The Top 10 Draft Steals in Pistons History

You know what’s been beaten into the ground? The history of the Detroit Pistons’ draft failures. We get it, it’s an easy target. Draft picks, by nature, tend to have the odds stacked against them. Even with a lottery pick, you’re probably not going to find an all-star, statistically speaking.

So today, we’re flipping the script and concentrating on all the times where things actually went right, particularly when the Pistons were selecting from positions that don’t typically crank out top level contributors. Our ranking of the best draft steals weighed heavily upon how deep into the field the Pistons were able to yield their talent, while also accounting for how successful that talent turned out to be. So with that…

10. Khris Middleton (2nd Round, 39th Overall, 2012)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-ckA6FaUaw

Same Slot in Year Before/After: Jeremy Tyler/Jeff Withey

The Word: This steal probably could have been bumped up a few notches if, you know, Middleton wasn’t dealt to Milwaukee following his rookie year. Since then, Middleton’s increased his scoring average in each of the last three seasons, leading the Bucks with 18.2 points per game in 2016.

9. Chris Ford (2nd Round, 17th Overall, 1972)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXxhOrMqBV0

Same Slot in Year Before/After: Collis Jones/Steve Downing

The Word: In Ford, the Pistons landed one of the finest perimeter defenders in team history. Having played seven years with the club, Ford still stands fifth on Detroit’s all-time steals list. His last second theft against Milwaukee in the 1976 playoffs clinched what was, at the time, a rare series win for the Pistons.

8. Amir Johnson (2nd Round, 56th Overall, 2005)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42wpAK_Z1nU

Same Slot in Year Before/After: Marcus Douthit/Edin Bavčić

The Word: Like Middleton, Amir Johnson’s best years came after he left Detroit. Still, any time a 10 & 7 guy can be mined at the fourth-to-final pick, your organization has done its job… until that player is traded for peanuts a few years later.

7. Andre Drummond (1st Round, 9th Overall, 2012)

Same Slot in Year Before/After: Kemba Walker/Trey Burke

The Word: Finding talent at the ninth pick is relatively typical, especially lately (DeMar DeRozan, Joakim Noah, and Gordon Hayward are among other recent 9’ers). Still, Drummond was arguably a Top 3 talent in 2012, so picking him up at No. 9 was still a clutch maneuver with a big time payoff for the Pistons, even if he sort of fell into their laps.

6. Kelly Tripucka (1st Round, 12th Overall, 1981)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQbN1LUn714

Same Slot in Year Before/After: Mike Woodson/John Bagley

The Word: The Pistons were already winners in the 1981 NBA Draft when they selected Isiah Thomas with the second overall pick. But using their compensatory pick to select Kelly Tripucka at No. 12 (in return for Leon Douglas signing with Kansas City) completed one of the most impressive first round pulls in league history. Tripucka averaged nearly 22 points per game in Detroit before being flipped for Adrian Dantley in 1986.

5. Mehmet Okur (2nd Round, 37th Overall, 2001)

Same Slot in Year Before/After: Eddie House/David Andersen

The Word: The Pistons would infamously squander their selection of a foreign import in 2003, but they nailed it two years earlier when they picked up the Turkish Tornado nearly 40 picks deep. A key cog during Detroit’s 2004 championship run, Okur would later move on to Utah, where he’d emerge as an all-star and fan favorite.

4. John Long (2nd Round, 29th Overall, 1978)

Same Slot in Year Before/After: Alonzo Bradley/Tony Price

The Word: When former Detroit Mercy head coach Dick Vitale took over the Pistons and proceeded to select a pair of his former Titans in the first two rounds of the 1978 draft, it wouldn’t have been unfair to consider it an open and shut case of hoops-based nepotism. Alas, while Terry Tyler (23rd overall) emerged as a defensive force, John Long (29th) went on to spend 10 years of his pro career in Detroit, peaking as a 21.9 point-per-game scorer in 1982. He remains 10th on the Pistons’ all-time scoring list.

3. Tayshaun Prince (1st Round, 23rd Overall, 2003)

Same Slot in Year Before/After: Jeryl Sasser/Travis Outlaw

The Word: The Pistons themselves may have not known what they had with Tayshaun Prince at first, handing out 40 DNP-CD’s to the Kentucky grad his rookie year before his last-second introduction into the Pistons’ rotation saved a playoff run.

Well over a decade later, Prince departed (then briefly returned, then departed again) as one of the longest tenured Pistons in franchise history. The results: Four All-Defensive (Second Team) selections, over 10,000 points, and one epic championship-saving block.

2. Joe Dumars (1st Round, 18th Overall, 1985)

Same Slot in Year Before/After: Vern Fleming/Mark Alarie

The Word: Since 1980, the 18th overall pick has been a smorgasbord of Duane Causwells and Mirsad Tirkcans with an occasional David West sprinkled in for good measure. So really, landing a future Hall-of-Famer and NBA Finals MVP who’d be at least partially responsible for three NBA championships isn’t too bad of a deal in that slot.

1. Dennis Rodman (2nd Round, 27th Overall, 1986)

Same Slot in Year Before/After: Dwayne McClain/Nate Blackwell

The Word: Two-time All-Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, seven-time rebounding champion, five-time NBA champion, and one of the most tireless and energetic workers the league’s ever seen. Not bad for a second round pick out of Southeastern Oklahoma State.