In the mid-2000s, the Detroit Pistons were replicants of the Golden State Warriors as a dynasty in the Eastern Conference. Led by Finals MVP Chauncey Billups and yearly Defensive Player of the Year candidate Ben Wallace, the Pistons captured the 2004 NBA championship, as well as were annual candidates to play in the Conference Finals.
Since those days, the Pistons franchise has been treading water towards relevancy. This consistent decline to the cellar of the NBA standings has come from bad draft choices in the NBA Draft.
The Pistons find themselves with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. With all eyes on Cade Cunningham as the likely No. 1 overall pick, it brings anxiety to fans who have seen bad draft choices lead to failed moments over the last 20 years.
These six moments are the worst choices made by the Pistons in the NBA Draft. Hopefully, history doesn’t repeat itself when the draft is conducted in July.
6. 2017 NBA Draft
Luke Kennard (12th Pick) Over Donovan Mitchell (13th Pick), Bam Adebayo (14th Pick), And John Collins (19th Pick)
This is a tough pill to swallow when two All-Star players are directly behind Kennard, while Collins is growing into an All-Star caliber forward. Kennard has shown flashes as a streaky shooter, but his 9.4 points per game are considerably lower than the rest of his peers. To make matters worse, Kennard is playing in the Western Conference Finals with the Los Angeles Clippers, while the other three players are still with the respective teams that drafted them.
Mitchell helped lead the Utah Jazz to the No. 1 seed in the West. He also owns a career average of 23.4 points per game. Mitchell and Andre Drummond could have been the Mitchell-Rudy Gobert combo in Utah. As for Adebayo, he is an All-Defensive player that plays well on both sides of the ball. He could have negated the Blake Griffin trade and the money that came with him.
As for Collins, he would have given the team a true scoring forward. The Pistons tried to clog the paint with Griffin and Drummond, but Collins would have stretched the floor. Collins shoots 38% from three-point range and averaged a 20 and 10 season just last year.
5. 2015 NBA Draft
Stanley Johnson (8th Pick) Over Myles Turner (11th Pick) And Devin Booker (13th Pick)
Johnson was seen as a strong defender out of college. He had good size and showed upside as a good scorer, but he is nowhere near his peers. Johnson’s career average of 6.2 points per game is the lowest career average among all players drafted in the top-10 of the draft.
At the time, the Pistons already had a center in Andre Drummond, so not drafting Myles Turner makes sense, but we should acknowledge that Turner could have provided great defense and been moved to power forward.
With that said, the biggest mistake came from not drafting Booker. The Pistons needed a scorer, and Booker looks like the next coming of Kobe Bryant. Booker has averaged 23.0 points per game in his career, which leads all players among the 2015 NBA Draft class. Booker is currently leading the Phoenix Suns to a 2-0 lead over the Clippers in the Conference Finals. Maybe, that could have been Detroit had they picked him.
4. 2013 NBA Draft
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (8th Pick) Over CJ McCollum (10th Pick) And Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th Pick)
Caldwell-Pope grew to become a reliable outside shooter, but that didn’t happen until he was a member of the 2020 championship Lakers team. However, his best overall numbers came with the Pistons as he averaged double-digits three times, including a career-high 14.5 points in his second season.
However, McCollum’s career average of 18.9 points looks a lot better. Not to mention, Giannis has won two MVP awards. McCollum would have made the tandem of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond better by stretching the floor with his range. As for Giannis, the Pistons would have had a generational talent.
Giannis not only won the MVP last season, but also the Defensive Player of the Year Award. He has the Milwaukee Bucks playing in the Conference Finals. There is nothing that the big man can’t do. At the time, the Bucks were a similar team looking to build talent around a cornerstone player. The Pistons have to be looking at their divisional rival wondering if they could have been them.
3. 2011 NBA Draft
Brandon Knight (8th Pick) Over Kemba Walker (9th Pick), Klay Thompson (11th Pick), And Kawhi Leonard (15th Pick)
We would like to give a few Honorable Mentions to Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Jimmy Butler too. However, the three listed players were near the draft board when Knight was taken. Out of Kentucky, Knight has potential as a combo guard, but his overall numbers never took off. Now, he is remembered as the guy that got posterized by DeAndre Jordan on a dunk.
Meanwhile, Walker became the all-time leading scorer for the Charlotte Hornets. There was a stretch of five straight seasons (four in Charlotte and one in Boston) where he averaged at least 20.0 points or more. Speaking of scorers, we all know about the shooting power of Klay Thompson, who has won three NBA championships with the Warriors, which once included scoring 37 points in a quarter.
Leonard has to be the biggest gut buster because the two-time NBA Finals MVP is one of the best to take the floor on offense and defense. Like Giannis, Leonard is a franchise-changing player. He is a seven-time All-Defensive selection, as well as someone that has scored at least 24.5 points per game in four of the last five seasons.
2. 2010 NBA Draft
Greg Monroe (7th Pick) Over Gordon Hayward (9th Pick) And Paul George (10th Pick)
When someone owns a career average of 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds, it’s not too bad of an NBA career. With that said, he is not on the same level as the likes of Gordon Hayward, nor Paul George.
Hayward was an All-Star when healthy. Despite a gruesome injury during his days in Boston, he is still capable of starting and providing 20 points per night. Paul George, on the other hand, is a franchise-quality player that helped lead the Pacers past the Pistons many times during his younger days.
George helped lead the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals two times during his heyday. Then, he finished MVP runner-up in his lone season with the Thunder. Since then, he has paired with Kawhi Leonard to make the Los Angeles Clippers title contenders the last two seasons. Had George played with the Pistons, the team might have contended in the East like the good ol’ days.
1. 2003 NBA Draft
Darko Milicic (2nd Pick) Over Carmelo Anthony (3rd Pick), Chris Bosh (4th Pick), And Dwyane Wade (5th Pick)
Mathematically speaking, the Pistons had a one out of four chance to get this wrong. Somehow, in some way, the Pistons found a way to completely disappoint their fans.
At the time, the Pistons featured a strong core of Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton, and Ben Wallace. Drafting Anthony, Bosh, or Wade might have kept this dynasty alive for at least a few more years. Instead of following the likes of the Green Bay Packers of passing the torch from one great quarterback (Brett Favre) to another (Aaron Rodgers), the Pistons watched Milicic fizzle, while the trio grew with Hall of Fame-worthy careers.
Wade won a title on his own in 2006 with the Heat, and two more with LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2012 and 2013. Bosh, at the time of his departure, was the all-time leader in points and rebounds in Raptors franchise history. Anthony might have won a title in his career had he been selected, but has still displayed some of the greatest scoring skills we have ever seen.
This is no doubt the biggest disappointment in franchise history when it comes to the draft.