Monroe Figures To Get A Running Mate
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By taking the approach of selecting the best big man available, the Pistons made a big score in last June’s draft. That philosophy will not change when their next lottery pick comes up June 23.
Greg Monroe, the No. 7 overall pick last year, exceeded all expectations when he recorded 21 double-doubles after New Year’s Day. Now president of basketball operations Joe Dumars is determined to find a frontcourt partner for the 6-foot-11 Monroe.
“Is it a slam dunk that we’re going to draft a big? No. Would we like to add another young big? Absolutely,” Dumars said. “We’ll see how it plays out.”
Dumars’ task became a little tougher by the way the lottery played out. The Pistons, who had the seventh-worst record, dropped to No. 8 while Central Division rival Cleveland jumped from that spot and landed the top pick. In a draft that many experts have labeled one of the weakest in many years, the Pistons would be fortunate to find a starter at their draft position, along with a player who can make the roster with their second-round pick at No. 33. Dumars, who traveled to Eastern Europe shortly after the season to evaluate several top 10 prospects, holds a more optimistic view.
“We’ve studied the thing and done our homework, so we know we can get a good player in the seven or eight range,” he said. “Also, we feel good about 33 as well. We’ve looked at a group of guys who are going to be in that range, so we feel good about eight and 33. That’s the quality of the depth we’re concerned about. All the other picks, it’s just irrelevant to us.”
It’s also irrelevant whether the best big man at No. 8 is a natural center or power forward, because Monroe can play either spot.
“This is where (Monroe’s) versatility really helps you,” Dumars said. “If you were to draft a five (center) or four (power forward), he can play with either of them. That’s what makes a guy like that so valuable.”
Detroit’s lottery pick this season will probably need a work visa. Dumars has taken a long look at Europeans Jan Vesely, a 6-foot-11 forward who averaged 10.4 points in the Euroleague last season; Jonas Valanciunas, a 6-10 forward who averaged 7.6 ppg in Euroleague play; and Donatas Motiejunias, a 7-foot center who averaged 12 ppg in the Italian League, as well as Congo native Bismack Biyombo, who played in Spain last season.
The Pistons’ brass will get another chance to evaluate them at a pre-draft camp in Treviso, Italy the second week of June. If the Pistons pass on the foreign-born players, their most intriguing option might be University of Texas 6-8 forward Tristan Thompson.
For a team that lost its first five games and never had a winning streak longer than three games, there were no special moments on the court. The best thing that happened came less than a week before the season ended, when Tom Gores and his company, Platinum Equity, reached a definitive agreement to purchase the team and its assets from Karen Davidson, widow of long-time owner Bill Davidson. There was a palpable sense of relief and excitement at The Palace when the announcement was made, with the expectation that the sale will be approved by the league’s Board of Governors and the front office can finally take bold action to improve the roster.
Public embarrassments were commonplace but nothing made the franchise look worse than the infamous shoot-around boycott in Philadelphia on Feb. 25, though no player would ever admit publicly there was one. Only six players showed up for the shoot-around and that’s all Kuester and assistant coach Brian Hill — who took over after Kuester was ejected late in the first half — used in the game. McGrady and Stuckey, among others, were seen laughing on the bench after Kuester’s ejection, making the players look even more unprofessional. Any pretense that they were still aiming for a playoff spot was vanquished that night.
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