Today should mark another date on the NBA regular season calendar, but for many, it'll be magnified as another time to make comparisons.
With the No. 8 pick in the 2013 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons shocked many by selecting Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The backcourt was in need of new additions, and Detroit was in dire need of perimeter shooting. Caldwell-Pope doesn't scream all-star caliber, but his defensive energy and budding offense fits perfectly with this franchise.
While KCP was chosen by surprise, everybody's biggest hope was former Michigan standout Trey Burke. The growing frustration over the slow-developing Brandon Knight pushed both fans and the front office in search of a different answer.
Detroit decided not to gamble on Burke by drafting KCP instead. General manager Joe Dumars still shook up the backcourt by dealing Knight and forward Khris Middleton to the Milwaukee Bucks for new franchise point guard Brandon Jennings.
Today marks Burke's return to Michigan and certainly raises a Twitter-favorite question: If Burke becomes better than KCP, has Dumars wasted another draft pick?
Dumars will be under plenty of fire for his summer activity, but Burke's future shouldn't decide his fate or the Pistons' success.
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Burke with the next pick of the draft then traded him to the Utah Jazz. He missed 12 regular season games after injuring his finger in preseason action, and he's starting to get his feet wet as the lead-man in Utah.
His success with the Jazz, however, isn't the deciding factor of whether Detroit went in the right direction. The Pistons hold their own fate in their hands.
Caldwell-Pope has found his way into the starting lineup and creates his own success. New head coach Maurice Cheeks admit he doesn't call plays for the rookie, saying that he generates the offense on his own.
His numbers won't wow you, averaging 7.3 points and shooting 40 percent from the field, with only a career-high point total of 17 against the Washington Wizards in December. In comparison, Burke is off to a better start with 13.6 points, 5.6 assists and a career-high standout performance against Orlando for 30.
To be fair, Burke has shown impressive flashes but hasn't been an overwhelmingly dominant guard. Shooting only 39 percent from the field is in glaring need of improvement. Like KCP, Burke is learning to find consistency, as well as leading the struggling Jazz to victories as a rookie point guard.
Burke's production potential is unquestionably higher than KCP's, but the Pistons' rookie guard isn't the measuring stick for Dumars' summer. Detroit's growth or decline under Brandon Jennings will be.
Jennings and KCP don't have to become all-stars for fans to forget about Burke. Jennings is averaging 16.6 points a game and a career-high 8.5 assists. His questionable shot selection and average of 37 percent, along with the underachieving team record of 16-22, is what keeps the Burke discussion alive.
The Pistons acquired a 24-year-old guard who just finished his rookie contract.
Seeing the progress Jennings needs to make, Detroit is working with the closest thing to a rookie at this moment. If the Pistons passed on Burke to keep Knight as well as bring back Chauncey Billups, the 2013 draft would be a definite blunder.
Jennings' game and decision-making needs help, but he's a clear upgrade over Knight and Burke at this moment. The Pistons are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, and they're still learning to consistently play together.
Detroit doesn't need a budding superstar in Caldwell-Pope to verify their draft decision over Burke. Considering a defense surrendering almost 105 points per game, the Pistons will rely on the Georgia product's on-ball pressure and budding offense to help this team grow. Tonight is a great chance for KCP to make fans forget about Burke.