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Reiterating why the Pistons drafted Darko Milicic

Joe Dumars discussed Darko Milicic this week, within the context of the background work he now does on draft prospects like Andre Drummond. Dumars said that, “”After I drafted Darko, from that point on, the amount of background we do on every single player that you see us draft is ridiculous. We do as much or more background than any other team in the NBA because of that.”

Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie got back into the reasoning at the time for Milicic:

In a moment West had to deal the dual indignities of both losing out on LeBron James, by one grab of a lottery ball, but also losing out on his lottery pick altogether. And that Grizzlies team, even before hiring coach Hubie Brown a few months into the 2002-03 season, earned that pick.

The problem here is that Dumars told anyone that would listen — and this was in May, mind you — that the Pistons would be using the top overall pick on Darko. Didn’t look seriously into trading down, didn’t run another month’s worth of background checks. Didn’t exactly go in unfamiliar about the guy, but could have done more.

The problem here is that so, so many other teams would have done the same. Even if Wade and Anthony were just a few months removed from shining in their trips to the Final Four.

Milicic was that highly-regarded, so to pass it off as the Pistons acting alone or that “Tayshaun Prince played well out of nowhere for Detroit in the 2003 playoffs, so they took stupid Darko” is wrong. Yes, Prince played well for Rick Carlisle in the postseason, watching as his minutes jumped up from 10 to 25 per game, but Dumars was taking Darko anyway.

Have fun delving into the past this weekend.


  • Jun 30, 201211:56 am
    by SkitchP


    This is an important column, but i I wish it included more quotes from the period. 

    If memory serves, there was even talk that Darko could end up ahead of Lebron (until his hometown team ended up picking 1.) And Wade wasn’t even in the discussion. I think ONE writer brought up Bosh, but the options were Carmelo or Darko. No one in their right mind was taking Wade or Bosh there.

    I think I read that only 1 GM at the time indicated they would have taken Melo.. and that guy was  Kiki Vandewehge, who obviously would have motive to claim Carmelo would be his guy. 

    Darko was Dirk with post moves and a mean streak. A True Seven Footer who could play inside and out. Darko wasn’t just the future of the Pistons, he was one of the future stars of the NBA. 

    That alone doesn’t justify the Darko pick, but I do think it absolves Joe from blame on it as well.  I think any GM in the league was going to take him. I do think that maybe a coach other than Larry Brown may have been able to reach him, but that’s purely my opinion.

    and none of that even addresses the point of the title. Which they probably never would have won with Carmelo Anthony. The team was strong as a team playing together. Like so many other dominant scoring wing players, Carmelo demands the ball far more than anyone on that title team did, and any change in that balance on that team may have been enough to stop them from winning the title. Carmelo Anthony is a gifted scorer, but has yet to prove he has the ability to help a team win with regularity at the NBA level.

  • Jun 30, 201212:10 pm
    by Travis


    I still recall reading reports about teams trying to trade up to pick Darko at #2. I dont recall if it was Minnesota and Seattle, but that’s irrelevant now. In addition, Wade was just coming off a suspension in the NCAA for punching another player from the back. I also recall that Carmello was the only consensus top 3 pick out of the top 7 players after coming off the championship with Syracuse.

    The others, while talented, were seen as talented but were not guaranteed to be All-Stars.

    Lastly, I believe Larry Brown shoulders most of the blame for Darko’s professional development. Had Milicic received the same positive support that Drummond is now receiving from the Piston’s organization, I’m certain he would have been a more productive and mature player. Yes, Darko was accentric, but Larry Brown made Darko his whipping boy and guaranteed that an 18 year old in a new home thousands of miles away from home was not going to develop the confidence needed to be a productive center.

  • Jun 30, 201212:20 pm
    by SkitchP


    I decided to look it up.

    From Chad Ford’s 2003 Mock
    Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: He’s the real deal. He’s really one of a kind. He runs the floor, handles the ball, shoots the NBA 3-pointer, plays with his back to the basket, so you can slot him in at the 3, 4 or 5. What sets Darko apart is his toughness in the post. You have to love a guy who has the footwork to spin by an opponent, but still prefers to lower a shoulder and bang. Fact is, Milicic plays in attack-mode at both ends of the floor. The more you push, the more he pushes back. He’s got a great frame. He’ll definitely get stronger. He’ll have no problem holding his own in the post.

    He had Wade going 7th to the Bulls

    John Hollinger (SI at the time) had Wade going 9th to the Knicks

    NBAdraft.net had Wade going 7th

    NBA.COM Mock
    East scout: “With Milicic, they can’t go wrong. They also need a backup point guard.”

    Wade went 7th.

    In fact, in my minimal research, Wade going as high as 5th was a pretty big shock. 

  • Jun 30, 20121:11 pm
    by George


    Salt, meet wound.

