Friday, May 22, 2015

Babcock out, Blashill in?


The greatest hockey coach in the game has left Detroit. This flew under the radar almost everywhere outside of Detroit, Toronto, and Buffalo because hockey is probably less popular than golf right now. Mike Babcock, formerly with the Detroit Red Wings, signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs (shouldn't it be Maple Leaves? Just saying...) for 8 years, $50M ($6.25M/yr). That's a pretty massive deal, making Babcock deservedly the highest paid coach in the NHL.
 
The Wings extended a nice offer, not quite as high as Toronto's, but close. The general feeling leading up to Babcock's decision was that both the Wings and Babcock were ready to move on. Toronto, with Shanahan in the GM's chair and also being in Canada (I believe Babcock was at least slightly biased towards coaching a team based in Canada) was the frontrunner before negotiations even began. The extra money Babcock was getting to go to Toronto definitely edged the puck towards the Leafs, but I think he was probably going there anyway.

Normally a coveted coach leaving while still in his prime to coach your rival would generate more animosity, but a) this is hockey, where almost everyone is weirdly nice, and b) the Red Wings have a capable successor in-house with Jeff Blashill, who currently is coaching the Wings' minor league club in Grand Rapids. Ken Holland has been holding onto Blashill tightly for the past year, knowing that Babcock was potentially pulling stakes for Canada. Last year Holland offered Blashill double his salary if Blashill would not talk to any of the 5 NHL teams who had expressed interest in him (Blashill eagerly accepted Holland's offer). I'd say it's a safe bet that Blashill is your next coach.


The Red Wings are a team that prefers to promote from within. You can forget about Dan Bylsma or any of the other coaches with NHL experience, Blashill is the guy and he knows what he's doing. As far as playing cred goes, Blashill was a goalie at Ferris State before moving on to coaching. He bounced around the CCHA as an assistant for a few years before he got his first HC job in 2008 for a junior hockey club. Then in 2010 he got a HC job with Western Michigan. After 1 year with WMU (which went REALLY well), Mike Babcock had seen enough and brought him on as an assistant coach. After one year of that, Blashill took on the HC job with the Griffins, Detroit's minor league team. His first year with the team, they won the Calder Cup (the championship of minor league hockey). Last year they lost in the semis, and this year they are in the semi-finals again. All this despite regularly losing his star players to the Big League Club.

Should Blashill get promoted to the Big League Club himself, as most people expect, it would represent a rather swift start to his career. Babcock himself had to wait through 12 years of coaching junior and minor league hockey before getting his first NHL head coaching gig. But make no mistake, Blashill has earned it. He knows the players, having coached several of them already as they passed through Grand Rapids, and he's clearly got the chops with 3 straight 40-win seasons under his belt.

The biggest gripe fans had of Babcock was the supposition that his gruff demeanor and old-school style led to some of the big name free agents signing with other teams. I don't know if that's true or not, but if it was, then Blashill would represent a change in those respects. This NHL offseason will be very interesting.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Not A Lotto Help for the Pistons (yeah, bad, I know)


The NBA Draft Lottery was last night, and once again the Pistons got no love. The most that can be said is at least they didn't get bumped down in the draft, but once again the Pistons are picking in the 8th spot. Since they took Austin Daye with the 15th pick in the 2009 draft, the Pistons have picked between 7 - 9 every year since. Last year they would've picked 9th, had they not traded that pick to Charlotte for the priviledge of getting rid of Ben Gordon a year early. That's an incredible run of mediocrity. BAD mediocrity, not that close-but-no-cigar variety that makes the playoffs as an 8 seed once every 3 years.

Despite this frustrating run of crappiness, the Pistons have never bottomed out for a top 3 pick. They've lucked out twice in the draft, getting Monroe (arguably the 4th best player in his draft) at #7 in 2010, and then Drummond (easily the 3rd best player in HIS draft) at #9 in 2012. They also ran into some bad luck/bad evaluating when they took Brandon Knight with the 8th pick in 2011 (Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, et al, went later), with KCP in 2013 (Giannis, Dennis Schroder, et al.), and of course when they were leapfrogged last year by Cleveland, causing the Pistons to drop a spot in the draft and lose their pick. They're due for a bit of good luck this time around, and I have hopes that SVG will be a better drafter than Dumars was.

