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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Pistons introduced their three draft picks. No one, however, could miss the presence of a fourth player in the room.
Not only had team President Joe Dumars passed on Michigan star Trey Burke to take Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the eighth pick, he chose point guard Peyton Siva at No. 56. Siva led Louisville to victory over Burke’s Wolverines to win the NCAA title.
“I didn’t know how many Michigan fans there were until I got here today,” Siva said. “When I was walking around the building, I was getting a lot of awkward looks.”
Dumars then immediately jumped in. “Those are all the same looks I was getting last night,” he said with a grin. “Welcome to my world.”
On paper, Burke looked like a good fit for the Pistons, so when he fell to No. 8, Michigan fans were ready to hear the good news. Dumars, knowing his team needed a point guard, had something else in mind.
“This is a league where you have a lot of teams with wings that are 6-6 or 6-7, can run the floor, hit jumpers, and boost the tempo of the game way up,” Dumars said. “We looked at our roster and realized that we didn’t have any of those guys. We also knew that we had to fix that because we have really struggled over the last couple seasons with teams that have those players.”
Knowing he probably wouldn’t get a shot at Victor Oladipo or Ben McLemore — although McLemore ended up falling to the seventh pick — Dumars focused on Caldwell-Pope. However, knowing the Timberwolves wanted him at No. 9, Dumars kept quiet. Burke went to Minnesota at No. 9.
“When you are in a draft, you always want to know what the teams right ahead of you and right behind you are thinking,” Dumars said. “At the same time, you don’t want them to know what you are thinking. My job is to keep things close to the vest.”
Detroit didn’t bring in Caldwell-Pope for a workout, just a secret meeting this week. Caldwell-Pope did such a good job of keeping things quiet he originally said he hadn’t had any contact with the Pistons since the pre-draft camp in Chicago.
With $22 million in cap space, and the ability to create more by using the amnesty clause on Charlie Villanueva, Dumars plans to reinvent the Pistons as the kind of athletic, fast team that has worked so well in Miami and Oklahoma City, among other places. Caldwell-Pope, Siva, and second-round pick Tony Mitchell (North Texas State) were all picked to help that process along.
“We need to get more athletic, we need to get faster, and we need shooters,” Dumars said. “All three of these young men help us in those three categories, at one level or another.”
Caldwell-Pope was considered one of the fastest guards in the draft, trailing only Miami’s Shane Larkin, and Mitchell might have been the best pure athlete.
For the moment, Caldwell-Pope, Siva, and Mitchell are headed for Detroit’s summer-league squad. “Today is about our draft picks,” Dumars said. “But this is just the beginning.”