Friday, June 26, 2009
For the first time in a long time, the Pistons actually had a semi-valuable first round selection in the NBA draft. After years of division titles and 50+ win seasons, the Pistons finally felt what it is like to be one of the also-rans trying to get lucky on draft night. Sadly, it doesn't look like it happened. You can't kill Joe D too much because this draft was devastatingly thin and so many of the top prospects have very little college experience. But the first round choice of Austin Daye from Gonzaga does not exactly send you charging to the Palace box office for dibs on the first batch of season tickets. I saw the guy play over the years on the tube, and you were always hearing about what he could be. He could be a gigantic 6'11 point forward. He could be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams with his unique skill set for such a big man. But more often than not, you'd check out the game, Daye would finish with like 11 points and 5 boards, and you walk away thinking, "What is everyone talking about?!?? This guy is the definition of mediocre!" He wasn't close to being the most important player on his college team. Jeremy Pargo, their point guard, would demand the ball in crunch time, shooting guard Matt Bouldin would get hot when the team needed points, and Josh Heytvelt would secure the paint area when things started to get away from them. Where did Daye fit in? Kind of where he does on this Pistons team...nowhere.
For the most part, guys that are 6'11 should be "bangers." Guys that play under the rim, carve out space, and take responsibility in rebounding the ball. But every so often, a real lanky, bony, 6'11 dude comes out of the woodwork, and the results can be less than desirable. Does the name Darius Miles ring a bell? How about Jonathan Bender? Both guys were Top-5 picks in the draft before going on to have uneventful careers ultimately ended prematurely by severe knee problems. Someone like Kevin Garnett is the exception, not the rule, when talking about the success that players with this kind of body type have in the NBA. It's just very difficult to go out night after night as a 200-pound 3/4 man in the league and maintain a high level of play throughout. And not to pile on Mr. Daye too much, but he truly seemed like a "soft" player when you'd watch him compete in the Zags' most important games. You don't even have to look much past his t-shirt to know what you're getting into. Usually, forwards that are proud of their bodies and are eager to show off their "guns" play the college game with just the jersey, deciding against the permissible, but semi-lame, t-shirt look. Daye, on the other hand, took full advantage, draping himself in what basically amounted to a full-body Gonzaga outfitted Snuggie, enveloping his arms in so much cloth and cotton that you'd never know his biceps were equivalent to those of fellow straw weight Mary Poppins.
It's no secret that while Gonzaga used to be a Cinderella story year after year, lately they've just been an overrated mid-major come NCAA tournament time. They rule their little WCC conference, but when they step up against competition like UNC, as they did in this year's dance, they whittle away and go hide in the corner. Daye is the perfect example. In a game that many felt the Zags could give the Heels a real run for their money, Daye came up flat. He was a non-factor against Tyler Hansbrough and Co., shooting 3 of 8 and making three turnovers as the eventual champion Tar Heels steamrolled 'em by 21.
I'm just not sure where Austin Daye fits on this team. You have a real problem in the frontcourt, and one that will not be solved by simply adding Carlos Boozer as rumor says they might. This was a team that could not keep Cleveland away from the offensive glass in the playoffs and you would think Joe D would want to address this gap as much as possible. Daye does not really fill that void in any way. And while the jokes of "I thought we already had a Tayshaun" are quickly becoming unoriginal, that jab still rings quite true. Daye reminds you of a slightly bigger and less skilled Tay, and really, how do you get excited about that? I was kind of tired of the Tayshaun we had already...do we really need two?!?
To be fair, I'm not sure where Joe D should have went with this pick. This was not a depth-filled draft where you knew you were getting a quality player anywhere in the Top 20. I guess he could have went the Ty Lawson route and tried shoring up the point guard position, but I still think you cannot forget about Will Bynum and the super-productive minutes he provided during the last two months of the season. He was undoubtedly the Pistons best player over this stretch, and he can no longer be looked at as just a journeyman or a stopgap for a few games at a time. Maybe Dumars realized this and decided against drafting a point guard.
The 2nd round picks are what they are. Fliers on guys that will probably wind up playing in Fort Wayne or the B'nai B'rith Sunday morning league for $1,200 a month. DaJuan Summers from Georgetown is another player that never really impressed you because he never did anything really well. He was somewhat athletic, he'd shoot the ball very inconsistently, and his decision making left plenty to be desired. Best case scenario...he becomes Trevor Ariza in a few years. Worst case, and more likely scenario...he becomes a much less entertaining version of 'Dunkin' Darvin Ham. The other 2nd rounder, Jonas Jerebko of Sweden, begs the question, "Why did we feel the need to acquire another Walter Herrmann in addition to another Tayshaun Prince?" It seems like Joe D finds a type of guy he likes, then just tries adding him year after year, even if he has to change the names every once in a while. Mr. Jerebko seems to be a little more than your classic European shooting forward, displaying some unique athleticism and leaping ability on the 4-5 highlights they threw up on ESPN when he was selected. Of course, the competition was probably less than stellar and it's debatable on whether the rims he was dunking on were 10 feet, but nevertheless, it looks like the boy can get up. The platinum blonde hair does not exactly seem like the symbol of toughness, but if the guy can be a helpful sub off the pine in the next couple years, all power to him.
All in all, not a particularly eventful night for our Pistons, but most likely, the real fireworks will come in the next couple of weeks. With rampant speculation that possibly Carlos Boozer and Ben Gordon will be heading to Motown together, the whole outlook of this team will change. As it stands now, you're looking at a semi-jumbled backcourt, a forward corps not exceptionally strong in the shooting or rebounding departments, and a head coach that still reminds you way too much of the clueless Rhea Perlman in Sunset Park. So now, we wait.
Pistons fans knew that this draft night would not bring any great savior by draft or trade, and they were proved correct. They picked up a righthanded Tayshaun Prince (Daye), a poor man's Ronald Dupree (Summers...and yes, there is such a thing), and a very similar, but possibly even more feminine version of Walter Herrmann (Jerebko). It wasn't a home run night, but there really weren't many good pitches to swing at. The talent was thin, the experience was light, and many of the names were unknown to most. But just like all the other teams in the East have improved themselves in recent days by way of trade, the Pistons biggest splash, via free agency, may be yet to come. For now, we will sit back, wait for the next move, and dream about the Pistons becoming the first NBA team in history to start a tandem of near 7-foot forwards that fail to produce a combined weight of 400 pounds...it's definitely a lean period for the time being at 3 Championship Drive.
What'd you think of the Pistons' selections, or other thoughts on the '09 NBA Draft in general? Drop a comment here or reach me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org