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Duke forward Kyle Singler makes sense as an upside pick for the Detroit Pistons

The Pistons had to draft Kyle Singler. Detroit’s personnel this season forced the Pistons’ hand.

Rodney Stuckey’s insubordination, Richard Hamilton’s tirades, Tayshaun Prince’s insults, Charlie Villanueva’s retweets, Chris Wilcox’s long snoozes, Austin Daye’s tardiness and John Kuester’s stubbornness made them draft Singler.

Their boycott and their laugher made them draft Singler.

Their loss of identity made them draft Singler.

Without question, the Pistons reached for Singler at No. 33. They took exactly the type of player who should typically go lower. That’s what happens when you draft for need and why I usually advocate drafting the best player available.

But the Pistons’ had a huge need that outweighed any other factors, and I’m not talking about the need for a backup small forward.

Detroit needed a tough, hard-working, high-character player. Anything more directly related to basketball is secondary.

I think intangibles like attitude, desire and work ethic are important. But I don’t think drafting a player solely because he appeared to exhibit those attributes while playing for a college team that won often makes a lot of sense. Talent and upside matter – at least usually.

In this rare case, the Pistons had to take someone like Singler. In many ways, it’s sad they were ever in that position. But Joe Dumars let the Pistons’ troubles spiral out of control, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

Here’s the good news: Singler has a ton of upside. More on that later.

To understand why the Pistons drafted Singler, and why it makes at least some sense, you need to understand how Dumars initially built the Pistons into winners.

From the lottery to 50 wins and back

When Dumars took over the team in 2000, his first major project was clearing the roster of cumbersome contracts and creating flexibility. Then, he used that flexibility to do what any general manager overseeing a rebuilding team would do. He acquired a bunch of old players.

Alright, nobody else would follow that plan, but it worked for Dumars, whose Pistons won 32 games his first season.

In 2001-02, essentially the first year the roster bore Dumars’ stamp, Detroit started Clifford Robinson (35) and Michael Curry (33). Jon Barry (32), Corliss Williamson (28), Zeljko Rebraca (29) and Dana Barros (34) played prominent roles. Even their young players – Ben Wallace (27), Chucky Atkins (27) and Jerry Stackhouse (27) – weren’t that young. In fact, weighted for minutes played, the Pistons’ were the NBA’s fourth-oldest team that year.

That group of veterans – low on upside and raw talent, high on know-how and hustle – won 50 games. They played the right way and established a culture that lasted into the latter stages of the decade.

Having such an ingrained identity allowed Dumars to integrate players who might not have exhibited such desirable qualities in different environments. He signed Chauncey Billups and traded for Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace. Those three obviously blossomed in one way or another in Detroit, but if they had joined a more turbulent situation, maybe they wouldn’t have reached such high peaks.

Establishing a culture first allowed Dumars to add talent with a minimal risk of discontent and inefficiency. He didn’t need to find guys who would play hard and tough no matter what. He needed to find guys capable of playing hard and tough in the right environment, and that means could pick from a much larger pool.

He tried to repeat the process recently. I believe, on the right team, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye would be much better players. I believe they’d be more accountable. By all accounts, they’re good guys and hard-workers (especially Gordon and Daye on the latter). None of the three – and I don’t mean to single them out, but I see them as having the most upside to improve their approach – was predestined to head down this path.

But by the time they came to Detroit, the culture Dumars worked to established had disintegrated. Subpar defense, softness and complaining were the norm. That’s the system Gordon, Villanueva and Daye bought into, and they’ve perpetuated the culture of losing.

The environment here is been toxic. The Pistons can’t risk exposing more young players before rectifying the problem.

Kyle Singler’s upside

Kyle Singler is a 23-year-old unathletic forward whose game is based on out-thinking and out-hustling his opponent. He’s the prototypical no-upside pick.

But upside is precisely why the Pistons drafted him.

The Pistons need more thinkers and hustlers. They need grit and toughness and determination. They need players who will re-establish a winning culture.

Once they have that, they can take chances on more-talented players – players like Tyler Honeycutt, Jeremy Tyler and Jordan Williams, all of whom were available at 33.

Singler’s upside isn’t in himself, but in what he can help the Pistons add. His main hurdle will be showing he’s capable of getting on the court. To help the Pistons, Singler doesn’t need to wow.

By nature, coaches don’t always give minutes to the best player. They’ll often pick the player they trust most. Most coaches would love Singler’s hard work and hustle.

But there’s a catch: that type of stuff will only get players so far. At a certain point, they must show ability to play basketball. We’ll certainly dig into Singler’s on-court ability in another post.

The question with Singler isn’t whether he’s good. It’s, is he good enough?

His bar is low, but the Pistons’ upside is high.

32 Comments

  • Jun 25, 201111:20 am
    by Oracle

    Reply

    By all accounts should have gone lower? Is that why he was projected mid twenties on reliable sites like draftexpress? He has little upside from a skill standpoint, but the skills he already has made him a likely first round pick on almost every site, not the second round pick you suggest he was characterized as

    • Jun 25, 201111:44 am
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      If you read the article linked when I said that (http://www.pistonpowered.com/2011/06/ncaa-tournament-most-outstanding-players-like-kemba-walker-and-kyle-singler-usually-get-picked-too-high/), you’d see NBA teams typically draft players who won NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player to high. I believe this is because they think it matters more than it does.

      • Jun 25, 201112:58 pm
        by Anonymous Panzy

        Reply

        “If you read this other article I wrote, then you’d see,” strikes me as an odd assertion. It assumes that everyone who reads that article is going to agree with it, which isn’t the case, no matter how statistically grounded the argument is.
        Not to mention that both the so-called experts, Jon G. at DraftExpress and Chad Ford, had Singler rated as the 24th and 33rd best prospect, respectively.
        They both had Singler being drafted at 24 in their final mocks, which may well have been a reach. By falling to 33, however, he seems like less of a reach. For all we know, GM’s have finally realized that players like Singler get taken too high and have corrected their approach by not taking him at 24.
        Nolan Smith, a similarly rated prospect (21 on DX, 39 for Chad Ford) may very well help that original article’s argument, but at 33, I hardly think Singler will.

        • Jun 27, 20115:07 pm
          by Dan Feldman

          Reply

          Oracle didn’t understand why I thought Singler should have gone lower. I explained why I did. Feel free to agree or disagree with my opinion.

  • Jun 25, 201111:54 am
    by neutes

    Reply

    Way to spin it Langlois. Sheesh. Honeycutt would have been a much better pick for SF. I see where you’re going with this though.

    • Jun 27, 20115:11 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Not how criticizing a team for having so many attitude problems that it had to pass up talent in the draft makes me a homer…

  • Jun 25, 201112:12 pm
    by Jason

    Reply

    I think Singler resembles a certain coaching candidate who happened to interview for the Pistons the day before draft.. Maybe not the same player, but the hustle, work ethic, defensive ability, un-athleticism, etc – they sure did play similar styles, if nothing else.. Anyone else agree? Laimbeer would be a great coach for a guy, who played quite similar styles as he did, being he was able to compile quite the successful NBA career.

  • Jun 25, 201112:33 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    Singler is a much better player than Feldman thinks. While not super athletic, he is athletic enough to guard most 3′s in the league. He has reasonable length and height, good lateral quickness for his size, is hard nosed, and can hit the open shot. he is also a great team player, as Dan notes. While i would have taken a flyer on the kid who played in Japan, i think Dan is right that the culture dictated this pick along with the fact that they really need a back-up three if T-Mac, Prince ans Summers all depart as expected.

    • Jun 27, 20115:11 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      You are the first person to ever praise Kyle Singler’s lateral quickness.

  • Jun 25, 201112:37 pm
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    I’m not sure a second round pick who is going to have to fight for playing time is the secret to improving a dysfunctional culture. I’m also dismayed that the message of this draft is that talent has to take a back seat to character. Perhaps a better solution to fixing the team might be oh I don’t know play players based on their performance and not on past glories? Treat the players like men and not recalcitrant children (as opposed to treating players like recalitrant children and then acting all surprised when they take the bait and start to act like recalcitrant children). How about coaches that don’t panic down the stretch and fight among themselves? (that sends a really good message to the players) Or maybe adopting a playing style that suits the talent instead of trying to put square pegs into round holes? All teams have moments, its a long season and longer even if the team is losing. Plus, winning tends to obscure things that losing brings out. But the fact of the matter is much of this team could have put up a much better record, which would have been the best solution to the problems. But the better team didn’t really see the floor as much as it should have. That’s the root of the problem. That’s what has to be fixed (firing Kuester being a good start).

  • Jun 25, 201112:44 pm
    by Andrew

    Reply

    That is one of the best bits of Pistons analysis I’ve read.  Great post.  I had been thinking it was rather stupid not to have taken one of the players with more physical talent, but this changed my mind.

  • Jun 25, 201112:44 pm
    by rob

    Reply

    Singler is being way underrated in this article. He’s not going to be a star by any means, but his max potential is greater than you are giving him credit for, imo.

    I think at best he could be a player very similar to Tayshaun, tbh. Both arent great at anything, but good at everything. Both 4 yr players with high IQ’s and winners. Both about the same size, though Singler has more weight.

    Chris Singleton, the best defender in the draft, said Singler was the toughest player he had to guard last year in college. That sounds like a much better talent than is be credited for in this article.

    For whatever reason you seem intent on curb the enthusiasm of this draft. The Pistons dont get a lot of good fortune lately, enjoy it.

    • Jun 27, 20115:15 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      I’ll be shocked if Singler ever nears the level of Prince. Prince can score from many more spots on the court, rebounds and defends better and is a better passer. Prince is slightly more athletic, too.
      I’m about realism, not too much enthusiasm when it’s not warranted.

  • Jun 25, 20111:58 pm
    by Quick Darshan

    Reply

    I don’t think it’s a reach either.  DraftExpress (their opinion is usually reliable and they seriously helped my NCAA brackets) had him as the second best player still on the board.

    These are the kinds of players that fall.  The Arron Afflalo types.  Not overjoyed with the pick, but don’t hate it either.

  • Jun 25, 20114:26 pm
    by vic

    Reply

    i get what this article is trying to say, its an interesting insight… but im not quite sold. Leadership changes the culture, a new owner, freedom for Joe d, and a new coach takes care of that issue.

    when it comes to the draft: talent, then need, then  work ethic,  then character. character can change, talent is God given. work ethic maximizes talent IMO.

    I dont know much about singler so im not saying hes bad. But Jeremy Tyler was a great talent, filled a need, developed good character from some bad decisions and life lessons. Keith Benson has talent, worked hard to improve, and needs 10-15 pounds to contribute to our team. Liggins is a high character SF that we could have gotten at 52… he played behind all UKs one and dones, but he’s talented, he’s team player, defender, plays and defends 1-3.

    Hopefully singler works out, but without a post presence they just set us up for another losing season, unless they make a really good trade.

  • Jun 25, 20114:52 pm
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    Thinking some more, it seems like there are two issues here. One of the main ones is the fact that people don’t want to be associated with a team that doesn’t display the requisite sportsmanship (hence the calls to throw all of the bums out). Another and not unrelated issue is one of causality. Does the team lose because it’s dysfunctional or is the team dysfunctional because it loses. I believe its more of matter of losing causing the problems, on a couple of levels. Players get disspirited by losing (which causes more losing) and frustrated (which causes bad behaviour and lashing out). Also it is easier to cover up issues (or for the principals to ignore problems) with winning. Of course the real issue was that the team lost faith in Kuester early and that was the root of most everything that happened. Putting players in a position to succeed will fix a lot of problems. On the other hand, even “high character” guys can get discouraged or act out if doing otherwise results only in more losing anyway.

  • Jun 25, 20118:10 pm
    by RandomGuy313

    Reply

    @neutes: I was hoping to hear Honeycutts’ name as well since Jimmy Butler was gone. He was a hell of a weak side shot blocker for a small forward.

    #Singler: Should we start the Brian Cardinal comparisons for Singler?

    • Jun 25, 20118:49 pm
      by gmehl1977

      Reply

      I like it. He can be our very own version of ‘The Custodian’. If Joe does in fact try to rebuild this team like the 2000-2001 pistons then Singler can be one of the alternaterz along with Jerebko and Bynum. Those years where they won 50 games before we won the 2004 championship were my some of my favorite. They weren’t anything special with Jerry Stackhouse leading them but they just found a way to win and were just a bunch of quality guys. That team laid the foundation of the teams next 10 years of success. I kind of feel bad for Stackhouse as 2 of the teams he played for won championships shortly after he left.

  • Jun 25, 20118:36 pm
    by RandomGuy313

    Reply

    Damn you CAPTCHA Code for throwing off where I reply!!!!

