June 27, 2014 at 9:54 am

Bob Wojnowski

While state players go early, Pistons find value in second round

Auburn Hills — Some players fell, and picked up motivational chips along the way. Some rose, confirming their potential. And the harsh reality of the NBA draft revealed itself again — don’t expect to get somewhere on name alone.

The Pistons selected a point guard from Colorado who doesn’t currently possess two fully functioning knees. They bypassed another big-named player from Michigan, and this time, it made more sense.

Spencer Dinwiddie is a 6-foot-6 point guard who can shoot, and probably would have been a first-round pick if he didn’t tear the ACL in his left knee during a game Jan. 12. The Pistons grabbed him in the second round, No. 38 overall, on Thursday night, and it’s a long-term value pick, about the only thing Stan Van Gundy could expect to get in this draft.

Glenn Robinson III was taken two spots later in the second round by Minnesota, confirming suspicions his game wasn’t defined enough to warrant a higher pick. It’s easy to say Robinson should’ve returned to Michigan for his junior season, but the general truth is, when a player’s mind starts wandering toward the pros, his body often naturally follows.

There’s no villain here, and please, it’s not like the controversy of a year ago, when the Pistons passed on Trey Burke, even though they needed a point guard. This is how strange the draft can be, compounded locally by the impressive talent-churning at Michigan and Michigan State. For the second straight year, John Beilein had two Wolverines drafted in the first round — Nik Stauskas No. 8 to Sacramento, Mitch McGary No. 21 to Oklahoma City. Tom Izzo also had two — Adreian Payne No. 15 to Atlanta, Gary Harris No. 19 to Chicago (then traded to Denver).

Smart decisions

Payne was the only senior in the group, and after all the debate, it appears Stauskas, Harris and McGary made wise choices to leave. There’s a double-edged issue to the success of the power programs in our state, though. It can create unrealistic expectations going forward, and push guys too quickly. Robinson may have gotten caught up in that, especially after he considered the jump a year earlier.

Thankfully for the Spartans, Branden Dawson resisted the faint temptation. Next season, Michigan’s Caris LeVert likely will mull it, and so might others. That’s fine, and one look at the glee on Stauskas’ face confirmed the benefit. It’s also tricky, and one look at the disappointment on Harris’ face confirmed it.

Make no mistake, these draft hauls are major boosts for power programs. Beilein and Izzo were both in Brooklyn for the event, posing for pictures with their former players, polishing the brand.

The Spartans’ brand under Izzo is well-established and well-earned. The Wolverines’ brand under Beilein has been quickly established, and is growing. All five starters from the Michigan team that lost in the 2013 NCAA championship game now have been drafted, and that’s the type of accomplishment that gets noticed.

“Playing with guys like Trey (Burke) and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) my freshman year, it helped me a lot because I saw the level of commitment and the talent and work ethic and everything they put forth,” Stauskas said. “To see them this year have all that success in the NBA just made me confident in myself because I know I can do what they did.”

Gone in a flash

So, while Burke and Hardaway Jr. were making the NBA all-rookie team, they also, in a way, were making Beilein’s job more difficult. Once a player sees the pro transition up close, it can’t be unseen.

It can be tough for college coaches to navigate the maze. All the work Izzo put into recruiting Jabari Parker, and there the Duke freshman was Thursday night, gone already as the No. 2 pick. All the effort Tom Crean put into recruiting Noah Vonleh, and there the Indiana freshman was, gone already as the No. 9 pick.

The Pistons were pleased with Dinwiddie, not that they’d suggest otherwise. He considers himself a pure point guard, but his size and shooting ability (41.3 percent on 3-pointers last season) potentially make him more versatile, and most experts figured he was a first-rounder if healthy.

The Pistons aren’t putting any timetable on Dinwiddie’s return, but he certainly won’t be ready for the start of the season. When he does appear, he’ll be another young guy fighting the odds and fighting for a job, and bracing for the raw reality of it.



Former Michigan State basketball star Adreian Payne hugs supporters after being selected No. 15 overall by the Atlanta Hawks in Thursday's NBA draft. / Mike Stobe / Getty Images
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