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Published: Thursday, 6/23/2011

Draft could be bright spot for Pistons

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars 
Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

DETROIT -- As dreary as last season was for the Detroit Pistons, there was one bright spot.

Greg Monroe, the team's first-round pick in 2010, emerged as one of the league's top rookies. As the losses piled up and off-court problems lingered, Monroe provided a glimpse of how quickly a team's fortunes can change if it chooses the right players in the draft.

The Pistons will try to take another step in their rebuilding effort Thursday night. They have the eighth pick this year after landing Monroe at No. 7 in 2010.

"Our focus is to continue to add players that fit the culture of who we want to be," team president Joe Dumars said. "We've put a lot of work into this draft to continue to build this team."

Last season was an embarrassing one for the Pistons. Detroit went 30-52, missing the playoffs for the second straight year, and the 2004 championship seems like a distant memory. Veteran Richard Hamilton fell out of favor and was benched, one of a handful of ordeals coach John Kuester and his players went through as they struggled to coexist.

Monroe was one player who seemed to avoid the drama.

The 6-foot-11 rookie from Georgetown averaged 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and shot 55 percent from the field. He looked comfortable at either center or power forward, meaning Detroit could try to pair him with another young big man as the team moves forward.

Bismack Biyombo, a shot-blocking forward from Congo who has played professionally in Spain, is one possibility, as is power forward Tristan Thompson of Texas. Jonas Valanciunas, a 6-foot-11 prospect who has played in Lithuania, may be another option.

The Pistons are looking forward to this draft. In fact, they're looking forward to any opportunity to add personnel after owner Karen Davidson's drawn-out sale tied management's hands to a degree last season. Tom Gores officially purchased the Pistons from Davidson less than a month ago, and Dumars was eager to start making changes.

The first big move Detroit made was firing Kuester. No replacement has been named.

Aside from bringing in a new coach, the draft might be the team's last opportunity to change the on-court product for a while with a potential lockout on the horizon.

Detroit's draft record has been mixed over the years. The Pistons infamously picked Darko Milicic at No. 2 overall in 2003 -- one spot ahead of Carmelo Anthony -- but they've landed some solid contributors in later spots. Detroit drafted Rodney Stuckey at No. 15 in 2007 and Jonas Jerebko in the second round two years later.

Jerebko started 73 games as a rookie before missing all of last season with an injury. His return could give the Pistons a boost, especially since there might be more minutes available for younger players. Hamilton is still on the roster, but Tayshaun Prince is a free agent and may not return. Ben Wallace says he's leaning toward coming back, but he turns 37 in September and played only 54 games last year.

At 6-foot-7, San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard could be groomed to replace Prince as a disruptive, long-armed defender.

If the Pistons decide to go with a backcourt player, Connecticut's Kemba Walker might be available when they pick. If the 6-foot-1 Walker is on the court for Detroit, that could mean Stuckey would have to move over to shooting guard.



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