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Van Gundy: Gbinije’s 'size' trumped Oakland’s Felder

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

In Thursday’s NBA draft, it seemed like a natural fit, with the Pistons’ pick approaching at No. 49 and the local kid available.

Kay Felder

The Pistons had a need at point guard and Oakland University’s Kay Felder looked to be the best point guard remaining on the board. Felder, who played less than four miles away from The Palace — and at Detroit Pershing High School — would have a wonderful homecoming story.

Everything seemed lined up.

That is, until the Pistons chose Syracuse’s Michael Gbinije instead with the No. 49 pick. Felder later was selected 54th by the Atlanta Hawks, who then traded his draft rights to the world-champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Felder was very, very high on our board; I think he was the next guy,” Van Gundy said on WXYT’s “Stoney and Bill Show” on Friday morning.

Felder visited the Pistons last week for a pre-draft workout but the Pistons decided to go for a bigger and more versatile option in Gbinije, who is 6-foot-7 and can play all three perimeter positions.

“We had him in the high second round on our board; going in, we really liked him,” Van Gundy told WJR’s Frank Beckmann on Friday morning. “When it came time at 49, we had Gbinije in the first round on our board at 25 and his size and (basketball) maturity were the difference for us.

“Kay Felder is an outstanding player who will definitely make it in the NBA.”

Felder: 'One of the best days of my life, period'

In the first round, the Pistons picked 18th and selected big man Henry Ellenson whom Van Gundy said Thursday night was 10th on their draft board and they didn’t think would fall to them.

It appears Van Gundy and his staff had the same quandary when their pick came in the second round. One target that many mock drafts had them selecting in the first round was Notre Dame point guard Demetrius Jackson, who dropped to No. 45.

It’s not that Van Gundy didn’t value Felder, but at 5-foot-9, there were concerns about his ability to defend bigger guards in the NBA. Van Gundy lauded Felder’s college career and thinks he’ll have a good NBA future ahead of him..

“I thought he had an unbelievable college career. When you really noticed it was when they stepped a level in competition and played against high-major teams, he had great games, whether it was Michigan State or Virginia or Washington,” Van Gundy said. “This guy played extremely well at the highest levels of competition.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt he has an NBA future. He’s 5-9 but he’s got strength and unbelievable quickness. Everybody talks about his scoring but the guy is a great passer.”

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard