Pistons need small forward but want to be flexible in draft
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy wants to keep expectations reasonable as the Detroit Pistons prepare to make yet another mid-level lottery pick.
“I’ve looked at it all the way as: We’re going to fill the starting positions for next year via trades and free agency. We weren’t looking at the draft,” Van Gundy said. “If you pick the guy at (number) eight and he comes in and wins the job, more power to him. But we’re not putting that kind of pressure on that guy or on ourselves.”
The Pistons have the eighth pick in Thursday night’s draft, a spot that’s becoming pretty familiar in Detroit. The Pistons also had the No. 8 pick in 2011 and 2013, and they picked seventh in 2010 and ninth in 2012. The trend was broken last year only because Detroit didn’t have a first-round selection because of a previous trade.
The Pistons have been able to land solid contributors like Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in those spots, but that hasn’t been enough to help the franchise pull out of its recent funk. Detroit hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009, and Van Gundy was hired as the coach and team president last offseason.
Detroit seems likely to lose Monroe via free agency, and the Pistons made a trade earlier this month for a potential replacement, acquiring power forward Ersan Ilyasova from Milwaukee.
That leaves small forward as the only real opening in the starting lineup — a need that may line up well with this draft and where the team is picking.
“You can say that maybe we’re fortunate in that that’s sort of where the draft falls, in a year where that’s a need that we have,” Van Gundy said. “If you look at it, there’s a group of four or five wing players — we haven’t really differentiated between twos and threes — but there’s a group of wing players that will fall in that area.”
Van Gundy wasn’t specific about who he was talking about, but Mario Hezonja of Croatia, Justise Winslow of Duke and Stanley Johnson of Arizona fit that description.
But although there’s an obvious need on the wing, Van Gundy stopped short of offering any assurances that the Pistons will try to fill it during the draft. Detroit can always try to find a small forward via other transactions this offseason. Van Gundy wants to approach the draft with the long run in mind.
“What you’re trying to project is who you think is the best guy three years down the road,” he said.
The Pistons also have the eighth pick in the second round, which is the 38th overall.