Chad Ford has a mock draft that I find both believable and encouraging, but before I get to that, I'd like to go over the Pistons' position and options. First, Detroit's most glaring need is at SF. They haven't had a decent one since Tayshaun Prince lost his legs, and they haven't had a GOOD one since... I guess Stackhouse, if you want to call him a SF (Grant Hill, if you don't). Second, the Pistons are likely going to need a PF, as I expect Greg Monroe will take his talents elsewhere next year. Put those 2 positions as needs 1a and 1b. With Brandon Jennings possibly out for a good chunk of the 2015-'16 season (I think he'll be back ahead of schedule, but not at 100%) and Reggie Jackson going into this summer as a restricted free agent, PG is possibly also a need. Put it as a DISTANT 2nd. They could also use depth at C, but that's something you do in round 2.

I kind of did this draft preview thing a month ago, but the NBA Combine happened, as did the lottery. Sorry if I go over some of the same material. I'll try to use different clips...


#1 on the Wish List
Justise Winslow, SF - Duke
Ht: 6'6", Wt: 222#, Reach: 8'9", Wingspan: 6'10"
College Stats: 12.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.1 apg, .485 FG% - .414 3P% - .641 FT%


Winslow is a tad undersized to play SF in the NBA, but his reach and athleticism make up for it. More than that, he plays like a beast on the court, which makes up for any size deficiencies he may have. He's a ferocious defender, he can make you pay from outside, and the rest of his offensive game is filling in. Most GMs consider him the #1 SF in the draft, so he'll probably be gone before the Pistons pick, but stranger things have happened.

#2 on the Wish List

Mario Hezonja, SF Barcelona
Ht: 6'8", Wt: 200#, Reach: N/A, Wingspan: N/A

ACB League Stats: 4.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.3 apg, .467 FG% - .392 3P% - .833 FT%per 36min stats: 11.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.2 apg


Hezonja might end up a better player than Winslow. He's bigger, also athletic, he's got a prettier looking shot, and he played in a MUCH tougher league (Spain's ACB is as close to NBA-level as any league gets). On the flip, he didn't get a lot of time on the court, he wasn't especially consistent in his production, and there are some concerns about his effort on defense and his selfishness/decision making. I think he could be a Manu Ginobili-type player, if he can take the coaching.

#3 on the Wish List

Kristaps Porzingis, PF Seville
Ht: 7'0", Wt: 220#, Reach: N/A, Wingspan: N/A
ACB League Stats: 10.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.1 bpg, .4717 FG% - .316 3P% - .780 FT%

Porzingis played in the same league Hezonja did, only he played on a worse team and got more burn. The automatic comparison to make is with Dirk Nowitzki. Both are 7 ft, European stretch-4s who can also put the ball on the deck and attack. While his ACB 3P% isn't especially great, he reigned terror from on high in the 16 Eurocup games he played in (.459 3P%) and his stroke looks efficient. The main concern with him is toughness. Porzingis needs to add some bulk, and he might take a minute to adjust to the speed and physicality of the NBA game.

Not Really on My Wish List, but...
Stanley Johnson, SF Arizona

Ht: 6'7", Wt: 242#, Reach: 8'6", Wingspan: 6'11"
College Stats: 13.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.7 apg, .446 FG% - .371 3P% - .742 FT%


Johnson would be the consolation prize if the 3 players above were all taken before the Pistons step to the podium on June 25th. He actually reminds me of a more muscular and tenacious version of KCP. While this wouldn't be a BAD thing, it doesn't really sizzle either. Johnson's rep coming out of HS was as an athletic beast without much of a jump shot. The jump shot showed up in college, the athleticism was more limited. I think Johnson's ceiling is that of an above-average NBA starter, and his floor is that of a quality role player.

That's basically it. I can almost guarantee the Pistons will take one of these guys, provided they don't trade their pick. Chad Ford thinks the Pistons will end up taking Mario Hezonja, under the following scenario:

1. Karl-Anthony Towns to Minnesota
2. Jahlil Okafor to LA Lakers
3. D'Angelo Russell to Philadelphia
4. Emanuel Mudiay to New York Knicks
5. Kristaps Porzingis to Orlando
6. Willie Cauley-Stein to Sacramento
7. Justise Winslow to Denver
8. Mario Hezonja to Detroit

The wild cards there are Orlando and Sacramento. Either team might take Winslow, or even the Knicks might take him (although most think Mudiay is a lock to go to NY). What I've seen of Hezonja looks pretty good, so I'm hoping both Prozingis and Cauley-Stein get picked up before the Pistons draft. That would all but ensure either Winslow or Hezonja. I'll check in as updates warrant, but this is probably the last Pistons post until June 25th. Peace!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Man Up


Jalen Rose has absolutely had it with Chris Webber, and to be honest, I'm there too. I was a nacent Michigan fan at the time the Fab Five debuted, having just converted from Spartanism that fall (I was 11 and only just starting to think for myself) and it was an exciting time. Webber got most of the love, and rightly so, being the best player on the team. Webber had the Hollywood smile, the jump out of the gym athleticism, and a flair to his game that had the student section falling over themselves.


