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I was like many of you when Trey Burke seemed to magically fall into the Pistons laps at #8, then just as quick Joe D took a player that 99% of Stones fans had never heard of. “What The H?”, “You Have Got To Be Kidding Me!”, and “That’s It I Give Up”, are just a few things I am sure many of you shouted at your TV’s. First let me start with Pope. I am a college hoops junkie, so I had seen KCP play throughout last season. Not that there was ever much reason to watch a horrid Georgia team last season, but when they are playing on an early Saturday afternoon on TV , only infomercials are on, and maybe you have some money on it as well, for entertainment purposes only of course, well “When In Rome”.
The five times or so I saw KCP play last year, including a 32 point and 13 rebound game in a loss to LSU in the SEC Tourney, you were drawn to him. He has size for a SG, 6-5 1/2, and he absolutely has jets on both ends of the floor. The Pistons also have had success with bigger guards like him, most recently with Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups. He primarily guarded the opposing team’s best player and I know that is not saying much in the SEC, but he often would completely lock them down. Against one of the top two teams in the conference at the time Kentucky, not only did KCP have a great game, 24 and 10, but he helped UGA beat UK in a game the Cats needed to win to get into the NCAA Tournament.
The Pistons need a 2-guard with size and it is very possible that KCP could even end up playing the 3. He has excellent athleticism, can shoot the three, and is great around the rim. I think the Pistons have put together a tremendous young nucleus, that while green at times, has a lot of raw talent and a huge upside as they continue to develop. When Andre Drummond is healthy you can see the kind of difference maker he is. By Drafting KCP a huge question was answered as well in the fact that the team believes that B Knight is their point guard. That is very important for a player that is so young like BK7 is and seems like he might be ready to take off and become the difference maker that so many feel he can be.
Now I want to talk about what so many of you, like myself were upset about as KCP was drafted instead of local hero and in my opinion an NBA All-Star in the next three years, Trey Burke. I had written about this before, if Burke is there at 8 and the likes of McLemore and Oladipo are gone like I would thought they would be, you simply have to snatch him up. Five years from now looking back on this decision, it might end up being one of the worst mistakes in Pistons history, but as of this second there is simply no way to know that.
I will say this, I feel Burke was absolutely the best player in college basketball last season, is a proven leader, thrived in a conference that was easily the best in the land, and brought his team to the A National title game and minutes from winning it all. He would have instantly energized an apathetic fan base and put a ton of butts in seats that there is no way KCP would be able to do from the jump. From a PR standpoint there is no way you can say anything other than it is a total disaster. Though if the Pistons had drafted Burke they would simply have had one of the smallest back courts in the league.
Now I want you to think back to the 1987 NBA Draft. The Indiana Pacers fans were rabid about the team taking local product and hero Steve Alford, who much like Burke led his team to the National Title game, but unlike Burke won it, and had an excellent college career. Well Miller was taken instead, the fans were livid, but we all know how that turned out. The point I want to make is that while I was upset just like many of you were that Burke was passed on, in the long run; Pope could honestly just end up being a better fit for the direction the Pistons are going in. Of course much like the Reggie Bush/Mario Williams 2006 NFL Draft Quagmire, the progress of both will be watched, compared, and micro analyzed.
Remember how angry the Texans fans were, well it actually turned out better for that franchise that they drafted Williams as Bush got off to a slow start and Williams helped build the defensive identity the Texans still have today even with him no longer there. That very well could be exactly what Pope does. It is not that Burke isn’t going to be a great player, I think he is going to be excellent in the NBA, but sometimes you have to accept that a certain player is better for your franchises ability to win, and when it comes down to it isn’t that all that matters.
Adding KCP to the Pistons mix, with the very athletic and seemingly improving by the moment Greg Monroe, as well as Drummond, and Brandon Knight, the pieces might be really starting to come into focus if Pope can be an impact player as a rookie the way AD was when he was healthy last season. While taking KCP might not have been what the fans wanted sometimes for the betterment of the franchise gut reactions and desires need to be kept in check.
When you feel that anger like I have over the past 24 hours, just think of how the Pacers fans felt when Alford was passed on and the player they got ended up being one of the best the NBA has ever seen. While I would never say that I feel that is going to happen with Pope as it is insanely too early to even think that. I will say this; sometimes not getting what you want is whether in life, love, or the NBA, ends up being the best thing for you. For a franchise that had so much success for so many years, then fell of the face of the Earth, it takes a bold move sometimes to turn it all around.