Detroit Pistons General Manager Joe Dumars is looking for history to repeat itself. In the 2002 NBA draft, Dumars took Tayshaun Prince from the University of Kentucky with the 23rd pick in the first round. At the time, many criticized the pick, as Prince was as skinny as Kate Moss during an extended coke binge. The 22 year old Prince looked like Mary Kate Olsen on a hunger strike. People were understandably doubtful about Prince's ability to match up physically with rugged NBA forwards and endure seasons which can exceed 100 games including the playoffs. However, it didn't take long for Prince to prove the naysayers dead wrong.
Prince only appeared in 42 games during the regular season of his rookie year, and played sparingly in the first 4 games of the first round of the playoffs that year. However, with the Pistons down 3 games to 1 to the Magic, coach Rick Carlisle inserted Prince into the starting line-up as the small forward for game 6. Prince responded with two huge games to propel them to a series win. John Mapplethorpe was at the Billy Joel-Elton John concert at the Palace during the game 6 in Orlando that year (unreal show btw), but would sneak away during shitty songs like "Crocodile Rock", "Candle in the Wind", and "Uptown Girl" to watch the game at the concession stands while picking up yet another tall boy. John was back at the Palace a couple days later for game 7, and Tayshaun was the only reason the Pistons advanced to the second round that year. Every key possession down the stretch, Tay would go iso on the wing, and put points on the board with a baby hook, a short fade-away jumper, or an up-and-under lay-up. He had 20 points in 24 minutes that game, and was equally as impressive the next series against the 76'ers and in the conference finals against New Jersey. He has been a starter for the Pistons the last 6 seasons, winning an NBA title and playing in 2 NBA Finals and 6 conference finals.
Tayshaun has faded a little the last few years in the playoffs, but I think it's safe to say he has had a great run with the Pistons. With the 15th pick in the first round of today's 2009 NBA draft, the Pistons selected Austin Daye from Gonzaga. This kid is a Prince clone. He has Prince's physique (see above) at 6'10" and 190 lbs to go along with his skin tone. He has a similar game, with his best asset being his ability to drive, shoot or pass from the triple-threat position with the ball. He is long and has a 7' 3" wingspan like Prince. His current weaknesses include being passive at times, his propensity for going through extended cold stretches offensively, and allowing himself to be pushed around at times close to the basket. This was the same scouting report on Prince coming out of Kentucky. One major difference is that Daye is 3 years younger than Prince coming out of college, with two fewer college seasons under his belt. So expecting him to reproduce Prince's rookie season emergence is not realistic. Another noticeable difference is that Daye does not look like Curious George.
Regardless of what happens with Daye, the Pistons are far from being the big losers in the NBA right now. Several teams have left me throwing my head back in laughter, mocking their decision-making. Let me give you a short list:
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs traded for the shameless Shaquille O'Neal in a desperate bid to win the first championship for the city of Cleveland since the Civil War. Unfortunately, I don't think they stopped to consider that Shaq Diesel is 53 years old and will NOT take them to the promised land next year. I realize Super Man had some decent numbers last year, but have you seen him play recently? His knees look about as strong as Chris Webber's right now, and he is as fat and out-of-shape as Al Roker pre-gastric bypass. Also, the Cavs took some guy who was playing basketball with a cantaloupe and a wicker basket in the Congo with their first round draft pick. Come on, Danny Ferry.
4. Orlando Magic: Vince Carter? Enough said.
3. Phoenix Suns: Ben Wallace should retire as he previously planned. His tank is empty. So basically the Suns traded Shaq for Sasha Pavlovic, a low draft pick and an expensive dinner? I know this was a cap move setting up next year's free agency run, but Phoenix could have done much better than that.
2. Boston Celtics: I don't care if the head of custodial services at TD Banknorth called the Palace inquiring about the Pistons' interest in trading Rip, Tay and Stuckey for a decrepit Ray Allen and an undersized Rajon Rondo. That's just ridiculous.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: They drafted 3 undersized point guards with their first 3 first round picks. Apparently, they are going to trade Ty Lawson to Denver, but this still makes no sense. The Timberwolves' drafting philosophy may be more mystifying than the Detroit Lions', who took wide receivers in the first round of the NFL draft for like 8 years in a row. This is probably why Minnesota managed to accomplish absolutely nothing while having Kevin Garnett at center for the majority of his lengthy career.
Finally, John Mapplethorpe has close ties to the University of North Carolina and would like to congratulate the Tar Heels, who had 3 players from their national championship team drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, Tyler Hansbrough at #13, Ty Lawson at #18 and Wayne Ellington at #28. 6 players from the state of North Carolina were among the first 28 picks. Also, Bobby B. was right on the money with his hestiations about BJ "Special Ed" Mullens. Apparently, the Dallas Mavericks felt the same way about the Buckeye. They traded him to Oklahoma City soon after drafting him.