Being 11, he was the first guy I noticed and easily my favorite. Webber's transgressions, at least as far as Jalen Rose is concerned, probably began with the timeout vs. UNC in the 1993 National Championship game. Michigan may have lost the game anyway (a 3 would've won the game, a 2 would've sent it to OT), but the technical foul assessed for calling a timeout he didn't have clinched it for North Carolina. In Webber's defense, Rose should've been bringing the ball up court and to this day I have no idea why he didn't.

After that game, Webber went pro and thus started his growing separation from his Fab Five bretheren. As Rose pointed out in his rebuttal to Webber's comments, Chris Webber was the only member of the Fab Five who didn't stay in contact with the rest of the group. I believe the real schism hit during the Ed Martin scandal. Of all the basketball players who testified, Webber was the only one who lied and said he didn't receive any money from Martin.

This wasn't the first time Chris Webber was in some kind of legal trouble - he had several marijuana incidents, one of which involved his girlfriend at the time, Tyra Banks, claiming that it was hers. So lying and lack of accountability weren't new to Webber, but this time he was throwing Ed Martin under the bus to protect Chris Webber's own image (which wasn't exactly sparkling in the first place). While Ed Martin wasn't exactly an altruistic figure in all of this (running an illegal gambling operation, etc.), the other members of the Fab Five remembered him fondly. Martin's money helped them get through some tough times and he gave plenty of gifts to people who weren't going to pay him back.


Again, every other basketball player involved told the truth - Robert Traylor, Louis Bullock, Maurice Taylor, Jalen Rose - except Webber. This Federal indictment cost Martin his life (he died of a pulmonary embolism prior to sentencing) and there was Webber, lying about Martin to make him seem worse than he was so maybe Chris's reputation could escape intact.


But that was years ago. Water under the bridge. Yes, the other Fab Five members probably still resented Webber for what went down with Ed Martin, but they were ready to bury the hatchet. ESPN did a 30-for-30 documentary on the Fab Five in 2011. It was a celebration of the team and the cultural impact of the Fab Five. Webber, the biggest member of the group, didn't participate.

In 2013, Michigan's disassociation with the members of the Fab Five ended, and coincidentally Michigan was in the NCAA Finals. There was a push, mainly led by Jalen Rose and Jimmy King, to get the Fab Five back together in the stands for the championship game. Four of them sat together (and I'm pretty sure that's Mayor Mike Duggan just behind Huwon Howard's shoulder) while Webber watched from a luxury suite somewhere else in the building.

I don't know what slights or resentments Webber is holding onto, but they all seem to be of his own creation. Some of what he told Dan Patrick on his radio show were flat-out lies to cover his own behind, some of his resentments (like his issue with the portrayal of his own role on the team in the 30-for-30 doc) can be traced directly back to his own poor decisions (namely, to abstain from participating in said doc).

Chris Webber remains my favorite player of the Fab Five, but my favorite person of that group is Jalen Rose. Rose, for all his faults, keeps it real. Webber has failed to keep it real his entire career and now into his post-career career. Like Jalen said, he needs to man up.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Trades

The BPA strategy in drafting (best player available) is a crock. First of all, it should really be BPAAPON, or Best Player Available At Position Of Need. That, at least, is plausible. But when Martin Mayhew says that he subscibes to BPA drafting, I probably don't need to tell you that he's full of it. He KIND of admitted that last week, although Mayhew has a tendency to talk out of both sides of his mouth, even when he's owning up to something. You can't exactly claim that you're drafting the best player available when you trade up in the draft twice.

Bill Barnwell broke down the draft day trades last week, and the Lions were on the wrong side of 2 of the 3 most one-sided trades in this draft. The one time they traded down didn't crack the list. The sum total of the pick trading was a bit kinder to Detroit, having them net a value of - 0.4, the equivalent of giving up a late 7th round pick for nothing. In other words, the Lions broke just below even, after all their trading up and down in the draft.

If you were among the population that was shocked/excited/euphoric that the Lions actually TRADED DOWN in the first round of the draft, be advised that they've already burned through that credit. How good this actually is remains to be seen. The early impressions of last year's draft weren't particularly good and the results were worse. My impression of the previous draft was positive, and the results were even better. I'm lukewarm on this draft. All the trading didn't actually get Mayhew any advantage, so these players are really going to have to work out.

***

Speaking of trading, the Tigers needed a center fielder this year, so over the winter they swung a 1-for-1 trade of 2B Devon Travis for Toronto CF Anthony Gose. While Gose has been pretty good (.325/.365/.463, 1 HR, 6 SB, with decent defense), Toronto is winning this trade so far. Travis is hitting .288 with 7 HR and 25 RBI, and his defensive contributions have exceeded Gose's. If you sum up runs scored, RBI, and defensive runs saved for each player, Travis has contributed 49 runs to Toronto's offense while Gose (a platoon CF) has only chipped in 19. Plus, Travis has been hitting some BOMBS.


It's early. There's obviously a potential Chris Shelton/2006 factor in this hot start Devon Travis is having, especially considering the lack of power history. Travis hit 10 HR in 441 at bats last year on Detroit's AA Erie team, not exactly an indicator of a powerful homerun monster lurking in the minors. Still, prior to this early breakout, I would've said Travis might become a .300 hitter with 20-20 ability. That's a pretty nice player, especially at 2B. Of course, that was his ceiling and by all accounts he wasn't ready for the Bigs yet (those accounts were clearly wrong).

Detroit's "get" in this deal, Anthony Gose, isn't exactly a slouch either. He's essentially the same age as Travis, and going into this season was viewed as more MLB ready at a position where the Tigers needed depth. Gose's stats in the minors profile out as an average hitter with little power, but decent speed and defense. Many Tigers fans complained about Dombrowski shipping out another prospect to pick up a marginal talent at a position of need. Others argued that Dombrowski has a pretty good track record for selling high on minor league talent.

In 5 years we may be looking at Travis as "the one that got away". Right now Gose is hitting well, but strictly as the left-handed side of a CF platoon with Rajai Davis. Travis is a big reason why Toronto is the #1 run-scoring offense in baseball. It's not 100% analogous, but this could end up being this generation's John Smoltz Trade.

Monday, May 4, 2015

How did the Lions draft?

The NFL Draft is over, and I have to say, it was kind of boring. There were a couple of points of interest (would the 2nd pick get traded, when would player X with character concerns get picked, etc.), but most teams made the right pick most of the time. The Lions more or less followed suit, although I'll get into that in a minute.

 Every website has some kind of draft analysis, draft winners/losers, best steal of the draft/reach of the draft, etc. I'm kinda doing that (so mark me down 1 for lack of originality), but I'll also include suggestions for what the Lions could've done differently for the higher picks.

Round 1, pick #28 - RG Laken Tomlinson, Duke


The Lions had the 23rd pick but traded down with Denver and took Tomlinson. This isn't a terrible pick, but it's not a particularly good one either. I'm almost always a fan of trading down, and the Lions got a pretty good haul for only moving back 5 picks (they gave up the 23rd pick for Denver's #28, 5th round pick, a 2016 5th rounder, and RG Manny Ramirez). The trade added picks and temporarily filled a need at guard (Ramirez can still play, but he's only got a year or 2 left in the tank), but it cost them a change to draft a legit LT in DJ Humphries.

The trade also lessened the need to draft a guard, at least from this high in the draft. Guard isn't a premium position and Laken Tomlinson, despite being the top-ranked guard in the draft, wasn't considered a 1st round talent. He probably wouldn't have been available when the Lions stepped to the podium in round 2, but a comparably talented guard would have been there. The guy I really wanted them to take in round 1 was Malcolm Brown, the DT from Texas who slipped all the way to the Patriots at 32nd overall. Tomlinson should be serviceable, but I think Mayhew could've done better with his 1st round pick. Grade: B-

Round 2, pick number 54 - RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska


I have no problem with this pick. Running back was a position of need, I believe Abdullah was the best available, and I was a little surprised to see him fall this far in the draft. He's a bit small and has a fumbling problem due to his small hands, but I think he's still a better back than the other guys left in this draft. His 40 time wasn't all-world (4.60 at the combine, 4.54 at his Pro Day), but he was off the charts with his shuttle times, vertical and broad jumps. This would indicate a supremely athletic RB, fast between the tackles and good at changing direction. The tape holds that theory up, so forget about that 40 time.

