AUBURN HILLS — Since coming to town, Stan Van Gundy has made it very clear that he expects the next great Pistons team to be built around Andre Drummond.
Thursday night, he gets to take his first tiny step toward putting that roster together.
Because of their bad luck — and Cleveland’s great fortune — the Pistons only have one pick in tonight’s draft, and that doesn’t come until No. 38. Van Gundy was quick to lower expectations on Detroit getting a key player that deep into the night.
"When you are picking at 38, you aren’t going to get a complete player who can do a lot of things at the NBA level," he said. "You are looking for someone who has one or two outstanding skills. You might get someone who is a great shotblocker, or who can score in the post, or someone with a great outside shot. You probably aren’t going to get more than that."
Recent history, though, shows that there will probably be talent available at No. 38. Last year, the Bucks picked up college scoring sensation Nate Wolters, and he ended up starting 31 games and finding a solid spot in the playing rotation. In 2012, Denver got Quincy Miller, and while he spent his rookie season in the D-League, he was in the rotation by the end of his second season.
The best recent pick at No. 38, though, came in 2011, when the Rockets got Chandler Parsons. Parsons immediately moved into Houston’s starting rotation and has turned into an All-Star level player in his first three seasons.
Van Gundy isn’t going to expect anything that impressive, but he did say on Tuesday that he hopes to get someone who can fit into Detroit’s rotation this season, or at least push for a spot.
After the draft, though, Van Gundy and general manager Jeff Bower will face the first huge decision of their tenure — what to do about Greg Monroe. As a restricted free agent, Monroe is going to command a huge contract, and while Van Gundy loves his game, he also understands the reality of the salary cap.
"I think Greg Monroe is a very good player, especially as a 24-year-old post player," he said. "But if he goes out and someone offers him a max deal, and we match it, we get to a point three years from now where we’re paying Josh Smith $13 million on the last year and Greg is on a max deal and Andre has just gotten his max deal, that’s a lot of money for three post players.
"At the same time, that gives you the best frontcourt in the Eastern Conference, and quite possibly in the entire league."
Van Gundy is prepared in the case of Monroe signing a big offer sheet from another team — he said that he and Bower have already decided their response for each million-dollar increment that he might present them — but the wildcard is a possible sign-and-trade.
"We’re not going to be out there looking for trades, but if a team comes to us, or Greg’s agent comes to us and says there’s a situation they would like to explore, it is something we’ll consider," Van Gundy said. "I will say this — we will not trade Greg unless it is a trade that we thinks makes the Detroit Pistons a better team. We would need to get real value in return."
Detroit is also going to be working the free-agent market hard, but unlike years where Joe Dumars tried to make a big splash — never successfully — Van Gundy intends to be smart and thrifty.
When you are picking at 38, you aren’t going to get a complete player who can do a lot of things at the NBA level.
Stan Van Gundy
"I don’t want to get a tampering charge, so I’m going to use some historical references here," Van Gundy said. "We’re looking at adding multiple players, and we’ve got $13.5 million in cap space. We’re not going after Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or Michael Jordan here. Besides, Michael already has a job, and he’s pretty old.
"And, with the needs we have, we can’t afford to go for a home run and end up striking out. What we’re going to do is try to hit three singles, or maybe two singles and a double, and try to drive in a couple runs."
Between the draft and free agency, the Pistons will certainly be looking for wings who can shoot — the only real shooting guards and small forwards on the roster are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler — but there are other holes on a team that hasn’t won a playoff game in six years.
Van Gundy knows that, and he plans to fill those empty spots carefully. This won’t be the summer of the quick fix for the Pistons. That’s been tried twice without success.