NBA Draft Lottery could be defining moment for Pistons
This is it. This is for all the marbles.
No, it’s not a matchup in the conference finals, but the Pistons have something just as important for their future, with Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery.
It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that the outcome of this year’s lottery could have a direct impact on the next four or five years of their trajectory. The Pistons enter with the second-worst record and have the best chance to land Cade Cunningham, the cream of the crop among this year’s prospects.
The second or third pick would be a nice consolation prize, where the Pistons could get center Evan Mobley or shooting guard Jalen Green, either of whom would bring an added dimension the roster lacks.
Even the fourth pick could yield a player like guard Jalen Suggs. But after that, the talent level drops off from the top tiers to players with more deficiencies and question marks, which would make the Pistons’ turnaround plans take a little longer.
The Pistons, who will be represented by Ben Wallace at the lottery, have a 52.1% chance of landing in the top four, which would be ideal. Their chances of dropping to fifth or sixth — the lowest they could fall — are 47.9%. By most projections the top four players are locked in, with the order depending on how the lottery pans out.
On Tankathon.com, there are simulations of how the lottery could go. With just one spin, the Pistons ended up with the third selection, with the Toronto Raptors jumping six spots to the first pick and the Orlando Magic leapfrogging the Pistons and moving from third to second.
Here’s how the top of the draft could go if things ended up that way:
►1. Toronto Raptors: Cade Cunningham, guard, Oklahoma State
In all likelihood, Cunningham will be the No. 1 pick, regardless of which team wins the lottery. He has the potential to be a franchise-changing selection and slots in wherever a team needs him, at either guard position or potentially small forward. He does almost everything at a high level and at 6-foot-8, he has ideal size for any of the perimeter positions. There seemingly isn’t a way that Cunningham isn’t the first pick; even if a team didn’t want him, they could draft him and then look to trade — for a humongous bounty.
►2. Orlando Magic: Evan Mobley, center, Southern California
The Magic have had a checkered history with drafting big men in the lottery, but Mobley appears to be a can’t-miss prospect, with a blend of skills. On the defensive end, he’s a high-level rim protector and he’s nimble enough to switch and defend point guards on the pick-and-roll. The Magic are in full rebuild mode after trading Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, so they will need to restock their frontcourt with young talent.
►3. Pistons: Jalen Suggs, guard, Gonzaga
This might be where Pistons general manager Troy Weaver could deviate from the script. Suggs is a gamer, and he showed during Gonzaga’s run to the championship game that he was a leader and a go-to player. With a young core, that’s something that the Pistons could use, but they need scoring more. If the Pistons land the third pick, it’s more likely that they would take either Mobley or Green, whoever is still there. Green looks to be a better fit because of his athletic ability and scoring punch, which he showed on a professional level last year with G League Ignite.
►4. Oklahoma City Thunder, Jalen Green, guard, G League Ignite
Green has the build and aggressiveness to get to the rim that few others in the draft bring to the table. He’s 6-foot-6, 180 pounds and strong for his size. He’s already played against professionals for a season, so the transition to the 3-point line and the bigger players won’t be as stark for him. The Thunder need a little bit of everything, and getting the fourth pick is just another piece for their turnaround. There are scenarios where they could end up with multiple picks in the top of the draft as well.
►5. Oklahoma City Thunder, Jonathan Kuminga, forward, G League Ignite
This is one of those scenarios. The Thunder can get the Houston Rockets’ pick if it falls out of the top four, and in this case, it does. The Thunder have a treasure trove of draft capital, and in this spin, it pays off quickly. Kuminga is viewed by many analysts as a project, but he could take some time to develop on a team that doesn’t have big-time playoff plans for the immediate future.
NBA Draft Lottery
►When: 8:30 Tuesday, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
►Outlook: The Pistons, along with the Rockets and Magic, have the best odds (14%) of getting the No. 1 pick. They’ve never moved up in the lottery with their own pick, and they dropped two spots to No. 7 last season.