Five great prospects in the 2020 NBA draft that could help Detroit Pistons talent.
Chauncey Billups, now an ESPN analyst, believes that Pistons could have made a better choice by choosing the second overall. Rip Hamilton has expressed disapproval of the selection on multiple occasions, saying recently that he thinks Detroit would have been more successful against the Cavaliers led by LeBron James if they had enlisted Carmelo Anthony.
“I don’t think Cleveland’s team hits us with Carmelo Anthony,” said Hamilton in June. “I don’t. Come on, come on. I think the narrative would have been different about Carmelo Anthony.”
Rasheed Wallace kisses Larry O’Brien’s trophy after the Pistons beat the Lakers in Game 5 of the NBA finals on June 15, 2004 at the Palace. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Even Anthony, who chose Pick after Milicic, recently said he thought the Pistons would win more championships if they chose him.
This is not the consensus opinion, however. Ben Wallace rejected the idea that Anthony would guarantee at least a second championship. And in May, during an appearance on the “Where They At” podcast, former trainer Larry Brown defended the then general manager Joe Dumars’ decision to write Milicic.
“That’s what it is because the same people who drafted Darko were smart enough to trade with Ben Wallace,” he said. “Smart enough to draft Tayshaun Prince, smart enough to trade with Rip Hamilton, smart enough to trade with Chauncey Billups, smart enough to trade and believe in Rasheed (Wallace). So you know, that’s what it is. “
There is no doubt that Detroit could have gotten better value for its choice of the high lottery. The next three picks – Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade – are three of the greatest players in NBA history. The sixth and seventh place choices, Chris Kaman and Kirk Hinrich, also had a better career than Milicic, who was swapped in the middle of his third season for the Pistons.
However, it is difficult to say whether writing one of the aforementioned players would have led to greater success for that Pistons team, which won a championship in 2004 and fell to the Spurs in the 2005 finals.
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony controls the ball while Pistons forward Marcus Morris defends himself in 2017. (Photo: Tim Fuller USA TODAY Sport)
“If we had enrolled Carmelo, I honestly don’t think we would have won a championship,” said Wallace earlier this year. “Melo wanted to play immediately. It would have had the potential to disrupt the team’s chemistry.
“If we had enrolled Carmelo, Tayshaun (Prince) would not have blossomed to be the type of player he was,” he continued. “We won that championship on the back of the best block I have ever seen in my life and I blocked many shots. This is the kind of grit and grit that the team had.”
It is also possible that if the Pistons had gone in a different direction, this would have prevented them from making one of the most important trades in the history of the franchise: the trade for Rasheed Wallace before the expiration of 2004, which consolidated their core and has them help you win their third title in the history of the franchise.
Detroit Pistons’ Darko Miličić during the fourth quarter against the Lakers in game 5 of the NBA finals, Tuesday 15 June 2004 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Detroit Free Press)
When the Pistons finished with pick no. 2 in the draft, at least one leading espionage expert believed there were only two logical options for them: Milicic and Anthony.
Anthony was coming out of a historic freshman season in Syracuse which ended with an NCAA championship. Milicic, a Serbian striker, was more than unknown to the American public.
Chad Ford, an ESPN analyst at the time, said Anthony was a “distant third” behind LeBron James and Milicic, who he believed was clearly the second best player in the draft.
“It’s a real bargain,” wrote Ford. “It is truly one of a kind. He runs on the floor, handles the ball, shoots the NBA 3-pointer, plays with his back to the basket, so he can play it at 3, 4 or 5. What distinguishes Darko is his strength in the pole. You have to love a guy who has legs to turn from an opponent, but still prefers to drop one shoulder and beat. ”
Milicic did not produce the hype, appearing in just 34 games. While the Pistons didn’t get what they wanted from him, Dumars ended up swapping with Rasheed Wallace – a player who fit almost perfectly with Ford’s description of Milicic – later that season.
If instead the Pistons had enlisted Anthony, would Dumars have felt the need to face the Detroit facade on expiry?
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The perfect piece
Pisthe ‘Rasheed Wallace celebrates the 69-65 victory over the Indiana Pacers in race 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday 1 June 2004 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. (Photo: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press)
Wallace – a defensive minded attacker / center who could even stretch the floor and sometimes take offensive control – mount the Pistons like a glove. Dumars correctly identified Wallace as a player who could help the Pistons, in win-now mode, to reach a higher level of play.
“We believe this is a guy who can help us run when it comes to the playoffs” Dumars said at the time. “We’ve been saying for a while that we wanted to add an impact player and we think he’s the kind of guy who can impact our team.”
Detroit ended the 2003-04 season with the league’s second best defensive score (96.48). His defense fueled his championship run, setting a series of defensive records in the playoffs. The Lakers only crossed the 90 point mark once in five games in the final.
[ Pistons flat-out better than Lakers in 2004 and proved it in Game 1 of Finals ]
Anthony, one of the best offensive players in NBA history, could raise the Pistons to that end of the floor. But the offense was not a problem in the following seasons; From 2005 to 2008, Detroit had an offensive score in the top seven. The Pistons were in attack in fifteenth position during both their finals in 2004 and 2005.
Anthony has long had a reputation for being a lackluster defensive player, and it’s impossible to know how patient Brown would have been with him on that part of the floor.
If anything, Anthony’s writing would have led to the Pistons making compromises along the way. With Wallace, they won a championship and came close to winning a second. With Anthony, it’s unclear whether Wallace would have ever worn Pistons blue.
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While several former pistons believe Anthony raised their roof, it makes sense why Ben Wallace, a defensive player four times a year, is skeptical.