Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver speaks from experience when he says dropping two spots in the draft lottery isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
He was working for Oklahoma City when the Thunder moved down from No. 2 to 4 in 2008. They still landed Russell Westbrook. A year later, the Thunder hoped to win the lottery and take hometown product Blake Griffin. They ended up third and settled for James Harden.
That’s not to say the Pistons will unearth a superstar at No. 7 in this year’s draft, after moving down two spots in Thursday’s lottery. But Weaver believes there is not a lot of separation of talent in the top 10, after the first few picks.
“I always felt like this draft was about 14 or 15 deep, felt like you could probably get the quality, same player between three and 13, so hopefully we will have the good fortune of getting someone of that stature with the seventh pick,” Weaver said during a Zoom conference call. “But we don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ll pick up the ball where it is. We’re excited for this opportunity and we will make the most of it.
“So, before everybody starts with the ‘Woe is me,’ don’t do that with us. We’re not built that way. We are going to charge forward and get after it with the seventh pick.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves won the lottery. The Pistons, who finished with the fifth-worst record (20-46), had a 42.1 percent chance of moving into the top four. But they had a greater chance of dropping, and that is what happened because Charlotte (No. 3) and Chicago (No. 4) leap-frogged them.
The draft is scheduled for Oct. 16.
The Pistons’ biggest needs are at point guard and center.
Derrick Rose is their only true point guard signed for 2020-21, but he turn 32 on Oct. 4 and could be moved at the trade deadline if the team is out of playoff contention.
LaMelo Ball (6-7, Illawarra in Australia), rated by most analysts at the top point guard in the draft, won’t drop to seventh – he might even go as high as No. 1.
Point guards who might be available for the Pistons at No. 7 include Killian Hayes (6-5, Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany), Tyrese Halliburton (6-5, Iowa State) and Cole Anthony (6-3, North Carolina).
“Probably five or six point guards will go in the top 20, so we’ll study them just like the rest of the group, but I still think there will be some guys available at seven for us to continue to vet,” Weaver said. “This draft is going to be scrambled all around and the availability of point guards at seven, hopefully we’ll still have some quality guys to choose from.”
The Pistons could also use a center. James Wiseman (7-1, Memphis) will surely be gone before the Pistons draft, but other big men who might be on the board include Obi Toppin (6-9, Dayton) and Onyeka Okongwu (6-9, USC).
“Where we are, we have to continue to play the board and just draft the best available; we’re not in a position to just pick a position,” Weaver said. “We’ll look at everything. Of course, position comes into play somewhat, but we have a lot of holes and we aren’t quite there yet.”
This is not regarded as a strong draft with a clear-cut No. 1 pick like last year when Duke’s Zion Williamson went to New Orleans. Many analysts project shooting guard Anthony Edwards of Georgia to be taken first.
“From three to 13 it’s going to be a scramble, so that’s why we have to continue to do our work, be disciplined and diligent and be ready, because this is a draft where you don’t know,” Weaver said.
“At the top of the draft there will be some talented guys. People saying not a great draft, but hopefully we’ll get some good fortune at seven and make the right decision.”
Weaver believes some teams might look to trade down due to the uncertainty of the salary cap and luxury tax threshold.
“I think teams would definitely look to explore those options because of financial restraints,” he said.
The Pistons have not moved up in 14 lottery appearances.
“I understand the bad fortune that has been here, but I don’t subscribe to that,” Weaver said. “We’ll be ready and excited to do our work and we expect some good fortune.”
More: A closer look at some Pistons draft candidates