By Dan Jenkins
DETROIT (97.1 The Ticket) — With the NBA draft almost among us, it’s time to look back at some of the most unforgettable moments for the Detroit Pistons on draft night, for better or worse. Nothing close to any of these moments is likely to happen this year, with the Pistons missing out on the first round as their pick was sent to the Hornets.
Obviously, Isiah Thomas is probably the best pick the team has ever made, but it was with the second-overall pick and a no-brainer. The following lists are the best and worst draft choices that the Pistons made based on value and need.
5. Andre Drummond (2012 1st Round, Pick #9)
Many people said that Drummond fell to the Pistons at the ninth pick — which is sort of true. But, the big man was coming off an underwhelming freshman season at Connecticut which showed he had plenty of potential. Many teams passed on Drummond because of a “lack of work ethic” and a nagging back injury.
The pick was a no-brainer at number nine, but leave it to Joe Dumars to have screwed that up. He’ll get credit for it here and for not trying to be the smartest man in the room again. We don’t know just how good Drummond will be in a Pistons uniform, but the potential to be a once-in-a-generation player is there.
4. Grant Hill (1994 1st Round, Pick #3)
When you look back at the 1994 Draft, it was absolutely awful. Only five players from that draft ever made an All Star team and nine never played a minute in the NBA. Hill wasn’t the best player the Pistons ever had and sadly had his career cut short due to injury, but for the Pistons to draft Hill at number three — instead of going with Sharone Wright or Lamond Murray — was commendable. He brought star-power to the Motor City during the dead years after the Bad Boys broke up.
3. Tayshaun Prince (2002 1st Round, Pick #23)
The Pistons do not win the 2004 Championship without Prince — period. As a second-year player, he was the primary defender on Kobe Bryant during the entire series. Prince was the second-best defender — behind Ben Wallace — on the team for as long as he was in Detroit.
Dumars (the executive) finally got it right in 2003 — getting a main player on a championship team with the 23rd pick doesn’t get much better.
2. Joe Dumars (1985 1st Round, Pick #18)
The only thing keeping Dumars out of the top spot on this list is that he was drafted in the first round (spoiler: number one was not). Dumars is one of four Hall of Famers from the 1985 draft and was picked ahead of the likes of Uwe Blab and Wayman Tisdale (exactly…).
1. Dennis Rodman (1986 2nd Round, Pick #27)
The 1986 draft was fantastic for the Pistons. They got John Salley in the first round and The Worm in the second round. Rodman came out of nowhere (Southeastern Oklahoma State) and turned into arguably one of the greatest rebounders of all time.
Rodman was the x-factor for the Pistons championships in 1989 and 1990 and had his number retired to the Palace rafters in 2011. Rodman was an All Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and made the All Defensive First Team five times with the Pistons.
5. Brandon Knight (2011 1st Round, Pick #8)
There was a lot of promise surrounding Knight when he came into the Pistons organization — he played in the NBA-factory that is a John Calipari program. Calipari had recently pumped out players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and Tyreke Evans.
Knight was dumped in Milwaukee after just two seasons with the Pistons.
4. Mateen Cleaves (2000 1st Round, Pick #14)
There was so much hype around Cleaves when he came out of college — he was Michigan-made, he went to Michigan State and played for Tom Izzo for four years, and he was the Most Outstanding Player when the Spartans won the National Title in 2000.
Cleaves was the first of Dumars’ draft picks and played only one season in Detroit while averaging 5.4 points per game before quickly being dealt to the Sacramento Kings. Cleaves started only two games in the five years he played in the NBA after leaving Detroit.
3. Rodney White (2001 1st Round, Pick #9)
The second of Dumars’ picks put him at 0-for-2. White was selected ahead of Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas — all of which made multiple All Star teams. Dumars did make up for this pick by selecting Mehmet Okur in the second round, however.
White played just 16 games for the Pistons in his only season with the team. White never averaged more than nine points per game in a season and fell out of the league after five years.
2. Austin Daye (2009 1st Round, Pick #15)
This one burns bad. The Pistons were fresh out of a failed Allen Iverson experiment after trading away point guard Chauncey Billups. The team desperately needed someone to run the team — a point guard — but selected Daye instead.
The Pistons passed on Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague and Darren Collison — all of whom were selected immediately after Daye. Daye played four years in Detroit and could have been a decent reserve player, but he gets this spot on the list just based on what was passed on to draft him.
1. Darko Miličić (2003 1st Round, Pick #2)
No explanation needed.