Pistons pass on Burke, nab Caldwell-Pope
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars said making a choice between need and popularity was his easiest decision of the night.
Dumars and the Pistons passed on Michigan star Trey Burke to take Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the eighth pick in Thursday's NBA Draft.
"If I wanted to make the fans happy tonight, I could have taken Trey and everyone would have been thrilled," Dumars said. "But that's not what the draft is about. It is about making your team better, not a popularity contest."
Burke went with the next pick to Minnesota, then was traded to Utah for a pair of first-round selections.
"Indiana was in this situation a long time ago," Dumars said. "They picked Reggie Miller instead of the local guy (Steve Alford), and that ended up working out pretty well for them in the long run."
After one of the most chaotic starts in NBA draft history — Cody Zeller at No. 4? — Dumars was still focused on two players, Caldwell-Pope and Ben McLemore of Kansas.
"We were watching the fifth pick because we knew that Phoenix didn't take McLemore; the Pelicans weren't going to take him since they already have Eric Gordon," Dumars said. "Once the Suns took Alex Len, we knew we were going to get one of our two guys."
Sacramento took McLemore at No. 7, and Dumars said it was easy to pull the trigger on the 6-foot-5 Caldwell-Pope.
"He was the best player available, and he fills a need," Dumars said. "That's the same thing that happened last year with Andre Drummond."
Caldwell-Pope is a speedy guard who can hit pull-up jumpers on the break and 3-pointers in the halfcourt set. He's also a hard-working defender, which made him more enticing to the Pistons.
"If you look at our roster right now, we're pretty much desolate on the wings," Dumars said. "In today's NBA, you need those 6-6 and 6-7 guys who can run the floor and shoot, and we don't have that.
"That was our main focus going into tonight, and we need that the 2-guard was a pretty deep spot in this draft. This is a kid who plays hard on both sides of the floor."
Caldwell-Pope, who came out after his sophomore season, said he thinks he's ready to help the Pistons.
"I want to start right away and make an impact," he said. "If it isn't my turn to start, I'll be ready to come off the bench and help this team."
Caldwell-Pope visited with the Pistons early this week but didn't work out for the team.
"I was surprised they took me because I never even worked out for them," said Caldwell-Pope, who didn't realize Dumars had spilled the beans about his secret visit to Auburn Hills. "I hadn't even heard from them since camp in Chicago."
Dumars acknowledged he had snuck Caldwell-Pope into the Palace practice facility for extensive meetings, but said they didn't need to work him out.
"When we saw him at the pre-draft camp, we realized he was the fastest guy there, other than maybe Shane Larkin," Dumars said. "We're not the Oakland Raiders — we aren't going to draft strictly for speed — but we needed guys who can run the floor and open things up for Drummond and (Greg) Monroe. "
Dumars said that Caldwell-Pope's presence means that Brandon Knight will move back to the point, although he will still see time as a shooting guard. A backcourt of Knight and Caldwell-Pope would be athletic, and Knight's ability to get to the rim would make up for Caldwell-Pope's shortcomings in that area.
That backcourt would also have some history.
"I played against Brandon in AAU ball," Caldwell-Pope said. "It didn't go well for me, so I'm glad we're going to be on the same team."
The Pistons had a pair of second-round picks, and picked forward Tony Mitchell (North Texas State) at No. 37. Mitchell would project as another athletic wing, but one with more of an inside game than Caldwell-Pope. He averaged 2.9 blocks per game for the Mean Green, but has question over his work ethic.
With the 56th pick, Detroit might have rubbed some salt in the wounds of Michigan fans who wanted Burke, selecting point guard Peyton Siva of Louisville - the team that beat the Wolverines in the national-title game. Siva, a defensive specialist, is considered a long shot to make Detroit's roster.
Detroit still needs a true point guard and a small forward, but Dumars knows he has a chance to address that through free agency and trades. The Pistons have more than $22 million in cap space, and could get more by using the amnesty clause on Charlie Villanueva.
"This is only the beginning of the summer," he said. "We've got free agency and trades coming up, and we're going to be addressing all of those needs as we move forward."