Ah, the Detroit Pistons. The NBA's Bad Boys of the 80s and 90s were dominant teams led by NBA legends Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman, and their head coach, the late Chuck Daly. Those powerful squads, which were defined by physicality, tough defense, a deadly offense and superb team play helped the franchise win their first two championships.
The team from the Motor City is rich in history and tradition. They used the same formula in the early and mid 2000s when they won their 3rd Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2004 and were a constant championship contender for much of the decade. Those teams were lead by the likes of Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Richard "RIP" Hamilton, and Hall-Of-Fame head coach Larry Brown.
The success that the organization had become accustomed to, started coming to an end, as horrible trades, (see: Iverson, Allen), bad signings (See: Smith, Josh), sub-par coaching, a shift away from their philosophy, and a general lack of direction and competent decision-making by the team's front office was a huge reason why the franchise missed the playoffs for the last six seasons.
New hope however emerged for the franchise this season, as head coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Jeff Bower who were both in their third season with the team, have finally steered the ship in the right direction with better coaching, and a series of smart personnel moves, that were absent from the previous regime. The change has seen the team return to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, although they were outmatched against the Cavaliers.
The losing and negativity that surrounded the franchise is still not all far in the rearview mirror. A major cause of it, besides the reasons I listed above, is because of bad drafting. While the team has had a total 10 Hall-Of-Famers who have called the Palace of Auburn Hills home,this is also an organization that blown a lot of draft picks, and passed up on a ton of superstars as well.
With that said, we here give you our Top 15 Worst Draft Mistakes of the Detroit Pistons.
15 Scot Pollard
Pollard isn't here for being a bust, but rather for the way the Pistons handled him.
During his 11-year career in the NBA, Pollard was known as an energy player who brought hustle, grit, and even comedy due to his bizarre hairstyles. The former Kansas Jayhawk is just another example of a high draft pick the Pistons gave up on too soon (you'll start to see a trend), as they traded the 19th pick of the 1997 draft to the Atlanta Hawks for another first round bust in Christian Laettner.
14 Randolph Childress
In the 1995 NBA Draft, the Pistons had back-to-back first round picks. With the 18th overall pick, the team chose Wyoming center Theo Ratliff. While never becoming a superstar, Ratliff would still go on to have a very solid 16-year career. With the 19th pick, the Pistons took Wake Forest point guard Randolph Childress.
13 Austin Daye
The former Gonzaga Bulldog is a perfect example of a player that should have stayed in school a little bit longer. After his freshman season in which he averaged just under 11 points per game, and 5 rebounds, the small forward boosted his stats as a sophomore to just under 13 and 7 respectively. With two years of eligibility remaining, Daye still chose to enter the 2009 NBA Draft, where he was selected 15th overall. Just like he did in college, Daye improved from his rookie to his second as he saw an improvement in his points, assist, rebounds, and steals per game. However he soon hit a wall and during his fourth season in Detroit, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzles.
12 Arron Afflalo
In 2007, Arron Afflalo was the second of two 1st first round picks that the team had in the draft (the first was Rodney Stuckey). The UCLA shooting guard was supposed to be an eventual replacement for fan favorite Richard "RIP" Hamilton. While Afflalo possessed a lot of the superior skills that Hamilton did on defense, he didn't come close to matching him on the other end of the court.
11 D.J. White
10 Lance Blanks
The 1990 draft was funny in the sense that besides of future Hall-Of-Famer "The Glove" Gary Payton, Jayson Williams, Tyrone Hill, and the draft's top pick Derrick Coleman, the majority of the players picked in the first round didn't pan out. The same was true of Lance Blanks who the Pistons took with the second to last pick of the 1st round (26th overall). In three NBA seasons, two of which were spent in Detroit, and one with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the combo-guard averaged 2.0 points per game, and less than 1 assist and 1 rebound per contest.
The second round of the '90 draft however, was full of good players who would turn into difference-makers, and in some cases All-Stars. Some of those names include Toni Kukoc, Antonio Davis, Cedric Ceballos, Bimbo Coles, and Tony Massenburg.
9 Mateen Cleaves
If production in college automatically translated into professional success, Mateen Cleaves would have at been an NBA All-Star, and maybe even potential Hall-Of-Famer. The former Michigan State Spartan was a key member of Tom Izzo's 2000 National Championship team and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the March Madness tournament. During his five-year tenure at the school, he was voted an All-American three times, and became MSU's leader in career assists and steals.
8 Al Eberhard
7 Antoine Carr
With his goggles, hard defense, and fierce rebounding, Antoine Carr was a fixture on Utah Jazz teams that battled Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls teams for the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the late 90s. The Wichita State product was taken 8th overall in the 1983 draft by Detroit. Carr, would never play a game for the Pistons, as he instead elected to play in Italy for Olimpia Milano.
6 Roy Hamilton
The Pistons took Hamilton with the 10th overall pick of the 1979 draft. Like more than a few players on this list, Hamilton's time with the franchise, and with the NBA was extremely short. After playing a year in Detroit, and a season with the Portland Trail Blazers, he briefly played in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) before calling it a career. One year of service is the bare minimum you would expect out of such a high draft choice.
5 Terry Driscoll
With the 4th overall pick of the 1969 draft (yes, the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar draft) the Pistons selected Boston College's Terry Driscoll. Despite finishing the previous season with only 32 wins, Detroit let Driscoll play his rookie year in Italy. When he finally did come to the NBA for the 1970-71 season, he averaged less than 5 points a game.
4 Bob Nash
3 Leon Douglas
2 Rodney White
One year after wasting their first round pick on the aforementioned Mateen Cleaves, the Pistons did the same thing by picking Rodney White. The PF out of the University of North Carolina was part of a very deep and talented 2001 draft that included multiple future All-Stars. Despite the fact that he was a top-10 pick, White barely played his rookie season (16 games) due to defensive deficiencies and a lack of production.
1 Darko Milicic
Who did you think was going to end up at the top of the list? With the second overall pick in the historical 2003 NBA Draft the Pistons took the Serbian. After LeBron James went to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit had 57 others players from which to choose from, including multiple-time All-Stars Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. Even if the team had still stuck with a center, big men like David West, Chris Kaman, Kendrick Perkins, and Zaza Pachulia were also available.
In 96 games as a Piston, Milicic averaged less than 2 points per game (1.6). During the 2006 season, he was traded to the Orlando Magic along with Carlos Arroyo for Kelvin Cato and a 2007 1st round pick that would end up being Rodney Stuckey. After playing a year for Orlando, he would sign with the Memphis Grizzles as an unrestricted free agent, before also spending time with the New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics before retiring in 2012 to pursue a career in kickboxing. In his career he would go on to average 6 points and 4 rebounds per game.
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