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Archive → May, 2012

Ben Gordon might play some point guard for Great Britain in the Olympics

EuroBasket.com recently posted an interview with Ben Gordon, discussing him playing for Great Britain in the Olympics this summer. I found this tidbit interesting:

Gordon has been a prolific NBA scorer from the No2 spot, but, with the point guard position arguably where Great Britain are weakest, he is set to operate more in the number one role.

I think Ill be playing more point, he added. It is different than what I play at Detroit but it should be good fun.

Gordon has briefly flirted with the point guard position during his Pistons tenure with mostly not great results — namely, he’s a bit too turnover prone to handle the position — but he might be able to carry some of that load for GB in the Olympics, where he won’t be facing NBA-caliber perimeter defenders in every game. Still though, I’d assume Gordon’s best asset for that team will be scoring. With him and Luol Deng both playing, Great Britain could pull off an upset or two during the Games.

George Blaha among the favorite announcers of NBA players

SportsIllustrated.com recently did a poll of 124 NBA players, asking them who their favorite NBA broadcasters were. Not surprisingly, Charles Barkley came in at No. 1 on the list even though he’s more a pundit than an announcer. But I think Pistons fans will like who came in at No. 14: our own George Blaha.

Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie wrote about each announcer on the list. Here were his thoughts on Blaha:

A legendary local NBA play-by-play man for the Detroit Pistons, Blaha calls a great game while setting up his partner (former Piston and Michigan State standout Greg Kelser) as great as local product Magic Johnson set up Kelser while they worked as Spartans. Blaha is a terrific listen, and the only local play-by-play man to show up on the list — a well-earned honor.

Blaha deserves the honor not only for his legendary calls during the Pistons’ peak years, but for his ability to maintain his positivity while watching a product that, let’s face it, has not been pretty to watch the last few seasons.

Rip Hamilton one of many players who express skepticism at lottery results

Dan Feldman wrote a great post yesterday, rationally laying out the absurdity of all of the ‘lottery is rigged’ talk that’s out there. Then, the worst possible scenario happened for a league that always seems to have the worst possible coincidences happen at the worst possible times: New Orleans, still technically league-owned though in the process of being sold to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, went out and won the No. 1 pick.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! reported that skepticism about the Hornets winning isn’t just happening among fans — Woj’s sources are reportedly team or league employees who think something shady happened. An abundance of players also immediately thought ‘conspiracy,’ including former Piston Rip Hamilton. Here’s what he tweeted:

Who thinks the lottery was rigged.

I still tend to err on the side of no conspiracy. I grew up in a family that believes in every grassy knoll, UFO encounter and Tupac is alive story out there, so I tend to be a little cynical when it comes to conspiracy talk. But last night was undoubtedly a bad outcome for a league that I’m sure wanted to avoid this type of coverage. And it’s surely a worse outcome that some of the people fanning those conspiracy flames are league employees and players themselves.

John Henson to the Pistons becoming vogue in mock drafts

In his first mock draft after the lottery, Chad Ford of ESPN has the Pistons taking John Henson at No. 9:

Greg Monroe has been a revelation in the middle for the Pistons, but they really need to pair him alongside an athletic shot-blocker. Although Henson is painfully thin, he rebounds, blocks shots and defends multiple positions. It wouldn’t be a perfect solution in Detroit, but the Pistons don’t have a lot of other options here.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress also has the Pistons drafting Henson:

The Pistons struggled on both ends of the floor last season, ranking 29 th in offensive efficiency and 24 th on defense, meaning this lone pick will surely not solve all their problems. Pairing Greg Monroe with a long and athletic shot-blocker/rebounder like Henson could be a good start, though. The two seem to complement each other fairly well. Finding a long-term solution at small forward will also be a priority, which could mean Harrison Barnes if he’s available.

As I wrote last night, Henson at No. 9 would be fine with me. His lack of bulk is concerning, but his rotational defense, shot-blocking and athleticism fits exactly what the Pistons need.

Pistons’ bad luck ups pressure on current players, especially lottery rep Brandon Knight

NEW YORK – Joe Dumars set the tone for the Pistons – who’ve spent the last three years in the lottery, their longest tenure in ping-pong paradise since 1993-95 – during Detroit’s first non-playoff season of the current run.

