Jackpot: Pistons land first pick in NBA Draft lottery
Detroit — The Pistons have the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
Repeat: The Pistons are going to pick first in the NBA draft.
It bears repeating because the Pistons never had any luck in the NBA draft lottery in their franchise history. All that changed on Tuesday night, with the announcement of the draft order for the 14 non-playoff teams.
The lottery luck puts the Pistons in position to draft Cade Cunningham, the consensus top projected player in this draft. which will take place on July 29 at Barclay Center in New York. The addition of Cunningham, a 6-foot-8 multi-faceted wing, would expedite the Pistons’ rebuild under general manager Troy Weaver, who enters his second season with an ambitious plan to restore the franchise to its championship glory years.
"We get to add another young player to the restoration process. We’re excited to be in this position,” said Weaver, who was in Chicago at the draft combine.
The tension built as picks 14 through five were announced. At that point, the Pistons were guaranteed to be in the top four, along with the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors.
From Secaucus, New Jersey, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum opened two more envelopes to reveal the Raptors picking fourth and the Cavs third, leaving just the Rockets and Pistons. The No. 2 pick went to the Rockets, which meant the Pistons had made history.
Weaver’s first thought after seeing the Rockets get the second pick: “Praise God!”
Although he didn’t commit to drafting Cunningham with the pick, Weaver insisted that the Pistons would sort through the options and make the best decision for their rebuild.
“We'll look at everything; we'll look at five guys in the draft,” Weaver said. “We'll uncover every stone and put ourselves in the right position to get the right guy for the Pistons.”
After a dismal 20-52 season, the Pistons entered the draft lottery with the best odds (14%) of getting the top pick, tied with the Rockets and Orlando Magic. In the history of the draft lottery, the Pistons never had improved their position with their own pick. The only time they moved up was with the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick in 2003, when they selected Darko Milicic at No. 2, behind LeBron James and ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
This time should be different with Weaver at the helm and with the No. 1 pick in hand, everything is looking up for the Pistons. The No. 1 pick is the first for the Pistons since they had the top selection in 1970 and picked Bob Lanier.
Still, it’s not a done deal that Cunningham is the only option. The Pistons could consider trading the pick and getting more assets for the future, or even for this season.
"We'll vet it out and come to a conclusion and pick who we see fit. There's a lot of talented guys at the top ... we'll vet it all out (Cunningham) is a talented young man and he's for sure at the top of the list."
This year could be another important building block for Weaver, who set a solid foundation for the rebuild last season with solid draft choices in Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart — who both were selected to the NBA All-Rookie teams — in the first round. The Pistons initially had only the No. 7 pick, and dropped two spots from fifth, to pick Killian Hayes.
Weaver shook up the roster and agreed to a flurry of trades to revamp things, making deals to get Stewart at No. 16 and Bey at No. 19. Weaver also added Saben Lee in the second round, and both Hayes and Lee showed significant progress in helping to turn things around. Adding another top pick this year will help expedite the process.
Pistons icon Ben Wallace, ahead of his induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, represented Detroit on camera unveiling. Wallace, who was notably undrafted when he came out of Virginia Union in 1996, said he wasn’t into the lucky charms or trinkets that some team representatives bring to the draft lottery.
"I figure after all the work I put in, nothing but good things can happen,” Wallace said Tuesday before the lottery.