  • Jun 30, 20121:20 pm
    by MrHappyMushroom


    Like the rest of us, I’ve regretted Darko, but never saw him as a bad pick.  Look, that Pistons team was loaded and about to win a championship.  If there was ever a squad that could afford to swing for the fences–nearly all sources had him Top 5 and many saw him as a possibly transcendent player–it was these Pistons.
    In retrospect, nearly everyone drafted behind him in the first round was a much better player.  But had Joe nabbed Wade or Carmelo, you can’t know; the chemistry might  not have been the same.  And, quite possibly, there’s no Rasheed Wallace.  In short, the Pistons could afford to have Darko be a monumental bust and still win a championship and be in the running for multiples.
    At this point, I’m far more irritated by Khris Middleton.  (It might just be the spelling of his name, though…)

  • Jun 30, 20121:21 pm
    by brgulker


    So NBA GMs are the same now as they were then.

  • Jun 30, 20121:40 pm
    by MrBlockedShot


    Oh My God! the neverneding nightmare called Darko strikes again! LOL

  • Jun 30, 20121:56 pm
    by George


    Perspective: where would Darko have been selected in a draft pool consisting of the last 10 #2 picks?
    MIchael Kidd-Gilchrist
    Derrick Williams
    Evan Turner
    Hasheem Thabeet
    Michael Beasley
    Kevin Durant
    Lamarcus Aldridge
    Marvin Williams
    Emeka Okafor
    Jay Williams

    Factoring in both hindsight and pre-draft hype, there simply weren’t many players with transcendent potential that would have compelled me to pass on Darko. Beasley, Durant, and Okafor would be in the conversation but I would bet that some GMs would have gambled on Darko above all.

    • Jun 30, 20122:32 pm
      by MrHappyMushroom


      Fascinating.  The number 2 pick hasn’t been very productive, has it.
      Of course, Durant is all world.  Aldridge is an all-star.  I suppose arguments (or future projections) could be made for Okafor, Williams, Beasley.  And it’s too early to make calls on Turner or M. Williams.  But in addition to Darko, Jay William and Thabeet have been total busts.
      As we wait on the last three to develop, we’re looking at a superstar and a fringe all-star over the last decade.  More evidence that the draft is heavily dependent on good fortune.

  • Jun 30, 20123:57 pm
    by RICK


    The only reason you say bust is you have the ability to use hindsight. Very easy to say bust when everywhere they had Darko as the next best thing along with the fact Detroit also had Okur. If I am not mistaken ESPN the Mag had an artcile back in either 02 or 03 talking about how Detroit was set up for the future based off the drafting of those two foreign big guys. The consensus was by the time the Wallace boys were gone they could slide in. We even had a big Greek center, who they sent overseas to get better. So anyone who is still claiming bitterness neds to finally get over it because everyone had Detroit pegged for greatness based off several drafts from back then. Obviously they did not account for Larry Brown and his ways of dealing with young players as well as foreigners. Great coach, but can definitely be prickly. Carlisle was the coach when they ran that article and he would have had no problems in my opinion grooming those guys. Again though hindsight is 20/20 so we will never know. Its great Dumars can talk about and give his reasoning as to why he went in the direction he did.

    • Jun 30, 20124:55 pm
      by MrHappyMushroom


      Rick is restating what everyone else here has said–the Darko pick was unfortunate, but quite justifiable.  The  point of this article was just that.

  • Jun 30, 201210:47 pm
    by Anthony


    How good does Joe look now, choosing to win after the all-star break rather then tanking? Either way we still got the guy we wanted in the draft weather we picked 2-9 but now were going in the new season with a little bit more confidence… If Drummond is a bust, atleast he’s not the second overall pick! lol

  • Jul 1, 20123:26 pm
    by Quin


    Because every team wanted a great white hope, the holy grail of franchise players..

  • Jul 1, 20125:19 pm
    by Tom.S


    Darko would have done well if he got some more minutes early in his career, unfortunately for him his coach were Larry Brown whom is a guy that have a long history of throwing rookies into the dog house. Anybody who watched the Pistons during their championship year and the run to the finals the following only got to see the Darko playing dump time. When Darko got two or more minutes on the floor was a good indicator that the game was already over.
    Darko did pretty fine playing alongside Dwight Howard when he got traded to the Magic in 06 and he has a pretty good track record with the Serbian national team.
    I do believe that he would have been a good player in the NBA if he had got the chance early, like his draftee peers did. Nonetheless, at least the trade for him turned out to be Rodney Stuckey, which is a good thing… right?

  • Jul 1, 20127:14 pm
    by gordbrown


    Coming late the the party, but it should be pointed out that Carlyle was just about as bad when it came to rookies. If Curry hadn’t gotten hurt in the playoffs, one wonders what Prince’s career might have been like?

  • Jul 1, 201211:02 pm
    by brandow


    i wonder wat would happen if darko was still with the pistons today

  • [...] on drafting another forward. This seems like a plausible excuse, except Pistons GM Joe Dumars was openly letting anyone who would listen know that he was planning on taking Darko Millicic. Others claim that at that time, Darko was a better [...]

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