Auburn Hills — There could be a method to the madness.
With less than a week remaining before the draft, the Pistons seem to be doing things differently this season, having only hosted a couple of potential first-round prospects in group workouts.
To this point, they haven’t had likely potential wing targets such as Kevin Porter Jr., Romeo Langford, KZ Okpala, Cam Johnson or Keldon Johnson, though they have hosted Nassir Little, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Talen Horton-Tucker.
It’s feeding the notion that maybe the Pistons are looking to trade the No. 15 pick if they don’t like their choices when the selection comes to them.
It seems the prevailing strategy is to hold on to Blake Griffin and build around him to maximize their chances during the remaining three years on his contract. For now, that means holding on to Andre Drummond and finding the best pieces around them.
The Pistons will have some bigger expiring contracts after next summer that will become bigger trade chips at the trade deadline but for now, there doesn’t seem to be a move that help them make a huge jump, but maybe they have some type of trade in mind.
It’s also possible that they have seen enough from scouting and through interviews at the combine or pro days that players have set up. Having a player in for a pre-draft workout isn’t a requirement to picking him in the draft.
It didn’t happen with Henry Ellenson, who fell to No. 18 to the Pistons in 2016. There are others as well, partly because the actual draft is unpredictable and there can be any number of options at 15th.
What is curious is that they haven’t had many of the top prospects at the position in. There are still a few days remaining, so things could change, but so far, it seems they are looking at plenty of options with their second-round pick (45th overall) and they’re not as bent on the first-round selection, at least for now.
The draft uncertainty has occupied much of the conversation on social media, some of which I’ll take up in the mailbag:
Question. Do you get the sense the Pistons will draft for need, or take the best available player? @Brenden Welper
Answer. If the Pistons keep their draft pick, I would guess they’d draft for need — an athletic wing — over best player available. They might be one in the same, if Nassir Little or Kevin Porter Jr. is available. Little is 6-4½ with a 7-1¼ wingspan and has good two-way ability. Porter has some question marks but could be the best scoring option of the choices at No. 15.
The Pistons don’t have a big need for a bigger forward but if P.J. Washington or Rui Hachimura fell to them, it would test that thought. It seems more that the Pistons are targeting a playmaking wing — and don’t discount the possibility that they could trade down and get more assets, along with a better fit such as Cam Johnson or Okpala.
Q. Do you believe this current Pistons roster is capable of making the playoffs AND winning a 1st rd series next year? You know ATL is on the cusp, and there’s going to be a sleeper in there. Also, if u were able to find a trading partner for Drummond this offseason do you move him? @ SReijms
A. There’s a lot to unpack here. Yes, they’re capable of making the playoffs but winning a first-round series depends on some things. If they were completely healthy during this season and into through the postseason, I think they potentially could have won a first-round series, in the 4-5 matchup. Would they next season? Different story. Plenty of changes in free agency, the draft and trades. Let’s revisit this in training camp.
As for Drummond, there’s always a chance, so I won’t dismiss it. It seems to be a small chance, though. They would have to get a good trade package for Drummond, which doesn’t seem as likely as some other possibilities.
One thing to consider is that Drummond is in the last full year of his contract but has a player option $28.8 million for 2020-21. If the Pistons have any inkling that he could opt out and they don’t want to pay him, they should consider trading him. From all indications, Drummond likes Detroit and the Pistons organization and wouldn’t be going anywhere — but stay tuned during the season.
Q. How will the Pistons pick at 15 affect what they try to do in free agency? Any word on who they are targeting in round two? Should we expect to see any trades in the coming weeks?
A. My stance has been that they’ll look for a wing in the draft and a point guard or two in free agency. I don’t think there’s much connection, but if they strike out in getting a young wing, they may have to pay more for the same in free agency.
The big problem is that they don’t have a lot of money to throw around in free agency, so they’ll have to look for some bargains in lower-priced contracts. That might take some time and waiting around for the smoke to clear with the top-tier free agents before they know how to proceed in picking up some of the other pieces.
They have had plenty of targets for the second round, but it seems that point guard has been a position of interest there, though it could be any other position, judging by some of the prospects they’ve had in for workouts.
Q. Which young guy outside of Kennard will take a big step forward next season, if anyone? @Aurban91
A. With their need at the position and his size and shooting ability, Svi Mykhailiuk might get a longer look next season. He initially was behind the other wings when he was acquired at the trade deadline and had to play a lot of catch-up in his learning curve. Physically, though, he has the tools to be a good shooting guard and a full summer with the team will tell more about where he is in the progression.
Q. Who's the best and realistic option for the MLE? @vltrdlcrz
A. Seth Curry checks a lot of the boxes in terms of their needs with bench scoring and point guard. There will be a market for him and the Pistons don’t have the coin to get into a big bidding war with another team.