from that point on, the amount of background we do on every single player that you see us draft is ridiculous. We do as much or more background than any other team in the NBA because of that. The background on (Milicic) was about 20 percent of what we do now. I look back on it now and realize you didn't know half of the stuff you needed to know.
Savage separately outlined Milicic's disappointing career:
In three seasons with the Pistons, Milicic played 96 games and started just three. He averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds before Detroit finally sent him to Orlando in February 2006 in a deal that landed them a first-round pick in 2007 that they used to take Rodney Stuckey.
Milicic has also played for Memphis, New Jersey and Minnesota during a nine-year career that has gotten better since he left Detroit but still has done nothing to indicate he was the No. 2 overall pick behind newly crowned NBA playoff MVP LeBron James.
The Pistons may have needed a big man, and size is always alluring in NBA circles. But Dumars will probably never forgive himself for this one. Nor will Pistons fans.
Best: Andre Drummond
Selection: No. 9, 2012
Before stepping down, Dumars made one last pick to remember. This time it was a pretty good one.
Andre Drummond had a solid rookie year and an absolutely emergent sophomore campaign. This season he averaged 13.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per contest. In the process, he established himself as one of the game's best young centers and a dominant interior presence defensively and on the glass.
If the Pistons have any hope of returning to their championship ways, he will have a lot to do with it.
And the scary thing is that he still has plenty of room to get even better. The obvious areas of improvement will be on the offensive end, where Drummond should continue to develop his post game and a better mid-range shot.
There's a good chance he becomes an even better defender too. CBSSports' Matt Moore broke down his early shortcomings:
Drummond is an incredible force on the court, that's plain to see, and he needs to play. He looks like an impact player and one of the best players on the team, which he is. But did you know that the Pistons are 5.4 points per 100 possessions worse defensively with Drummond on court vs. off? That's the most of any heavy-minute rotation player for the Pistons.
How does a defensively dominant center accrue numbers like that? Well in part, it's because of the minutes, matchups, and lineups he plays a part of. Drummond is soaking up the tough parts of the game and that creates noise. Drummond is, instinctively, a good defender, but he's learning key elements of the game on the mental end. He'll continue to get better.
According to Moore, one of the things that Drummond has to improve on that "mental end" is "defensive communication," an issue profiled in more depth by NBA.com's Keith Langlois. The short story is that he needs to do some of the little things better, the kind of things that experience should teach him in time.
As good as this draft pick already looks, we haven't seen the best of Drummond just yet.