“When you’re talking about the lottery and what could have happened and if you would have gotten a ball, it’s kind of a bogus conversation anyway to be like, ‘Oh my God, the lottery, we could have …,’” Dumars told Dave Pemberton of The Oakland Press in 2010. “First of all, you’re pissed off that you’re in the lottery in the first place, so the fact that I’m going to sit there like, ‘Oh, you know, we could have won this.’”

After tonight’s lottery – in which the Pistons, seeded to pick ninth, drew the ninth pick – I asked Brandon Knight, the Pistons’ on-stage representative at the event, what he thought about staying at No. 9.

“It’s a good position to be in,” Knight said. “We’re still in the lottery.”

Apparently, he hasn’t learned the company line.

For now, the sound bites don’t matter. I’m sure neither Dumars nor Knight was pleased with the Pistons’ season, and no matter how they spin the resultant draft pick, nothing real changes.

Earlier in the day, Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie evaluated each team’s on-stage representatives. Here’s what he wrote about Knight and the Pistons:

9. Detroit Pistons — Brandon Knight.

Who they should have picked? Eh.

It’s the NBA’s most boring team, picking near the end of yet another lottery. Outside of springing Kwame Kilpatrick from jail to take part, and giving him a series of energy drinks along the way, I just can’t really be bothered to care.

Sorry, Brandon.

Humorous? Yes. Accurate? Also, yes.

Nationally, the Pistons are irrelevant. Short of winning more – either games or the lottery – that won’t change. Unfortunately, the next lottery is a year away, and winning games will prove difficult as a result of tonight.

“I’m sure we’ll still get a good player, even at No. 9,” Knight continued. “Whoever comes here, we’re going to welcome him, and they’re going to be part of the Pistons family, and we’re going to get ready to work.”

I don’t doubt the second part of that quote. The Pistons’ locker room, by all appearances, is incredibly more functional than it was just two years ago. Whoever the Pistons pick will have an opportunity to develop in a professional environment.

But still getting a good player is far from a lock.

Obviously, Anthony Davis was the ultimate prize, but due to their better play in the second half and poor luck tonight, the Pistons won’t even get a crack at the next tier of prospects. Many claim there’s little difference between picking No. 2 and No. 9.

I don’t buy it.

There are five players, without considering where they’re picked, who I’d love to draft: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson, Andre Drummond and Harrison Barnes. There are two more players who would satisfy me with the No. 9 pick: Bradley Beal and John Henson.

Obviously, those are just seven players – meaning, unless at least two teams picking ahead of Detroit take others, the Pistons won’t even have a chance to draft a player I find satisfactory.

Everyone has their own preferences in prospects, but try the exercise yourself. No matter whom you want, can you name nine players you’d truly be pleased to see the Pistons draft in the first round? I’m guessing you most of you can’t.

I hope Joe Dumars can, but I’m guessing he can’t, either. Once again, Detroit must hope some non-desirable players climb into the top eight.

More importantly the Pistons must rely on their current players to improve – a prospect that scares me. I’m just not convinced this group has championship-contender upside without significant outside help.

More than anyone else, Knight bears the burden of proving me wrong.

Greg Monroe can get much better, but he’s already close to All-Star caliber. Jonas Jerebko, because of his style, and Rodney Stuckey, because of his age, are probably closer to their peaks than most realize. And I have little faith Austin Daye will make big strides.

But Knight, a talented hard-worker with ideal physical skills, can get much better. He was one of the NBA’s worst starting point guards this year, though that’s somewhat excusable given his age, the lockout and his teammates. My opinion of Knight hasn’t changed since the day he was drafted. He has all the tools, but until he uses them to become a quality NBA player, he’s not a quality NBA player.

Can he get there by next year? I’m not sure, but I’m convinced he’s going to try. I also asked Knight about his summer plans.

“Just to work out in Detroit a little bit – basically just work out for the summer,” said Knight, who added his main focuses would be the pick-and-roll and preparing his body for defense – two areas I think are perfect for him hone in on.

While I asked that question, just 34 second into my interview with Knight, a Pistons media-relations official told me it would be the final question. The Pistons, sometimes frustratingly, don’t always seem concerned about receiving publicity. But like I said, winning will be much more important for the franchise than interviews – in the same way hard work trumps lottery luck for Knight, who had said he wouldn’t bring any lucky charms to New York. To Knight’s and the Pistons credit, they’re about substance over style. Eventually, though, both must actually show some substance.

