Pistons stay the course for draft as trade winds swirl

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Detroit Pistons GM Jeff Bower and president/coach Stan Van Gundy answer questions during Tuesday's press conference in Auburn Hills.

Auburn Hills — It’s draft week and the Detroit Pistons are still going through the paces to figure out what to do with the No. 12 pick in the first round.

There’s been some buzz that they could be interesting in dealing the pick, but at least for now Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Jeff Bower are going about the process assuming that they will hold on to the selection.

Reports after the season suggested the Pistons were interesting in dealing the pick for a “win-now” veteran, but Van Gundy indicated that’s easier said than done — but not out of the realm of possibility.

“It would all come down to a specific deal. Jeff is on the phone constantly and we’re talking to people,” Van Gundy said Tuesday. “Every deal is evaluated on whether we think it makes us better.

“It’s tough trading a draft pick for an established veteran just in terms of money, not only getting the deal done, but when you look at your structure and trying to manage the salaries, not having those rookie-scale contracts is big. It’s not an easy thing, but we’ll listen to anything and it’s just one more option, as we evaluate things.”

The Pistons look to be considering Duke’s Luke Kennard, Gonzaga’s Zach Collins and Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell highly in their draft board, but rather than get caught up in the bustle of the days preceding the draft, the Pistons are sticking with their process of assembling their draft board and waiting for any situation to develop.

“The emphasis first and foremost is on the evaluation of the prospects in three areas: talent, background information and behavioral observations, and those are the three prongs we spent a lot of time drilling into,” Bower said. “(Trade buzz) has fallen into the course of most other years in that the closer you get to the draft, the more interest and discussion takes place on different picks and the value of picks and how they view those picks.

“The workouts all conclude over the weekend and that’s when you start to see more formation of opinions and positions of the players, and that’s when you can decide the value of one pick versus another.”

Bower called the volume of trade calls he’s fielding “robust” but not much different than in previous years.

With almost all of their playing rotation set to return — except for backup center Aron Baynes, who Tuesday opted out of the final year of his contract — the Pistons might not have much available playing time for a rookie.

That could lead to more trade talk and the ability to get a veteran who could help. But if a talented player slips that the Pistons don’t think they can pass on, they’d be open to keeping the pick.

“What we’re really trying to evaluate is where the guy can get to within his rookie contract,” Van Gundy said. “We’re not looking at a 10-year project, but there are some guys who maybe aren’t as ready to play physically right now but are the higher-upside guys in years three and four of that rookie contract. You have to weigh that out.”

The depth of the draft also plays into the pick, where most teams are getting greater value out of their first-rounders.

While this draft has been lauded for its depth, it could provide a quality player for most teams, though the Pistons may have a decision about whether to keep the pick or trade it for something better.

“The depth of the draft has been accurately portrayed in that it’s one of the stronger ones in quite some time,” Bower said. “It’s most reflected as you get into the 20s and early 30s. You see the depth of it there because there’s better players to select from.

“The top tier of the draft is good, but there have been other drafts just as talented. The next group is solid, but where it shines is in the number of players of quality as opposed to those elite franchise-changing players.”

As Bower and Van Gundy conclude their evaluations, they’ll have to be flexible for draft-day deals that could throw the first round into a tizzy. That could include teams in front of them making deals with lower teams or getting other pieces that they didn’t anticipate would be available.

They’ve already factored in those possibilities.

“The bedrock of it all is knowing your opinion of the players so that you have a ranking and a value placed on every player in the draft, so that when trades do happen that don’t involve you, they still can affect the players that come to you because of different team needs,” Bower said.

“The ability to know what’s going on behind you is something that we have to follow, as well. The most important thing is to know the draft and the players in it so you’re prepared when the situation changes.”


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard