Courtesy: Detroit Free Press
NEWARK, NJ (Detroit Free Press) -
When the Pistons were done interviewing Connecticut center Andre Drummond last month at the NBA predraft combine in Chicago, the running joke in the room was that would be the last time they talk to him.
But the organization began to get intelligence last week that the 6-foot-11, 280-pound specimen actually could fall to them at No. 9 in Thursday night's NBA draft.
So Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars and director of player personnel George David flew to New York on Tuesday night to watch a late-night workout featuring Drummond.
And two nights later, the Pistons' information proved correct as Drummond was available, and they selected him. He looks like he comes from central casting when it comes to what an NBA center looks like with size and great mobility.
But there is risk since he's so young. Drummond, 18, could have spent last season as a high school senior at a prep school before deciding to attend UConn.
So Dumars was preaching patience at the Pistons' practice facility shortly after the pick.
"My job tonight is to undersell to you guys," Dumars said with a chuckle. "I'm not coming out here overselling.
"When you guys report this, you say 'Joe undersold this kid.'
"Immediately I'm going to be upfront with you, right now we're not overselling this kid at all."
But observers understand why the Pistons are taking a flyer on Drummond. He is raw, but he has something that the Pistons sorely lack - a talent that plays above the rim.
"For big men in the NBA today, I think it's imperative that you really be athletic now," Dumars said. "It's really tough if you're a big man and you're not athletic, because the game has changed so much."
It's doubtful Drummond will be in the starting lineup next season - especially with the decision of starting power forward Jason Maxiell to pick up the player option for $5 million next season.
But long term, the Pistons will be able to move Greg Monroe to power forward and the idea of Monroe on the offensive glass against other power forwards is a scary thought for NBA opponents.
When Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson fell to Sacramento at No.?5, it became apparent that the Pistons had a legit chance to get Drummond with the next few teams expected to pick wing players.
That's what happened.
"All I know is I'm walking into a brotherhood right now, and I'm walking into a great family," Drummond said during a teleconference with assembled media. "I know the coaching staff and the organization is amazing. I'm going to grow as a player and a person.
"I know the fans are great out there, so I just can't wait to walk into this great situation."
Going into the college basketball season, Drummond was right there with No.?1 pick Anthony Davis in early mock drafts.
But an inconsistent freshman season at UConn caused Drummond's stock to fall.
The upside is Drummond is an athletic marvel.
Critics wonder about his instincts and make no mistake, he is a project and the bust potential is there. However, at No.?9, the Pistons feel Drummond is worth the risk. Teams are patient with big guys since they sometimes take a little time to develop.
This marks the third straight draft that the Pistons were able to sit tight and get a prospect expected to go sooner. Georgetown center Greg Monroe fell to them at No.?7 in the 2010 draft and Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight slipped to the eighth pick in 2011. Those are two players who appear to be well on their way to long, productive NBA careers.