Before leaving, Knight cracked wise with Kyrie Irving about that time the Pistons led Cleveland by 50 and then followed the media-relations staffer to the exit.

As Knight squeezed through a crowded studio of reporters, NBA officials and lottery-team representatives, he slowed behind a scrum of people, the type of obstacle that prevented me from reaching him sooner.

But, with a little patience, he made his way through.

Pistons land No. 9 pick in 2012 NBA Draft

John Henson

(Greg Nelson/SI)

Why there’s a 99.3 percent chance the NBA lottery is fixed

The NBA lottery is obviously rigged. Too often – i.e., every time – the NBA’s darling team has received No. 1 pick. I don’t even need to watch tonight’s lottery to know it will happen again. It’s just so obvious who will “earn” the right to draft Anthony Davis.

Charlotte Bobcats

Odds of winning the lottery: 25 percent 100 percent

Michael Jordan was a hardliner during the lockout, and Stern will reward him. Charlotte is in danger of losing two NBA teams in a decade, but Anthony Davis would change all that. It’s better for the NBA if Michael Jordan, its greatest marketing star of all time, is watching over a contender, not arguably the worst team of all time.

Washington Wizards

Odds of winning the lottery: 19.9 percent 100 percent

John Wall, with his flashy style, could be the league’s next star. He just needs a reliable sidekick, like Anthony Davis, and his uneven play will steady. President Obama is a big basketball fan, and although he supports the Bulls, if there were reason for him to attend more Wizards games, that would draw significant attention to the NBA. Plus, the NBA has an obvious East Coast bias.

New Orleans Hornets

Odds of winning the lottery: 14.8 percent 100 percent

The NBA no longer owns the Hornets, but is still committed to keeping them in New Orleans. With their arena improvements needing approval of the state legislature in July, the Hornets could ride the Anthony Davis buzz and ensure there are no hitches. The league spent a year-and-a-half trying to sell the team without finding a buyer, so maybe Tom Benson needed a No. 1 pick thrown in the deal. David Stern has also meddled in the Hornets’ business before, in the Chris Paul trade. Davis would help Eric Gordon, and therefore Stern’s reputation, because Stern was the one who handpicked Gordon for the Hornets rather than taking the Lakers’ offer.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Odds of winning the lottery: 13.8 percent 100 percent

Cleveland deserves another top pick after LeBron James left town. Kyrie Irving alone can’t replace LeBron, but with Anthony Davis, the pair could do it. Think of the ratings a Cavaliers-Heat games would generate if both teams were good. Dan Gilbert didn’t deserve the treatment LeBron gave him, and David Stern will compensate Gilbert according – with Davis.

Sacramento Kings

Odds of winning the lottery: 7.6 percent 100 percent

The Kings are in limbo, and their negotiations for a new arena in Sacramento have fallen apart. Anthony Davis would give the Kings more leverage in their negotiations with Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. If that works, Davis could rekindle the fire of Sacramento’s passionate fan base. If not, Davis could increase the Kings’ bargaining power with a new city.

Brooklyn Nets

Odds of winning the lottery: 7.5 percent 100 percent

Moving into a new city, the Nets need a draw to attract the area’s surplus of fans and advertisers. That starts with Deron Williams, who might bail unless the Nets land Dwight Howard. The simplest way to ensure Williams and Howard play in a large market is to give the Nets the No. 1 pick, which they can deal to Orlando for Howard. Even if the Magic are still reluctant to trade Howard, they would surely have a difficult time turning down Anthony Davis.

Golden State Warriors

Odds of winning the lottery: 3.6 percent 100 percent

Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber paid $450 million for the Warriors. What do you think they were paying for? The No. 1 pick. The Warriors are likely moving to San Francisco, and a star like Anthony Davis would increase interest in the team and pave obstacles faced in the transition from Oakland. The Warriors play in an incredibly wealthy market, and Davis would allow the NBA to tap into those riches.

Toronto Raptors

Odds of winning the lottery: 3.5 percent 100 percent

David Stern is obsessed with expanding the NBA across the globe, and the Raptors are the league’s only international team. Although Canada isn’t overseas, Toronto is a valuable test case for the league’s foreign efforts. Plus, Toronto’s large international population could serve as a gateway to many more nations. All the Raptors need is Anthony Davis, and then the world will belong to the NBA.

Detroit Pistons

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.7 percent 100 percent

The Pistons have been one of the NBA’s flagship franchises, and it’s better for the league when they’re good. At their best, the Pistons led the NBA in attendance, but lately, they’ve ranked near the bottom.  There might not be another team than needs Anthony Davis more and could win right away with him. The Pistons would allow Davis to take full advantage of his individual potential, immediately become a star and reach the playoffs. Think the NBA could market that?

Portland Trail Blazers

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.8 percent 100 percent

Paul Allen has spent a lot of money on the Trail Blazers over the years and has been generally good for the league. If he’s considering selling the team, David Stern could help him receive a good offer by giving Anthony Davis to the Trail Blazers and instantly making the franchise more valuable. Portland has some of the most loyal fans in the league, but they’ve recently lost Brandon Roy to what was a career-ending injury and Greg Oden to what might be a career-ending injury. They can only take so much. The Trail Blazers would be a good caretaker for Davis, and his national popularity would have a strong base from which to grow.

Milwaukee Bucks

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.7 percent

David Stern is not fixing the lottery for Milwaukee.

Phoenix Suns

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.6 percent 100 percent

Steve Nash will be a free agent this summer, and if he leaves the Suns, they will become completely irrelevant. And his new team, likely already a power, will have diminishing returns in terms of popularity. Therefore, it makes sense to give Anthony Davis to Phoenix and entice Nash to re-sign.

Houston Rockets

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.5 percent 100 percent

Houston is America’s largest city without a playoff team, and as San Antonio nears the end of its run (maybe?), the league could start the transition of giving Texas fans another successful team to spend their money on. David Stern also owes the Rockets for nixing the original Chris Paul trade and preventing them from getting Pau Gasol. Why do you suppose the Rockets didn’t make a bigger stink about getting cheated? Stern promised them the No. 1 pick.

So, there you have it. The lottery is fixed, and if you can’t see that, you must be blind. The narrative is so glaringly obvious. We’ll just have to pick which one to remember.

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Anthony Davis


  • Measurables: 6-foot-10, 220 pounds, freshman C from Kentucky
  • Key Stats: 14.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 4.7 (!) blocks per game while shooting 62 percent from the field
  • Projected: No. 1 overall
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I’m intrigued by this guy

The analysis here is pretty simple. Davis changes everything for the Pistons. Yesterday, when Dan Feldman talked about this being the second most important draft lottery in team history, he wrote that because of Davis. This draft has exactly one franchise-altering talent available. If the Pistons get him, all of the misery and bad basketball of the past four seasons will be quickly forgotten. Davis, simply, is a once-in-a-generation type talent and, other than possibly LeBron James, the easiest No. 1 pick in the last 20 years.

Pros for the Pistons

We’ve frequently discussed the need for the Pistons to add a rim-protecting presence next to Greg Monroe, and Davis and his nearly five blocks per game for Kentucky would certainly represent that. He’d instantly make the Pistons a credible defensive team. It’s easy to see him having a Ben Wallace or Dwight Howard-like impact in the league, winning multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards down the road.

But fans should be equally excited about Davis’ offense. He runs the floor well (which will help run-happy guards Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey). He throws great outlet passes, which should further ignite Detroit’s transition game. He finishes well, which will help pass-happy Monroe. He has the face-up game of a guard and handles the ball really well (a product of the fact that Davis hit a growth spurt late in his teenage years and spent most of his early basketball days as a guard), which helps the team as a whole, since they could use another big man capable of creating his own offense (playing offensively limited Wallace or Jason Maxiell big minutes often hindered Detroit’s ability to score this season).

If the Pistons don’t win the lottery and end up with a nice prospect like John Henson, they’re a good bet to take a baby step forward next year and threaten the .500 mark or a low seed in the playoffs. If they win the lottery and get Davis, they’ll be a trendy pick to get at the very least a homecourt advantage playoff series in the first round.

Cons for the Pistons

There are none.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

Big man Anthony Davis is a lock as the No. 1 pick in the draft. The college basketball player of the year is the rare prospect who has virtually everything you want in a player. He’s got elite size, length and athleticism. He produced at a high level on the court (he led all NCAA players in PER this season) and still has tremendous upside going forward. He’s a great kid and a hard worker.

