June 28, 2013 at 1:00 am

Bob Wojnowski

Pistons' Joe Dumars raises eyebrows in bypassing Michigan's Trey Burke

Auburn Hills Apparently, Joe Dumars doesnt mind the heat, or doesnt feel the heat. With flames licking all around, he just willingly turned it up.

Dumars didnt make a move to please or appease Thursday night. Its wise at times to disregard public clamor, but this one looks crazy and amazingly risky. With the eighth pick in the draft and his choice of the top point guards, including Trey Burke, Dumars pulled a mini-shocker on a night of many shockers.

The Pistons selected Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and perhaps that explains the white smoke coming out of Dumars office (the first of many bad Pope quips). Dumars artfully defended the pick, saying the Pistons desperately need a shooting guard who can run the floor. Caldwell-Pope is a great shooter and tough defender and was SEC player of the year.

Dumars may have lost some luster in the final year of his contract, but he doesnt appear to have lost power under owner Tom Gores. He made the pick he wanted to fit his team, not the pick fans may have craved. Dumars didnt draft as if he was scared, and ratcheted the risk. Its intensified because U-Ms Burke was taken the next spot by Minnesota, which traded him to Utah for two first-round picks.

Im not sitting here fretting about that, Dumars said. Really, if it was that much of an issue for me, I wouldve just made the popular selection and walked out there and everybody would say, OK, you drafted Trey Burke. You dont just make the popular pick because thats a 24-hour rush, and then you still have to put your roster together.

Dumars said the roster was basically desolate at the wing positions, and hes right. But it doesnt look any better at point guard, which is why it seemed logical hed grab one of the top three Burke, Syracuses Michael Carter-Williams or Lehighs C.J. McCollum.

They all were available, and its not just about the local guy. The 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams could have provided fresh possibilities for a team that hasnt settled on a point guard since Chauncey Billups was traded. Its a gaping hole at a more-important position, and I doubt it will be filled by Louisvilles Peyton Siva, taken in the second round.

Risky business

By talking excitedly about Caldwell-Pope, Dumars said two things without saying them: He still believes in giving combo guard Brandon Knight a shot at the point, and hes still confident in his own talent evaluation.

But if Burke excels, the damage to the Pistons is staggering. Burke has the qualities if not necessarily the size to be a dynamic floor leader in the NBA, and I wouldve drafted him. Its not about appeasing the public, although the Pistons are in no position to tick off their shrinking fan base. Its about finding a direction, and the Pistons guard group of Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum is thoroughly underwhelming.

If not Burke, why not Carter-Williams or McCollum? With the chance to take the top point guard, Dumars went for the No. 2 shooting guard (behind Kansas Ben McLemore).

Its really about building your team and trying to fill the needs to put a good product on the floor, Dumars said. Treys an excellent player, somebody I know extremely well and am very close to, but we had specific needs we had to fill. When you have two bigs like Greg (Monroe) and Andre (Drummond), you gotta be able to spread the floor, so (Caldwell-Pope) was really appealing to us.

In todays game, you have to have wing athletes, and it was time for us to address that.

True enough. Caldwell-Pope is an intriguing talent who could complement Knight and should seal Stuckeys departure. And to be fair, if Burke was the player of the year from, say, Georgia instead of Michigan, this wouldnt be as big an issue.

But point guard is the one position where intangibles arent a luxury, but a necessity. Maybe Knight can show them under new coach Maurice Cheeks. Maybe were affected by watching Burkes rapid rise, especially during Michigans run to the title game.

No place for sentiment?

Dumars also is a football fan, and hes seen the Lions make flashy, popular picks over the years (Charles Rogers, Joey Harrington, etc.). The Pistons did it in 2000, taking Mateen Cleaves after he led Michigan State to the national title

The hometown picks often dont work, either because of the inherent pressure, or because the player wasnt as good as he appeared. But I think Burke will work, and hes headed to a franchise in Utah that greatly values the point guard (John Stockton) and was willing to surrender two first-round picks to get one.

After three straight drafts in which talented players fell nicely to the Pistons, this was different. Dumars had to make a choice, and we assumed hed publicly declare which point guard he liked best. In a way, he did, sticking with Knight instead of adding Burke or someone else. Its a gigantic gamble and I respect Dumars confidence, but he picked a curious time to make a potentially defining move.


NBA commissioner David Stern, left, shakes hands with Pistons first-round pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Thursday. / Kathy Willens/Associated Press