Detroit Pistons: The likelihood of trading a first-round pick during the Draft

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The 2020 NBA Draft is this Wednesday, November 18th, and the Detroit Pistons currently sit with the seventh overall pick. Is there any value moving up or down from that spot?

The seventh pick in this year’s draft may be the first step in Troy Weaver’s tenure as the Detroit Pistons’ general manager. After taking over the role in June, the only prominent move Weaver had made was signing center Justin Patton–with whom he was familiar from their days in Oklahoma City–to a rest-of-year deal with the potential for more.

At nine career games played over three NBA seasons; however, this does not really move the needle. The seventh pick, then, is the first opportunity to publicly showcase the scouting talents of Weaver and his staff.

Draft day pick swaps are not as common in the NBA as they are in other leagues, especially higher in the first round. With just sixty total picks available, teams are a little more precious with their options.

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Instead of trading them on draft day, it is more common to see them included to sweeten a deal in a larger trade package. But this is not to say pick swaps are never done. Last year, two first-round picks were traded on the day of the draft, albeit later in the round.

For the Pistons to consider moving up in the draft, they would have to give up a considerable amount of capital. In a comparable move, the 2018 Mavericks moved from No. 5 to 3 by giving up a future first-round pick. In the same year, the Clippers went from 12 to 11, which cost them two future second-round picks.

Who these teams selected is not relevant in this example, but it does show roughly what the Pistons would stand to lose if they wanted to jump up from No. 7. Depending on how high they are willing to reach, they would lose something akin to a first- or possibly multiple second-round picks. For a team entering a rebuild, throwing away future options on an unknown quantity in an already thin draft is not a wise move.

Moving down is slightly more likely if they can collect more pieces as a result. The Pistons have needs all over the court, so they do not necessarily have to target one specific position. Instead, they will probably be looking for the best player available, wherever they draft. This gives them the luxury of not being tied to the spot.

If, for instance, they can swap to a later first- and acquire a second-round pick, the Pistons could jump on the opportunity. Still, it would have to be quite the favorable offer:  the Pistons are rebuilding, after all, so they cannot afford to drop too low.

As it stands now, the first-round pick is the Pistons only pick in the draft. Their own second-round pick now lives with the Sacramento Kings by way of the Phoenix Suns for the 2015 trade that brought in Marcus Morris (now a Clipper), Reggie Bullock (a Knick), and an expiring Danny Granger (out of the league). In retrospect, this was a nice trade, but now that all three players are elsewhere, the Pistons are left empty-handed.

The Pistons may attempt to trade into the second round, as they did in 2018 to draft Bruce Brown, who is now an impact guard on the team. If they do, though, it likely will not be at the expense of their first pick.

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Heading into the 2019 draft, the Detroit Pistons still had a glimmer of playoff hope for the upcoming year. This year’s draft is the first in which they will be rebuilding in earnest. For Troy Weaver and his staff, staying put at No. 7 is a safe and smart bet.