Yes, he needs to get stronger and he’ll need to continue to improve his offensive game, but at this point he’s considered a can’t-miss prospect by every NBA scout and executive I’ve spoken to.


He’s only fifth in usage rate on his own Kentucky team in fact, being mostly relegated to living off the scraps created for him by others. Davis gets the overwhelming majority of his touches playing off the ball—be it cutting to the rim, crashing the offensive glass, running the floor in transition, or as a pick and roll finisher. According to Synergy Sports Technology, only 20% of his offense comes off post-up, spot-up or isolation plays, which makes sense considering those are the areas he struggles in the most.

While Davis plays a simple role for Kentucky, he’s arguably the most efficient offensive player in college basketball, converting an amazing 67% of his 2-point attempts (which ranks in the top 15 in our database in the past decade) and turning the ball over on just 9% of his possessions. He’s one of the best finishers we’ve seen in recent years, making nearly 80% of his non-post-up attempts around the basket.

His tremendous length, outstanding hands, explosive leaping ability and terrific timing make him a ideal target for lobs.


Bullet outlet passes are a major strength … Can handle the ball in space with occasional facilitation of the offense, and does not appear limited to straight line drives … Commits under a turnover per game as a freshman big, highlighting his guard skills … Still only 18 years of age, Davis grew 7 inches (6’3-6’10) between his HS junior and senior seasons … Dynamic versatility at both ends of the floor makes for boundless potential.

USA Today:

The Pistons already have Greg Monroe, and adding Davis would create a fearsome post tandem. Monroe is a terrific passer, and we envision a lot of give-and-gos.

What is the best thing Anthony Davis does for his team?

Kevin Hetrick of Cavs: The Blog:

Davis dominated the NCAA in a rarely exhibited way.  The scary thing is, he can get a lot better.  His shooting range is still unreliable, his back-to-the-basket game is raw, he’s too skinny…if he never improves on any of this; he’ll still be a low-usage, high-efficiency center that dominates one end of the court.   With strides in his offensive game and a little more muscle on his frame; could he win an MVP?


Learn your lottery terminology

In tomorrow’s lottery, the Pistons will have the same number ping-pong balls as the Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards, New Orleans Hornets, Miami Heat, Detroit Lions and any other team.


Teams are assigned combinations, not ping-pong balls. Here’s how the process works, as explained by the NBA last year:

Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a drum. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. Prior to the Lottery, 1,000 combinations will be assigned to the 14 participating Lottery teams by a computer.

Four balls will be drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the number one pick. The four balls are placed back in the drum and the process is repeated to determine the number two and three picks. (Note: If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls are drawn to the top again.)

The actual Lottery procedure will take place in a separate room prior to the national broadcast on ESPN with NBA officials and representatives of the participating teams and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young in attendance.

Following the drawing, team logo cards will be inserted into envelopes marked 1 through 14 by an Ernst & Young representative. These envelopes then will be sealed and brought on-stage, where the announcement of the Lottery results will be made by NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. A second representative from each participating team will be seated on-stage. Neither the Deputy Commissioner nor the team representatives will be informed of the Lottery results prior to the opening of the envelopes.

To review:

  • Incorrect: I wish the Pistons would’ve tanked to get more ping-pong balls.
  • Correct: I wish the Pistons would’ve tanked to get more combinations.

Pistons face second-most important lottery in franchise history

Ever since Kevin Pritchard put “mediocrity treadmill” into our vernacular, the term has become wildly overused. To many, any team that doesn’t win the championship or the lottery is stuck on the mediocrity treadmill.

That concern has drawn discussion Detroit, where the Pistons haven’t strongly contented for a title or the No. 1 pick in a few years. Until now, that fear was misguided.

The Pistons aren’t on the mediocrity treadmill. They’re not good enough.

The mediocrity treadmill applies to teams good enough to make the playoffs, and that’s certainly not the Pistons right now. It’s not that a literal interpretation is necessary – some non-playoff teams were good enough to make the postseason if they caught different breaks. Detroit was more than a few breaks from the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.

But the playoffs are becoming an achievable short-term goal. Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Jonas Jerebko are getting better. Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye might be, too. The Pistons are on the rise.

And that’s what makes tomorrow’s lottery so important for the franchise.