My love of this pick aside, had the Lions wanted to go a different direction, CBs Quinten Rollins and Senquez Golson were both available with the 54th pick. Instead, they address this need in round 3. Grade: A

Round 3, pick 80 - CB Alex Carter, Stanford


I like the player, I don't like the trading up. Still, it only cost the Lions a 5th round pick to move up 8 spots, so that's not too bad. He doesn't possess elite speed but he's not exactly slow either, and his height, weight, and 41" vertical make up for the lack of top-end speed. He didn't get a lot of picks over his career at Stanford, although he managed quite a few knockdowns.

The Lions had equivalent needs at DT and OT, and top talents like DTs Carl Davis, Xavier Cooper,and OT TJ Clemmings were all available. There was some crazy talent that dropped, I would've rather seen the Lions take advantage of that rather than sacrifice picks to move up the board. Grade: B

Day 3:
Round 4, pick 113 - DT Gabe Wright, Auburn
The Lions finally addressed the DT position, but they traded back into the 4th round to do it. I hate this pick.  Wright's production at Auburn leaves much to be desired, unlike OSU's Michael Bennett (taken in round 6, no less!). Trading up cost the Lions their 2016 3rd round pick. Not a good value swap. Grade: C-
Round 5, pick 168 - FB Michael Burton, Rutgers
Meh. The Lions' running game uses the fullback position and they let Jed Collins walk, so FB was a need. If Burton can adequately fill in for Collins, call this one a win. Grade: B
Round 6, pick 200 - CB Quandre Diggs, Texas
A solid pick, for a 6th-rounder. He's small, so he projects as a slot corner, but he's not particularly quick. He'll need to work on technique to win a job. Grade: B
Round 7, pick 240 - OT Corey Robinson, South Carolina
Robinson is a big dude, but had weight and motor issues. I think he gets cut. I'd rather the Lions had taken a flyer on La'el Collins. Collins was a 1st-round prospect, until word broke that the police wanted to ask him some questions about his ex-GF's murder. He's not a suspect, so why not spend a 7th rounder on him? Everything he's done - flying down to Baton Rouge to answer questions, cooperating fully with police - are the actions of an innocent man. I hope the Lions pick him up as an UFA. Grade: C-

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B-
The Laken Tomlinson pick was iffy, I hated trading back into the 4th round, and I thought the Lions passed up a lot of talent in this draft (namely Malcolm Brown, Michael Bennett, Collins). Still, Mayhew definitely addressed team needs, although he waited a bit long for my taste to get to DT. He got some good players in Abdullah and Alex Carter, and some solid starting-level guys in Tomlinson and Burton. Whether or not these guys pan out, as always, remains to be seen.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Loving/Dreading the Draft

Happy Draft Day! For many fans it's the pinnacle of the NFL season. For Lions fans, it's a weird brew of intense hope and intense dread. We're like a dog that's been taken through some sick version of Pavlov's experiment, so now we're conditioned to expect the worst every time the bell rings.

Dave Birkett evaluated Mayhew's past drafts (I thought he was overly kind in his assessments) and also broke down the Lions' needs by position, which being roughly identical to my own list, I happen to agree with him. He goes into WAY more depth, including possible picks at each position, but here's the jist:
  1. Offensive Line is the biggest need, at almost any position on the line
  2. Defensive Line, and again, at any position
  3. Defensive Back, CB slightly ahead of S
  4. Running Back
  5. Wide Receiver
After that come QB and special teams, which really aren't needs. That should be enough to paint a picture of my expectations as a fan. The Lions have to take the best lineman available with the 23rd pick. If they pull an Ebron (referring to last year, when they drafted a TE with the #10 pick) and totally ignore need (and even BPA - best player available) for getting a guy they just happen to like... Mayhew needs to be fired. And not in the usual, "Turn in your ID and your parking pass, please" kind of way, but in a way more in keeping with the traditional way of deposing a leader who persists in the same mistakes and refuses to see reality, despite the clamour of a weeping populace. Ok, maybe that's a bit extreme, but Mayhew's been working up to this.

