AUBURN HILLS – On a day the Pistons unveiled a new logo, with a new home in downtown Detroit awaiting them, they retained their same miserable lottery luck.
The Pistons will select 12th in the June 22 draft, right where they began the night. That was in line with the 93.54 percent odds that they wouldn’t move and the far smaller odds – 2.54 percent – that they would draw a top-three pick.
Boston, which Wednesday night opens the Eastern Conference finals against Cleveland, got the No. 1 pick as a result of its 2013 trade with Brooklyn that sent veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets. The Celtics began the night with the best odds to land the top pick, 25 percent. Los Angeles got the No. 2 pick, moving up from No. 3, and Philadelphia the No. 3 pick, jumping up from No. 4. Phoenix, which began the night in the No. 2 spot, was bumped to fourth.
“That was the odds where we would end up tonight and that’s where we are at, number 12,” Pistons general manager Jeff Bower said via teleconference from New York, where he represented the team on the lottery dais. “We had a hope of moving up, however slim that is, but now that the percentages have played out we put all our attention on making a good pick at number 12 and I think we’re going to be positioned to add a good player.”
The players regarded as the gems of the draft – point guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball and forwards Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum – will be long gone by the time the Pistons pick. But it’s regarded as a deep draft and the Pistons are hopeful of landing a long-term franchise cornerstone – though not necessarily one that will be able to immediately step into the rotation.
Among the players who could interest the Pistons – though no guarantee they’ll last until the 12th pick – are Gonzaga 7-footer Zach Collins, French point guard Frank Ntilikina, Texas big man Jarrett Allen, Indiana forward O.G. Anunoby, Louisville combo guard Donovan Mitchell and Duke shooting guard Luke Kennard.
“There’s a lot of point guards that are of high quality, a lot of bigs that are of high quality,” Bower said. “There are some wings that are of high quality, but there’s probably more players at point and frontline than there are along the wings. Where we’re picking, I think we’re going to be positioned to take a good, hard look at someone from any position and be adding someone that can help us improve our depth and continue to add to the overall talent level.”
The last seven No. 12 picks include Taurean Prince (2016), Trey Lyles (2015), Dario Saric (2015), Steven Adams (2014), Jeremy Lamb (2013), Alec Burks (2012) and Xavier Henry (2010).
The Pistons have only twice had a top-three pick in the lottery era, drafting Grant Hill with the third pick in 1994 and Darko Milicic with the second pick in 2003. Even those picks didn’t bring the Pistons any great luck. That’s no reflection on Hill, who was on his way to a Hall of Fame career before leg injuries dimmed his brilliance, but the Pistons went into the ’94 lottery in the No. 2 position and got bumped down one spot.
The 2003 lottery that produced Milicic with the second pick – after Cleveland used the top pick on local hero LeBron James – wasn’t technically the Pistons’ pick. It was Memphis – which owed the Pistons a No. 1 pick for a trade involving Otis Thorpe –that went into that lottery draw in the No. 6 position but wound up getting the No. 2 pick. Had the Grizzlies landed the No. 1 pick, they would have kept it.
So while the Pistons apparently used up a lifetime of lottery luck in the ’03 draw, Milicic didn’t make it pay off. Taken one pick ahead of a run of future All-Stars – Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were the next three picks – Milicic spent 2½ seasons with the Pistons and was out of the NBA at age 27 with career averages of 6.0 points and 4.2 rebounds.
The Pistons got a No. 1 pick from Orlando for Milicic and used it in 2007 to make Rodney Stuckey the 15th pick.
This is the seventh time the Pistons have been in the lottery since 2010. They’ve now stayed in their pre-lottery spot four times and been bumped down one spot the other three times.