Pistons pass on Burke, select Caldwell-Pope
Jul 21, 2015 at 12:49 PM
Joe Dumars looked at his roster and figured there was really only one choice once the eighth pick in the NBA draft came around.
No, it wouldn't be Trey Burke, the local favorite who led Michigan to the Final Four. The Detroit Pistons needed a scorer who could play on the wing more than they needed a point guard.
"We are basically desolate at the wing positions," said Dumars, the Pistons' team president. "It was just a major focus of ours going into this draft that we have to upgrade the wing, athletic shooting. We just don't have enough wing, long athletes. That was going to be a priority for us."
So the Pistons took Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a 6-foot-5 guard from Georgia who was the Southeastern Conference player of the year last season. Caldwell-Pope averaged 18.5 points per game as a sophomore in 2012-13 and shot 37 percent from 3-point range.
"I have a lot to offer," Caldwell-Pope said. "Besides knowing that I can shoot the ball, I can defend around the perimeter. I also rebound outside my position."
Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. McCollum were all available when Detroit's turn arrived, and the Pistons had visited with all three potential point guards before the draft. But Dumars indicated there wasn't much consideration of taking a point guard with Caldwell-Pope still available.
"Trey's an excellent player, somebody that I know extremely well," Dumars said. "We had specific needs that we had to fill, and the draft really doesn't come down to a popularity contest. ... I've had a lot of conversations with Trey long before the draft about this night and what could possibly happen — and about this scenario."
Detroit has added big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in recent drafts, and they also took point guard Brandon Knight two years ago. That might be why they decided to pass on acquiring more help at point guard in the first round.
Dumars views the 6-foot-3 Knight and 6-foot-5 Rodney Stuckey as combo guards who can play the point or off the ball.
"Just in terms of wing athletes, we certainly just don't have enough," Dumars said. "When you look at the game today, you see more of the wing, athletic shooters than anything else — you have to have that. It was time for us to address that."
After the first five picks, Dumars figured he'd have a chance to draft either Caldwell-Pope or Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, who was taken by Sacramento, one spot ahead of Detroit.
Caldwell-Pope was the first Georgia player since Dominique Wilkins in 1981 to sweep the major SEC player of the year awards.
"He had to carry a huge load with his program down at Georgia," Dumars said. "He knew he couldn't take any nights off with his team, and so he brought it every night."
The Pistons have added some solid young talent in recent years, but that hasn't brought them any closer to the postseason. Detroit hasn't made the playoffs since 2009.
Attendance has been poor, and there's little buzz surrounding the franchise in the Detroit area. The pressure will be on Caldwell-Pope to play well after the Pistons passed up a chance to take Burke, the AP national player of the year.
The rest of the offseason is still to come, of course. The Pistons have cleared space under the salary cap in the last year or so by trading veterans Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince, giving Dumars some flexibility to remake the roster.