Most important lottery in Pistons history

Since the NBA instituted the lottery in 1985, the Pistons haven’t participated often. In fact, no Detroit representative was even on stage when the Pistons pulled their highest lottery pick. In 2003, Jerry West watched as his Memphis Grizzlies landed the No. 2 pick, knowing he’d have to send it to Detroit. The Pistons – who had traded Otis Thorpe to the Grizzlies years before in exchange for a pick that had become top-one protected in 2003 – used the pick, of course, to draft Darko Milicic.

But that wasn’t the most-important lottery in Pistons history.

That came in 1995.

Detroit drafted Allan Houston in 1993 and chose Grant Hill in 1994. Together – along with Lindsey Hunter, who was also drafted in 1993 and appeared promising but would never become a star – Hill and Houston gave the Pistons a bright future. Hill won Rookie of the Year, but neither he nor Houston was ready to carry a team, and Detroit went 28-54, the NBA’s sixth-worst record.

Some – though, certainly not all – of Detroit’s problems in the Hill era can be traced back to the 1995 lottery. The Pistons fell to the eighth pick and then traded it to the Trail Blazers for the No. 18 pick (Theo Ratliff), No. 19 pick (Randolph Childress) and No. 58 pick (Don Reid). Ratliff and Reid were excellent value picks, and Detroit traded Childress before the season to Portland for Otis Thorpe, who spent a couple alright years with the Pistons.

The Pistons nearly maximized their value with those picks, but by the time they were stuck with the No. 8 pick, their options were severely limited. If the Pistons had moved up in the 1995 lottery, they could have added Joe Smith,* Antonio McDyess,* Jerry Stackhouse,* Rasheed Wallace* or Kevin Garnett – the draft’s first five picks – to  their Hill-Houston core.

*Interestingly, the Pistons eventually acquired four of these players – though, Smith, McDyess and Wallace played for Detroit after Hill had left town. Stackhouse and Hill formed an ill-fitting partnership that might have gone better if the Pistons could have drafted Stackhouse and kept Theo Ratliff and Aaron McKie, rather than trading those two for Stackhouse.

In the 1995-96 season, Hill and Houston improved and led the Pistons to a 46-36 record. Although Houston left for the Knicks following that season, Hill carried the Pistons to the playoffs four of his last five seasons with Detroit. But because they didn’t surround Hill with more talent, the Pistons didn’t win a single playoff series in that span.

Like the current Pistons, the 1994-95 Pistons weren’t good enough for the mediocrity treadmill. Within a year, they had elevated to mediocre, but their moment to draft highly had passed.

Available options

This lottery’s importance to the Pistons is based on more than just their roster makeup. The top of the draft features a few excellent prospects.

Anthony Davis does a lot of things well, and they’re all things the Pistons need badly. Size, defense, athleticism, rebounding and passing – Davis’ specialties – are each areas where Detroit has plenty of room for improvement. There would be no diminishing returns if Davis went to the Pistons.

Even other top prospects – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson and Andre Drummond (if he convinces teams he’s committed) – are tremendously more valuable than the scraps likely to be available at No. 9, Detroit’s slotted position. Any of those four could become the game-changer that puts the Pistons on an onward-and-upward track, rather than leave stuck running place.

Can Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller or even, my personal favorite of this tier, John Henson do that? I doubt the Pistons can find a true difference maker at No. 9, and a complementary piece just slides them comfortably onto the mediocrity treadmill.

Last chance?

The fundamental question: Can a team comprised primarily of the Pistons’ current players contend for a title? That matters, because the contracts of Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Tayshaun Prince will limit the Pistons’ ability to improve via free agency and trade in the near future, and the internal improvement of Monroe, Knight, Jerebko, Stuckey and Daye will limit the Pistons’ ability to improve via draft in the intermediate future.

Detroit’s best bet of getting on the track to contention is to move up in the lottery tomorrow. The Pistons have a 6.1 percent chance of landing in the top three – hardly great odds, but more than twice that of the Bucks, a team that played within the range of what Detroit could be next season.

Hopefully, the Pistons will avoid the lottery next year. They don’t need a victory tomorrow for that to happen.

But for the Pistons to surge into true contender status, they’ll need to add another star who’s not on the roster. If he doesn’t come in this draft, he’ll be extremely difficult to find.

It’s not a now-or-never situation. But it’s close.