As soon as the last college game has been played, the March of the Mock drafts begins. ESPN's Todd McShay has submitted no less than 5, and Mel Kiper is on #4.0 (both have the Lions taking OT La'el Collins). On the other side of things, NFL.com's Mike Mayock only does one mock draft a year and he's got a knack for knowing what's going to happen. Here's his mock, published yesterday. He's got the Lions starting a run on OTs, taking Andrus Peat from Stanford.


He could play RT or LT, probably start out at RT and move over as he gets his legs. If the draft played out that way, I wouldn't be mad. I also like Cameron Erving, who can basically play everywhere on the offensive line, and DT Malcolm Brown. My fear is that Martin Mayhew pulls a Millen (which he's done before, with Jahvid Best) and trades up for Todd Gurley.

Last year the Lions took Eric Ebron and I put my head down on the bar in exasperation (I was watching from TAP at MGM). It was a bad pick, obviously bad, and it paid nearly zero dividends in 2014. We can talk all day about who Mayhew should've taken (most of the next group of players taken - Odell Beckham Jr, Aaron Donald, Taylor Lewan, CJ Mosley, etc. - look like perennial Pro Bowlers in the making), but the fact is once again Mayhew chose poorly. So, like every other Lions fan, I'll be paying attention to the draft with a ready supply of alcohol nearby in case/when this goes horribly wrong.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Lions stink at drafting, Pistons are once again drafting from the 8th spot

The Lions are TERRIBLE drafters. Matt Millen was one of the worst drafting GMs in football history, which I've already covered at length, but it's worth mentioning how bad Martin Mayhew has been. Going back to his 1st draft in 2009, 3 players are left from that draft (if you really want to count Pettigrew), all of 2010 is gone, and 2011 is gone. In actually evaluating his draft choices, he gets a useful player out of about a third or a quarter of his picks. Looking at the later picks, he might get one useful player out of every 10 guys.

As bad as Mayhew has been at drafting, he's been ok at free agency and trades. This year has been the exception, although I do like the Haloti Ngata trade. Leaving are Suh, Fairley, Sammy Hill, Dom Raiola, Rob Sims, and now last season's find George Johnson. Replacing them are Ngata, Tyrun Walker, who knows, Travis Swanson, who knows, and who knows. Mayhew already needed to have a good draft, now with Suh et al gone, he needs to knock this one out of the park.

With the draft coming up in 2 weeks, let's review: Prior to the free agency shakeup, I thought RB was a possibility for the Lions in round 1. They could still go with Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon, but I happen to agree with Mel Kiper Jr here - the Lions will draft the top lineman available with the 23rd pick, offense or defense, unless there was tremendous value at another position. The second round could go very much the same, although RB & CB become likely options there as well. Through rounds 1-3, the Lions should end up with 2 lineman and another player, either RB, CB, or WR/KR. I could see DE joining that group also.

I don't think Mayhew's job is necessarily on the line here, but it should be. Lewand too. They've done a terrible job of building through the draft and managing the cap (although they were hamstrung a bit by the old CBA). They failed to keep Suh, which is enough to put them on the hot seat in and of itself. Mayhew needs to kill this draft, and he really needs his 2014 draft to vindicate itself. Outside of Travis Swanson, it looks pretty busted.

***

The Pistons' season is over, once again failing to either make the playoffs or to tank for a top 5 pick. Once again, they're most likely drafting 8th (pending the lottery results). Last year the guy I wanted Detroit to pick was Julius Randle. He of course went 7th to the Lakers, and the Pistons lost their semi-protected pick when Cleveland leap-frogged them, pushing Detroit's pick out of the top 8 and sending it to Charlotte (result of Dumars' less-than-inspired Ben Gordon trade). In 2013, I wanted McLemore (we got KCP). In 2012 I wanted Drummond, which actually worked out for once (I was also kind of rooting for Harrison Barnes to fall to us, but that was because I didn't think Drummond would last that long). In 2011 I wanted us to trade back and get Kenneth Faried. In 2010 I was hoping DeMarcus Cousins would slip to the Pistons at 7, although Monroe's turned out ok. In 2009 I wanted Detroit to draft Ty Lawson at 15th, instead they passed him up for Austin Daye.

