Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What the 8th Pick Really Means

Past returns can never guarantee future performance, but they can always provide an idea of what to expect.  With the Pistons slotted to pick 8th in the 2015 draft, barring any trades, what kind of player will the team be adding to its core this year?  Below is a list of the 8th picks in the last 20 drafts, sorted by year:

Year
Pick
Team

Best Player taken after
2014
Nik Stauskas
SAC

Too early to tell (E. Payton?)
2013
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
DET

Giannis Antetokounmpo (15)
2012
Terrence Ross
TOR

Andre Drummond (9)
2011
Brandon Knight
DET

Kawhi Leonard (15)
2010
Al-Farouq Aminu
LAC

Paul George (10)
2009
Jordan Hill
LAL

Ty Lawson (18)
2008
Joe Alexander
MIL

DeAndre Jordan (35)
2007
Brandan Wright
GSW

Marc Gasol (48)
2006
Rudy Gay
MEM

Rondo (21)/Millsap (47)/Lowry (24)
2005
Channing Frye
NYK

David Lee (30)
2004
Rafael Araujo
TOR

Andre Iguodala (9)
2003
T.J. Ford
MIL

David West (18)
2002
Chris Wilcox
LAC

Amar’e Stoudemire (9)
2001
DeSagana Diop
CLE

Tony Parker (28)
2000
Jamal Crawford
CHI

Michael Redd (43)
1999
Andre Miller
CLE

S. Marion (9)/Ginobili (57)
1998
Larry Hughes
PHI

Nowitzki (9)/Pierce (10)
1997
Adonal Foyle
GSW

Tracy McGrady (9)
1996
Kerry Kittles
NJN

Kobe Bryant (13)
1995
Shawn Respert
MIL

Michael Finley (21)

There's a pretty wide variety of returns there, ranging from major flops like Rafael Araujo and Joe Alexander to guys like Andre Miller and Channing Frye who had solid careers, and even a couple borderline All-Stars, such as Rudy Gay, Jamal Crawford and...Brandon Knight.  Obviously drafting has more to do with how you scout and prepare and isn't just a matter of raw luck, but by my count, based on the guys above, the Pistons have about a 13/20 (65%) chance of getting a guy who can definitely contribute in the rotation during their career.  The guys I didn't include in that count (Nik Stauskas, Joe Alexander, Rafael Araujo, Chris Wilcox, DeSagana Diop, Adonal Foyle, Shawn Respert) you can mostly attribute to poor scouting.  If you look at the best players who went after those guys in their respective drafts, there was just an issue of taking the wrong guy, with the exception of Stauskas who can't be judged yet.  Think the Warriors regret taking Adonal Foyle over Tracy McGrady?  My point is, that there are going to be opportunities to get a good/great player at #8 or later and that not moving up in the lottery isn't a deal breaker for this off-season.  This isn't the 2013 draft; the Pistons are going to have a great shot at getting a difference-maker.

If you remove the second round picks in the far right column, and average out the draft position of the best player taken after the 8th slot, you get 15.4.  Since it's impossible to pick 15.4th, we'll just round up and say that on average, the best player after the 8th pick went 16th.  You could argue that the Pistons wouldn't be doing themselves a huge disservice by trading down in this year's draft, and the table above and the average slot of the next-best pick support that.  The draft isn't always about having the best pick; it's about having the best scouting and knowing how to recognize value.  It can also be about having more chances to guess right on a guy you think has a high ceiling.  That's the reasoning behind trading down when you don't think you're going to be getting an impact player in the middle of the lottery.

Only one team has two first round picks that slot in behind the 8th pick this year, and that's the Boston Celtics, who own the 16th and 28th picks.  Using my pre-lottery mock draft as a reference, the 16th and 28th picks might yield Bobby Portis and Dakari Johnson, with Stanley Johnson going to the Pistons at 8th.  While Stanley Johnson is a lottery pick for a reason, would you feel that much worse about the Pistons' chances at getting a starter if they traded down and grabbed two solid prospects instead of the one with the higher ceiling?  I'm not sure if I would make that deal straight up, but it's certainly something to think about.

The good news is, the Pistons actually have their pick this year, which gives them plenty of options.  There's a full month between now and the draft for Stan Van Gundy and his front office crew to decide the best course of action.  Unlike past years, I feel confident that the organization will make the best choice going forward as far as how to utilize one of their best assets.  

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