AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — One by one, the top frontcourt prospects were taken.
When it was finally time for the Detroit Pistons to pick, they needed to change plans.
The Pistons chose Kentucky guard Brandon Knight with the eighth pick in the NBA draft Thursday night. Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson, Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo – considered some of the draft's top frontcourt players – were gone by the time Detroit's turn came around.
"We had targeted big guys initially. We said if those guys were gone, then we're going to take the guy with the best value," team president Joe Dumars said. "At the point of the eighth pick, the guy with the best value, the best talent on the board, was Brandon Knight. At that point, it was a talent that we didn't think we could pass up."
Knight averaged 17.3 points per game as a freshman last season for the Wildcats, helping them reach the Final Four. He joins a Detroit team trying to rebuild after missing the playoffs two straight seasons. The Pistons went 30-52 in 2010-11, and coach John Kuester was fired. The team hasn't hired a replacement.
Knight said he wasn't too upset about falling to the Pistons at No. 8.
"Everything happens for a reason," Knight said. "I think I'm meant to be in Detroit."
The Pistons added Duke forward Kyle Singler in the second round, with the 33rd overall pick.
Dumars said before the draft he was hoping to add players who "fit the culture" the team is seeking. Veteran Richard Hamilton fell out of favor and was benched at one point last season, one of a handful of ordeals Kuester and his players went through as they struggled to coexist.
Dumars said Knight fits the bill.
"He has one of these incredible work ethics that you hear about – hours and hours and hours in the gym, totally dedicated – and what we feel is probably the most high-character guy in the draft," Dumars said.
The Pistons picked Knight ahead of fellow backcourt prospect Kemba Walker of Connecticut. At 6-foot-3, Knight is taller than Walker, although it remains to be seen how he might fit into Detroit's plans. Rodney Stuckey, the team's leading scorer, also plays point guard, and Hamilton and Ben Gordon are also still on the roster.
The roster also includes perimeter-oriented forwards Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva.
Knight says he sees himself as a point guard but is willing to be flexible.
"I'm just going to do whatever the team asks me to do," he said. "If that's play off the ball, then I'll do that. If that's play on the ball, then I'll do that."
After Kanter was picked by Utah at No. 3, the draft took a turn for the unexpected when Cleveland took Thompson with the next selection.
"When Cleveland took Thompson at four, everybody in the room went, 'Whoa,'" Dumars said.
Valanciunas went fifth to Toronto.
"I was on the phone with Toronto when four was on the clock," Dumars said. "As soon as four took Thompson, Toronto said, 'We're out. Our guy's on the board.' So I hang up with them. Boom, they take Valanciunas.
"When they took Valanciunas, I knew that Brandon Knight was going to be on the board."
Detroit has been looking forward to an opportunity to add personnel after Karen Davidson's drawn-out sale tied management's hands to a degree last season. The Pistons now have a new owner, Tom Gores, who completed a deal to purchase the team less than a month ago.
Detroit still has yet to hire a coach. Boston Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank, former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson and Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Bill Laimbeer – the former Detroit player – appear to be candidates to replace Kuester.
The Pistons' draft record has been mixed over the years. They infamously picked Darko Milicic at No. 2 overall in 2003 – one spot ahead of Carmelo Anthony – but they've landed some solid contributors in later spots. Detroit drafted Stuckey at No. 15 in 2007 and Jonas Jerebko in the second round two years later.
Greg Monroe, picked at No. 7 by Detroit last year, became one of the league's best rookies.
The Pistons still have holes to fill, though. Tayshaun Prince is a free agent and may not return. Ben Wallace says he's leaning toward coming back, but he turns 37 in September and played only 54 games last year.
Pistons vice president Scott Perry said he envisions Singler as a hard-nosed defensive player.
"He's shown the ability in college, where he'd guard the threes and fours," Perry said. "The one thing you know: He's smart, he's going to be committed to figuring this thing out and doing whatever it takes to help us win."