Auburn Hills — In the final hours before Thursday night’s NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons coaching staff and front office still were doing their due diligence to find the player they’d like the take with the No. 12 pick.
It likely will make for a long day.
Along with the pick itself, the Pistons are dealing with the flurry of rumors and last-minute trade possibilities that are floating around. One rumor by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested that the Los Angeles Clippers were pondering dealing All-Star center DeAndre Jordan to the Pistons for Andre Drummond.
Another rumor mentioned the Sacramento Kings being interested in Drummond in exchange for a package that could include the Kings’ No. 5 or No. 10 pick.
The rumors add more intrigue to a draft that already has had its share of twists and turns in the last week.
“What we’re really trying to evaluate is where the guy can get to within his rookie contract,” Pistons general manager Jeff Bower said this week. “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.”
Rookie deals help to balance the bigger contracts, such as the one owned by Andre Drummond and what Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is likely to sign for this offseason.
At No. 12, the Pistons could be looking for the best fit to the roster, as currently constructed, or simply taking the “best player available” at the spot, as they did with Henry Ellenson at No. 18 last year. With so much uncertainty surrounding the top half of the first round, part of the challenge is gauging which player to take.
“That’s the balancing act, because fit many times determines the impact of the player to get on the floor,” Bower said. “You’re always looking at that and trying to make the decision whether his talent is so good that it will force you to make other moves by bringing that in. You’re always looking to upgrade the talent level of your roster so that you’re able to deal with the obstacles.”
Most mock drafts have the Pistons taking either Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, Duke’s Luke Kennard or Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell, but if there are any moves in the top 10, that could change everything.
The Pistons’ 2016-17 season was derailed with the news of Reggie Jackson’s knee tendinitis during training camp. They’re looking to avoid that this year, reducing Jackson’s offseason workload and focusing on strengthening the knee.
Jackson missed the first 21 games (and 30 total) last season, coming off a superb 2015-16.
“We have Reggie not doing much on the court right now because we’re on a program of trying to get him stronger,” coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Jackson has spent a good part of the offseason so far in California, and while some of his teammates have been at the practice facility working on their games, he’s just trying to take it all in stride and stay healthy.
“A lot of them are working here and everybody’s on board with what we’re trying to work on,” Van Gundy said. “We’re off to a good start and we’ll ramp up as we get into July and August.”
Drummond, who had sinus surgery after the season ended, hasn’t begun contact drills, but is cleared to do conditioning drills.
The Pistons begin practices for the Orlando Summer League next week, before games begin on July 1, and the roster seems to be taking shape.
If the Pistons keep their No. 12 pick, he would be part of the summer league team. Last year’s rookies, Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije, will be two prominent figures, but Stanley Johnson and Darrun Hilliard will not be featured, as they had figured to be last summer.
“Darrun and Stanley are going to go down and practice but Stanley won’t play,” Van Gundy said. “We haven’t decided on Darrun yet.”
Hilliard suffered a back injury last summer in the practices before the tournament and wasn’t able to play at all. Johnson had mixed results.