Last year’s lottery pick, Greg Monroe, never worked out for the Pistons before the draft because he was expected to go higher than No. 7 overall. A similar scenario unfolded in this year’s draft as Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight surprisingly fell to the Pistons at No. 8 after a run on big men.
That gives the Pistons a new floor leader and increases the possibility that 2010-11 leading scorer and restricted free agent Rodney Stuckey will not return.
Knight, who spoke with the Pistons at the Chicago predraft camp but didn’t work out in Detroit, was expected to go as high as No. 3 to Utah. Engaged in serious talks with two teams in front of them and four behind them to move the pick, the Pistons ultimately stood pat and wound up with another option in a crowded backcourt.
“At that point, it was a talent we didn’t think we could pass up,” said president of basketball operations Joe Dumars, who had planned to draft a frontcourt player.
Knight joins a backcourt that includes point guards Stuckey and Will Bynum and shooting guards Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon. The Pistons might be less inclined to match an offer sheet for Stuckey, whose talent is sometimes overshadowed by maturity issues and questionable leadership on and off the court. Knight also enters the league with questions about where he fits in an NBA backcourt.
“That’s something we’ll have to figure out,” Knight said of possibly playing with Stuckey. “I definitely see myself as a point guard.”
Dumars and his staff are enamored of Knight’s work ethic, intelligence, shooting ability and character. They won’t hesitate to throw him into the rotation.
“We’re going to put the ball in his hands and allow him to make plays,” Dumars said. “He can play in the backcourt with the other guys we have. You allow a kid like this to grow.”
Duke’s Kyle Singler, their first of two second-round picks, gives them a backup at small forward to Austin Daye with the anticipated departure of unrestricted free agents Tayshaun Prince and Tracy McGrady. He’ll contribute as a solid mid-range shooter, passer and rebounder.
Florida power forward Vernon Macklin, the other second-rounder, will have to fight for a roster spot. His chances will improve if Jason Maxiell gets traded.
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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