The Detroit Pistons is among the original NBA franchises. With nearly 80 years of existence, Detroit has certainly had their fair share of hits and misses in the NBA draft.
The 2003 NBA draft comes to mind when thinking about one of their major blunders in the draft. They picked Darko Milicic with the 2nd overall pick and missed out on eventual Hall of Famers Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Still, Pistons fans may not be mad at it since they did win the championship later that season, with someone on this list playing a key role in their run to the title. Others, however, argue that having one of those future legends could have given them more championships in that decade.
With that, let’s take a look at some of the best draft picks in Detroit Pistons history:
6. Tayshaun Prince
Tayshaun Prince was never a superstar. He didn’t even make an All-Star team. Still, it’s hard to omit the 6-foot-9 lanky forward from this list of best Pistons draft picks ever. That’s because Prince became such a vital piece in Detroit’s rather unexpected championship run in the 2004 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Selected with the 23rd pick in the 2002 NBA draft, Prince became a full-time starter for Detroit in just his sophomore season. The then 23-year old did an incredible job on Kobe Bryant during their 2004 Finals series against the Lakers, forcing the late Hall of Famer to shoot just 38.1 percent from the field. Prince’s defensive performance in those Finals alone warrants him a spot in the list of all-time Pistons draft picks.
5. Bob Lanier
Bob Lanier is one of the two players on this list who never won or led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA championship. Still, the Hall of Fame center deserves recognition as one of the best Pistons draft picks of all time.
Detroit selected the Buffalo-native with the no. 1 overall pick in the 1970 NBA draft. Lanier went on to play 9-plus seasons in the Motor City and made seven of his eight All-Star selections as a Piston. Unfortunately, he only managed to lead Detroit to just four playoff appearances throughout his tenure as the franchise star. In those four postseason appearances, the Pistons only went as far as the second round.
Nonetheless, despite the lack of playoff success, Lanier posted huge numbers in Detroit. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 22.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in 681 career games as a Piston.
4. Grant Hill
Grant Hill made an immediate impact when he arrived as a 22-year old after the Pistons selected him with the no. 3 pick in the 1994 NBA draft. Hill won Co-Rookie of the Year in his debut campaign.
His combination of skill and size, matched with his explosiveness and ability to create plays at 6-foot-8 made him one of the most unique players in the NBA. Many even argue that he was kind of like LeBron James, especially in his younger years. Some even went as far as christening Hill as the heir apparent to Michael Jordan and he deserved every reason to be so due to his dominant play.
However, like Lanier, Hill didn’t find much playoff success with the Pistons. The franchise failed to build a strong team around their franchise star and he went on to play just six seasons in Detroit, where he put up insane averages of 21.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in 435 games. Unfortunately, his ankle issues derailed him throughout his prime years with the Orlando Magic.
To this day, Grant Hill remains one of the biggest what ifs in NBA history had the injury bug not bitten him through the prime of his career.
3. Dennis Rodman
The Detroit Pistons certainly got a bargain for Dennis Rodman, whom they drafted in the 2nd round with the 27th overall pick. Prior to becoming one of the most polarizing personalities in the history of the NBA, the 6-foot-7 forward made a name for himself as a defensive force and hustle man for the Bad Boy Pistons of the 1980’s.
Rodman played a key role for Detroit throughout their two championship years in 1989 and 1990. He was also given the task to slow down Michael Jordan in their heated Eastern Conference Finals battles against the Chicago Bulls.
Rodman won both of his Defensive Player of the Year awards with the Pistons in 1990 and 1991. He also made his two All-Star appearances as a member of Detroit. In seven seasons in the Motor City, the five-time NBA champion turned in averages of 8.8 points and 11.5 rebounds in 549 games.
2. Joe Dumars
In the 1985 NBA draft, the Pistons found the other piece of their championship-caliber back court by selecting Joe Dumars with the 18th overall pick.
Though undersized at 6-foot-3, the McNeese State standout was a defensive stalwart on the perimeter, making the All-Defensive team five times throughout his career. With Isiah Thomas taking care of the offensive duties, the Pistons tasked Dumars to take on the best player of the opposing team on the other end.
The 6-time All-Star was one of Detroit’s core pieces in their back-to-back championship run from 1989 to 1990. In fact, Dumars won Finals MVP in 1989, averaging 27.3 points on 57.6 percent shooting in their sweep over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dumars went on to play his entire 14-year career with the Pistons. The Hall of Fame guard finished with career averages of 16.1 points and 4.1 rebounds in 1,018 career games.
1. Isiah Thomas
The Detroit Pistons drafted their most iconic franchise player of all time in Isiah Thomas with the no. 2 pick in the 1981 NBA draft. The original IT didn’t waste time in establishing a name for himself upon arriving in the NBA, making the All-Star team in his debut campaign.
The 12-time All-Star became Detroit’s franchise superstar throughout the 1980’s and turned them into legitimate title contenders by the end of the decade. Thomas led the Pistons to five straight conference finals appearances from 1987 to 1991, including three straight Finals from 1988 to 1990. Led by Thomas, they won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990, where Thomas won Finals MVP in the latter.
Like Dumars, Thomas played his entire career in the Motor City. Known as one of the best little men in the history of the game, the two-time NBA champion turned in averages of 19.2 points and 9.3 assists throughout his Hall of Fame career.