    • Jun 27, 20119:49 am
      by Graham Simmington

      Reply

      Protip: If you sign up for an account here (http://www.pistonpowered.com/wp-login.php?action=register) you’ll never have to deal with CAPTCHA code at this site again.

      • Jun 27, 20112:12 pm
        by RandomGuy313

        Reply

        Thanks GS!! I have a wordpress site and logging into it never seems to have me logged into this site.

        • Jun 27, 20113:10 pm
          by Graham Simmington

          Reply

          That’s right. Each WordPress blog maintains its own user database, so signing up for an account on one won’t carry over to another. What you were probably noticing was your avatar remaining constant between multiple WordPress sites. This works because WordPress stores a copy of the image linked to your email address in a separate location, and is able to display the correct avatar whenever you comment with your email no matter where you go in WordPress World*.

          *not a real place

  • Jun 25, 20118:40 pm
    by vic

    Reply

    “Of course the real issue that was the  team lost faith in Kuester early and that was the root of most everything that happened. ”

    Right on.

    Those first 5 games broke my heart too. obvious coaching errors, i could see it on the radio. i probably would have been dysfunctional too.
    I actually believe we will see better play from everyone that was involved last year… out of a desire to prove that they were not the issue. everything rises and falls on leadership. “Not enough character guys” is not really an excuse. Its disheartening to start the season on a 5 game losing streak, based on coaching decisions in the final part. thats not an excuse for the players, but its just reality.

    • Jun 25, 20119:52 pm
      by gordbrown

      Reply

      Of course even if a coach loses a team early there is nothing written down that says he can’t win it back. But Kuester’s stubbornness continually made things worse and worse. Someone once said that the bad behaviors were cries for help and I think that is to some extent true. Players are very sensitive (perhaps even unconsciously so) for unfair treatment, and even more so if others are the ones being treated unfairly. I think this explains a lot as well.

  • Jun 25, 201111:30 pm
    by bob bayer

    Reply

    great article … the only thing I would add … it really really really does help to have the best head coaches even when a team is rebuilding … contrary to Joe Dumars’ earlier assertion that until a team contends, lesser coaches would be OK .. Also AI is the opposite of Singler and it was at that POINT (Billups – AI trade) that the team’s mental atmosphere started to get bad … but very Good draft by Dumars ..

    • Jun 27, 20115:16 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      There’s a limit on resources. If Dumars could pay a coach $6 million every year, I’m sure he would. But if he’s limited to an average of $4 million per year, doesn’t it make sense to pay $2 million while you’re rebuilding so you can pay $6 million when you’re contending.

  • Jun 26, 20111:26 am
    by Justin boese

    Reply

    singler is being very undervalued from a talent perspective. he has good handles for being 6 8, he plays tough d, will take a charge. and can stretch the floor…kyle singler is shane battier 2.0. a very good role player. he will get 20ish minutes a game his rookie year, and will only improve. he can start right away due to his maturity and work ethic as well.

    • Jun 26, 201112:50 pm
      by RandomGuy313

      Reply

      @Justin boese: I have to disagree with ya in regards to his minutes. While I agree that Singler has some value in providing a mid range game that neither JJ or ADaye have shown; there is no way he gets 20 minutes a game this season.

      TPs minutes will be gobbled up by the aforementioned threes and maybe Rip if they go a three guard set.

      Singlers’ expectations should be considerably low going into this year and he would be lucky to get 10 minutes consistently a night his rookie season.

  • Jun 26, 20113:52 am
    by Ryan

    Reply

    This team is also in need of shooting.  Singler is capable of helping in that category.  Besides Gordon and now Knight, who is a threat from downtown?  Maybe Daye at times, maybe singler.

    Will be interesting to see how Singler v. Daye works out.

  • Jun 26, 20114:15 am
    by D. Sanchez

    Reply

    Dan,
    What can I say, but, YOU ARE AN IDIOT, the end!

    • Jun 26, 20115:30 am
      by gmehl1977

      Reply

      Hey is your name Dirty Sanchez by any chance?

  • Jul 2, 20114:53 am
    by D. Sanchez

    Reply

    gmehl1977,

    I can tell by the way you asked your question, you have been given many of the old, Dirty Sanchez, and you LIKE IT and want many more.

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