The first NBA draft lottery since the Pistons chose to embark on a rebuilding effort didn’t yield any better fortune for them than any of their 13 previous lottery spins did. The Pistons went into Thursday’s lottery with the fifth-best odds to draw the top pick and wound up getting jumped by two teams, Eastern Conference rivals Chicago and Charlotte.
So the Pistons will pick seventh in the Oct. 16 draft. That was the most likely spot for them, the odds said – a 26.7 percent chance of being their spot. The first sign of trouble came when they got to the eighth pick and the New York Knicks – who went into the lottery in the No. 6 spot, one behind the Pistons – logo came up. That meant that both Chicago and Charlotte had moved into the top four, lowering the odds for the Pistons to also do so.
Sure enough, the next logo up belonged to the Pistons. It was the first time they’ve ever been bumped down two spots, though this is their first time in the lottery under the revised format instituted in 2019.
But don’t feel sorry for the Pistons or new general manager Troy Weaver.
“Before everybody starts with the ‘woe is me,” don’t do that with us,” Weaver said. “We’re not built that way. We’re going to charge forward and get after it for the seventh pick.”
Weaver said he felt the draft was about “14 or 15 deep” and that there wasn’t much separation among the top 10 players, so there figures to be much more uncertainty about who’ll be available at seven for the Pistons than there would be in a typical draft.
“From three to 13, it’s going to be a scramble,” he said. “We have to continue to do our work and be disciplined and be ready, because this is a draft where you don’t know.”
Though the Pistons had a 42 percent chance to draw a top-four pick, the No. 7 pick will be their highest since drafting Greg Monroe seventh in the 2010 draft.
If there’s a silver lining, the amount of salary cap the Pistons must allot for the No. 7 pick is roughly half of what they would have had to commit to the No. 1 pick. Last year’s No. 7 pick had a salary slot of $4.4 million compared to the $8.1 million slot for the top pick.
And Weaver said that with the uncertainty over the salary cap due to the financial hit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ripple effect that could have on front offices – some looking to trade out of the first round to get off of the guaranteed salary slot, some looking to create more cap space for free agency than they anticipated needing to clear – there could be teams looking to deal their first-round picks.
“I think teams will definitely look to explore those options, for sure,” he said. “Just the climate of the NBA and what’s ahead of us. There could be some teams looking to get off of those picks because of financial restraints.”
In 13 previous trips to the lottery, the Pistons have never won the No. 1 pick – or pulled into the top three or top four. The 2019 draft was the first in which the top four picks were determined by lottery draw instead of only the top three. The Pistons drafted No. 2 in 2003 with a pick owed to them by Memphis.
The Pistons have only had the No. 1 pick twice in their history since moving to Detroit in 1957. They drafted guard Jimmy Walker of Providence in 1967 and three years later selected Hall of Fame center Bob Lanier of St. Bonaventure.
Minnesota wound up with the No. 1 pick, moving up one spot from No. 2. Golden State, which went into the lottery with the best chance to get the top pick, moved down one spot. Charlotte moved up five spots to get the No. 3 pick and Chicago ascended three spots to get the No. 4 pick.