NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons have become pretty familiar with this spot in the NBA draft.
For the fourth straight year, they’ll pick from seventh to ninth.
This time it’s No. 8 — and the Pistons hope their choice Thursday night will help avoid more trips to the lottery in the future.
“We’re simply looking to get the best player we can get,” said Dumars, the team president.
Dumars wasn’t about to tip his hand before the draft, and there’s the reality that the Pistons need contingency plans depending on who is available.
Last year, Dumars suspected shortly before the draft that Connecticut big man Andre Drummond might fall to Detroit at No. 9. Sure enough, the Pistons got him, and although he was bothered by back problems last season, he looks like he could be one of the league’s most promising young players.
In 2010, Detroit drafted another big man from the Big East — Greg Monroe of Georgetown. He was the No. 7 pick that year, and in 2011, the Pistons took guard Brandon Knight at No. 8.
The 6-foot-3 Knight averaged 13.3 points per game last season, slightly better than his rookie year. When Detroit introduced coach Maurice Cheeks earlier this month, one of the first questions was whether his experience as a point guard might help Knight.
“The game’s certainly played a lot different from when I was a point guard,” Cheeks said. “Brandon has some point guard skills. He has some two-guard skills. I certainly think the way the game is played today is a little different because point guards are not just point guards. They score, rebound and do a little extra.”
Michigan’s Trey Burke and Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams — two of the draft’s top guards — have visited with the Pistons. Burke would likely have to play point guard in the NBA, but it sounds like the Pistons are willing to be flexible with their backcourt, which also includes Rodney Stuckey.
Guard C.J. McCollum of Lehigh has also visited with Detroit.
With Drummond and Monroe already in the fold, the Pistons don’t have as much of a need for a pure post presence, but there are a few quality forwards who could potentially fit for them.
UNLV’s Anthony Bennett or UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad could offer some athleticism. Otto Porter Jr. is coming off a terrific season at Georgetown, although it remains to be seen if he’ll even be available at No. 8.
This draft is important, but the Pistons have been adding solid young players through the draft for a few years — and that hasn’t brought them any closer to the postseason. Detroit hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009.
Attendance has been poor, and there’s little buzz surrounding the franchise in the Detroit area.
This draft alone isn’t likely to change that — but the rest of the offseason is still to come. The Pistons have cleared space under the salary cap in the last year or so by trading veterans Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince, giving Dumars some flexibility to remake the roster.
This week offers an opportunity to add another player like Monroe or Drummond — a newcomer with a bright future. Cheeks talked a bit when he took over about the young talent on hand — and the chance he’ll have to help mold these players into a group that can excite fans of this proud franchise, which has won three NBA titles in the last 25 years.
“I always point to the jerseys in the rafters — those guys played right, they played correctly, they played committed,” Cheeks said. “I think when you have young players — you can put that in their brain.”
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