DETROIT - The Detroit Pistons have been focusing on the NBA draft for a while, ever since they were relegated to watching the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
The Pistons aren't used to having high, first-round picks and they hope the No. 7 pick tonight pans out well enough to avoid being in the NBA draft lottery next year again.
"It's a really important pick for us," Pistons director of player personnel George David said. "We really want a player who fits in basketball-wise along with having the kind of character that meshes with the culture of our team."
And who will that be?
Joe Dumars, the team's president of basketball operations, said he expects John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson and DeMarcus Cousins to be gone before Detroit is on the clock.
If Dumars' projections are perfect, the Pistons will wait to see who is drafted sixth before picking the best big man available.
"If we end up with the seventh pick, we'll get a good player and I'll be OK with him," Dumars said yesterday. "We've been talking to people in front of us and behind us about a trade, but I can't tell you what is going to happenbetween now and the night of the draft."
Dumars might choose North Carolina's Ed Davis, Baylor's Ekpe Udoh or Cole Aldrich of Kansas if he chooses to stick with the slot the team got after winning just 27 games in its worst season since 1994, when Dumars was in the middle of his Hall of Fame career as a player.
Davis - a 6-foot-10, 225-pound forward - averaged 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and nearly three blocks for the Tar Heels last season as a sophomore.
Udoh - a 6-10, 240-pound center - averaged almost 14 points, 10 rebounds and four rebounds last season as a redshirt junior for the Bears after sitting out one year following a transfer from Michigan.
Aldrich - a 6-11, 245-pound center - scored 11-plus points, grabbed almost 10 rebounds and blocked 3.5 shots a game last season as a junior for the Jayhawks.
The Pistons have Davis, Udoh and Aldrich on a list of 30 players - out of about 65 - that they acknowledge working out during pre-draft preparations.
"There's a group of guys we're looking at and even a day before the draft, we're going through their medical info, background reports, game tapes and individual workouts," David said.
"We're still sorting through that information."