Remember the 2003 NBA Draft?
You know, when the Detroit Pistons had the second overall pick.
Remember when they selected national champion Carmelo Anthony? And he went on to become one of the NBA’s most prolific scorers.
Remember him leading the Pistons to several NBA titles in the process?
Ok so, it didn’t quite work out that way, but what if it did?
The NBA is setting the stage for basketball to return amid the coronavirus outbreak. Unfortunately for the Pistons, they are dealing with a long-lasting pandemic of their own: their draft history.
Which is why if LaMelo Ball is available when it’s time for them to make their selection in the 2020 NBA Draft, they have one job: draft him.
Just that plain and simple.
How Did They Get Here?
Before getting into the details of how Ball can directly improve the Pistons, the state of the team must be revisited.
In February, the Pistons sent fan-favorite Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers before the trade deadline. It sent major shockwaves throughout Detroit, garnering mixed reactions.
After all, he was the face (and future) of the Pistons organization for the first seven and a half years of his career. Then 14 days after that, the Pistons agreed to a buyout with point guard Reggie Jackson, ending his tenure with the team as well. Both Drummond and Jackson, whom were paired for nearly six seasons, led the Pistons to their last two playoff berths (2016 and 2019).
They were swept in each of those appearances as well.
Breaking up the duo of Drummond/Jackson signaled that the team is looking to rebuild. And right now is the perfect time to do it. In order for fans to appreciate the rebuild, one fact must be accepted.
That fact is the Detroit Pistons are one of the five worst teams in the NBA this season.
There, it’s been said.
It’s a very unfortunate thing to hear (or read in this case).
Especially if you’re a Pistons fan.
Their abysmal record of 20-46 places them third to last in the Eastern Conference this season. It’s a record that won’t change should the NBA make the decision to resume play and immediately start this season’s playoffs or cancel the season altogether.
There is a silver lining though, and this is where Ball comes in.
New Face of The Franchise
This Pistons have a significant amount of cap space for the upcoming off-season. This places them in a prime position to add pieces to improve their roster.
Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet is a rumored target. VanVleet, 26, is averaging 17.7 points and 6.6 assists per game this season. He is also on a Raptors team that is second in the Eastern Conference. Because of this, one can expect the Pistons would have to overpay him to sign. The question then becomes whether overpaying him is to sign is the right move.
If LaMelo Ball is available, the question won’t have to be answered.
Ball will come into the league with a size advantage at the point guard position, standing at 6’8. Should he decide to bulk up, this will further aide in that department. He’s a willing playmaker with excellent court vision. It’s a trait that he shares with older brother Lonzo, point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans. This alone makes him a tough matchup in the transition. He has elite handles, a deadly first step, and can run the floor like a gazelle. Not to forget, he’s a crafty finisher at the rim.
Furthermore, Ball, 19, is experienced at playing basketball at pro level. Playing overseas in the National Basketball league, Ball averaged 17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7 assists per game for the Illawarra Hawks. In January, Ball left the Hawks to return to the U.S. to prepare for the upcoming draft. Even though he didn’t finish the whole season, Ball was still voted as NBL Rookie of the Year for the 2020 season.
What’s the Catch?
Is LaMelo Ball mature enough for the NBA stage? Can he improve his defense? Will he improve his outside shooting?
These are questions that only he can dispel once he gets to the NBA stage. Thing is, if you pair Ball with a head coach like Dwane Casey, it can help him grow in those areas. Then there’s Derrick Rose. Rose is the only point guard under contract with the Pistons through next season. If Ball is to be mentored by any player on the Pistons roster, who is better than the former NBA MVP?
He is not the type of player a team like Pistons would take in the draft. His confidence and bravado are misclassified as showboating or arrogance. Now here is is is where it gets uncomfortable. Ball’s “antics” are exactly what a team like the Pistons need.
Pro sports in Detroit need a face lift. The “blue collar” work ethic of the pro teams here is a thing of the past. It’s an outdated model and identity. Ball can be a breath of fresh air. He carries quite the following of true basketball fans. So if he does nothing at all while in Detroit, he’ll put people in the seats at Little Caesars Arena, something that is normally only seen for concerts, and maybe hockey.
We all know the Pistons won the 2004 NBA title.
Passing up on drafting Carmelo Anthony did not hinder immediate success, but it did affect the franchise long-term.
With the team going through a rebuild, passing up on a “Melo” twice shouldn’t be a thought.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter: @koryewoods