Pistons draft Miami’s Brown, trade for Creighton’s Thomas
Bucks draft Villanova's DiVicenzo
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — With their first-round pick gone after the trade for Blake Griffin, the Detroit Pistons tried to make the best of a tough situation on draft night.
The Pistons selected Bruce Brown of Miami in the second round Thursday and traded for the rights to second-round pick Khyri Thomas of Creighton. Detroit used the No. 42 overall pick on Brown. Thomas went to Philadelphia at No. 38, and he was traded to the Pistons for two future second-round picks.
“Tough as nails, both of them. They can make plays,” said Ed Stefanski, a senior executive for the Pistons. “Two wings. … That’s what we need. We need some young guys, especially that play that position.”
The Pistons sent their first-round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade for Griffin this past season, so this was shaping up as an uneventful night for them. They did manage to come away with two players instead of one, but expectations will likely be tempered for these second-round selections.
The 6-foot-5 Brown, who averaged 11.7 points per game over two seasons at Miami, was limited to 19 games in 2017-18 because of a left foot injury. He shot just 27 percent from 3-point range last season.
“I’m good to go — fully cleared,” Brown said. “All the medicals looked fine at the combine, so yeah, I’m ready to go.”
The 6-foot-3 Thomas averaged 15.1 points last season and shot 41 percent from beyond the arc. He started 96 games in his three seasons at Creighton.
“Shooting the 3s and just defending,” Thomas said. “I know that’s one way to get on the court, and defending, that’s my thing, something I like to do.”
Detroit hired Dwane Casey as its new coach this offseason. There’s still work to be done in reshaping the front office, but Stefanski said this week he would have a lot of influence.
The Pistons have had mixed results with their last three first-round picks — Luke Kennard, Henry Ellenson and Stanley Johnson — and after trading for Griffin, they don’t have a particularly flexible roster. They also parted ways with a couple key perimeter players in that deal, sending Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris to the Clippers, so there’s room for more depth on the wing.
Stefanski said there’s more adrenaline when a team has a first-round pick to make, but the trade with Philadelphia made the night perhaps more intriguing than expected for the Pistons.
“It got exciting when it started to come together,” Stefanski said. “It looked like we weren’t going to be able to do anything, it looks like the guys were coming off the board, and then it got exciting for us.”
Bucks take DiVicenzo
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Donte DiVincenzo’s draft stock started rising after a breakout performance in the NCAA Tournament championship game.
Now the sixth man for Villanova’s title-winning squad is a first-round draft choice for one of the NBA’s up-and-coming teams. The Milwaukee Bucks selected DiVincenzo with the 17th overall pick of the NBA draft on Thursday night.
DiVincenzo fills a critical need for a perimeter shooter in Milwaukee, where he should feel comfortable coming off the bench as a rookie.
“And to watch him come off the bench the majority of the time and contribute and produce the way that he did, shows that he really not only says that he wants to play a role in winning and will sacrifice and do whatever it takes to win, but he actually did it,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said. “And not only did he do it, he did it at a high level.”
Starting just 10 games last year, DiVincenzo was named the top sixth man in the Big East after averaging 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. His 31-point outburst against Michigan in the title game, including five 3-pointers, helped scouts take notice of the 6-foot-5 sophomore.
They were also wowed by DiVincenzo’s combine-best 42-inch vertical leap. His athleticism fits a roster with a core led by All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 6-foot-11 forward with a 7-3 wingspan.
Perhaps most important to the Bucks, DiVincenzo shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season.
The Bucks shot 35.5 percent from 3-point range last season, tied for 21st in the NBA. They averaged just 8.8 3s a game, 27th in the league. Better shooting from teammates could give Antetokounmpo even more room to maneuver in the lane for a highlight-reel bucket.
“Unreal,” DiVincenzo said at the draft in Brooklyn when asked about playing with Antetokounmpo. “My job is to just to go in there and make sure he has all the confidence in the world that I’m on the court with him.”
The Bucks had their pick of wings with shooting ability with the 17th pick, with Miami’s Lonnie Walker and Maryland’s Kevin Huerter also on the board. They could also use a rugged interior defender and rebounder.
But DiVincenzo was too good to pass up. He also played in a pro-style system at Villanova, which Horst said could help the guard get better acclimated to the NBA.
“But for us to be able to get him … a guy that has positional size, that can shoot, pass, dribble, defend at a high level, compete and, again, to win at a high level, he’s proven he can do that. Very excited to have him,” Horst said.
DiVincenzo will still have to earn playing time from Mike Budenholzer, who was hired last month to replace interim coach Joe Prunty. In Budenholzer, Horst hired a coach with a reputation for player development who took the Atlanta Hawks to the Eastern Conference finals in 2015.
One of the league’s up-and-coming franchises hopes to take another step forward after first-round playoff exits in three of the past four seasons. The Bucks are also moving into a new arena this fall.
“They’re a playoff team and they’re … on the rise,” DiVincenzo said. “My job is just coming there with no ego and just be the hardest worker and just build confidence in the people around me.”