You get the idea. Half the time, the ideal guy gets taken 1 or 2 picks ahead of the Pistons or Dumars decided to pass up the better player for a bust. I'd like to think that Stan is going to change this trend, but the 9-6 run the team went on at the end of the season suggests he's not open to the concept of tanking (even 3 more losses would've put Detroit in a tie for the 6th pick - these things kill me). Stan Van Gundy doesn't need to kill this draft like Mayhew does, but he does need to get a quality player.

1. Knock it out of the Park

Justise Winslow, SF - Duke
6'6", 222 lbs
College Per Game Stats: 12.6 pts, 6.5 rebs, 2.1 ast, 1.3 stl, 0.9 blk
Shooting %: .486 FG%, .418 3P%, .641 FT%


The Pistons would need no small amount of luck to land Winslow, either getting a top 3 pick via the lottery or something weird to happen on draft day, because Chad Ford has him ranked 6th and I fully expect Winslow to be drafted higher than that. He's an absolute beast on offense and defense, and he can shoot the 3 or attack the rim. The only real knock on him is Winslow's a touch short for an NBA SF, but I think his ferocity more than makes up for the lack of another inch or 2. It's going to kill me when the Nuggets take him 1 pick ahead of the Pistons.

2. Solid Backup Plan

Mario Hezonja, SF - Barcelona
6'7"(ish), 200 lbs
Euro Per Game Stats: 6.2 pts, 2.0 rebs, 1.2 ast, 0.6 stl, 0.1 blk
Shooting %: .470 FG%, .403 3P%, .767 FT%


Some teams rank Hezonja ahead of Winslow. Hezonja got burn in Spain's Liga ACB, which is much tougher competition than you'd see in college or the D League. He did come off the bench, but had he played in college he might've averaged 18+ ppg. He possesses more prototypical size for an NBA SF (he might actually be 6'8") and has a really nice shot, which Detroit is always needs. On the downside, his defense isn't great and he might be a pain in the ass.

3. The Best of the Rest

Stanley Johnson, SF - Arizona
6'7", 237 lbs
College Per Game Stats: 13.8 pts, 6.5 rebs, 1.7 ast, 1.5 stl, 0.4 blk
Shooting %: .446 FG%, .371 3P%, .742 FT%


Stanley Johnson is like Justise Winslow-lite. He does similar things, but he doesn't do them as well. I've only watched him play in 2 games, both times he sort of faded into the background. For a guy with a rep as a game changer, he looked more like a 3 & D type to me.

Kevon Looney, PF - UCLA
6'10", 210 lbs
College Per Game Stats: 11.6 pts, 9.2 rebs, 1.4 ast, 1.3 stl, 0.9 blk
Shooting %: .470 FG%, .415 3P%, .626FT%


Looney might be the perfect stretch 4 to pair with Drummond. Maybe. There's a lot of good, raw material to work with, but it's unclear what he will become. He rebounds, defends and shoots the 3 well, but he will most likely never be a feature scorer. He didn't really shoot the 3 a TON either, so we don't have a big enough sample size to definitively say that he's a legit shooter. He's not terribly athletic and he needs to add about 20 lbs of muscle, but most of these weaknesses (like lack of a post game) are more like strengths when you pair him with Drummond.

Kelly Oubre, SF - Kansas
6'7", 204 lbs
College Per Game Stats: 9.3 pts, 5.0 rebs, 1.5 ast, 1.1 stl, 0.4 blk
Shooting %: .444 FG%, .358 3P%, .718 FT%


Oubre came in with a lot of hype and didn't deliver. Not really. Many think he's got more upside than the other SFs in this draft - Winslow, Hezonja, and Johnson - but he has much more to work on. He looks pretty average for a supposedly deadly outside shooter, and that might be attributable to his shot selection. His defensive effort comes and goes, but he's an athlete and might end up as the best of this group.

The Pistons have needed a SF since Tayshaun lost his legs in 2008, but for whatever reason they have failed to address this. This looks like a pretty good draft for SFs (of course you never REALLY know until you know, right?), so odds are the reign of mediocrity is nearing an end. They could go PF here and get Looney or even PG if one of the top guys falls, but most likely Stan Van Gundy drafts a 3 here.

The Pistons have had terrible lottery luck, but at 2.8% it's not like they're expected to get a top pick (3.3% for the #2 pick, 3.9% for #3). I'd love to see them get the #3 pick and walk away with Winslow, but most likely they stay at #8 and take Hezonja or Stanley Johnson. Check out ESPN's Mock Lottery Draft to see how different scenarios might play out. I'll check back in on the draft after the lottery & combine with an update.