With Ben Wallace gone from Motown, a common theme seems to be resounding: Man, that Darko thing really sucked. Most NBA teams get good and then use the Draft to replenish. The Pistons, though, picked Darko in 2003, ahead of stars like Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and even ahead of guys that have developed into very good NBA players, like Nick Collison, Chris Kaman and David West.

Joe D. and Zeke battle it out.Of course, Darko could still develop into a more than competent NBA player, but I’m talking about the here and now. The Pistons lost their defensive centerpiece and the soul of their team, and they have nothing to show for it.

This got me thinking about the Pistons and their NBA Draft history, particularly since 2003, when they tabbed Darko.

Now, Linkstigator Chad Ford over at ESPN has always written glowingly about the Pistons, and he did so over the weekend after they declined to match the contract offer to Ben Wallace. Chad has also written extensively about his relationships with the Pistons coaches and scouts, and he once called Joe Dumars his “hero.”

So, I did some research. Here are Chard Ford’s NBA Draft grades for the Pistons since 2003.

2003
Detroit Pistons
Round 1: Darko Milicic, F, Serbia-Montenegro (No. 2)
Round 1: Carlos Delfino, G, Italy (No. 25)
Round 2: Andres Gliniadakis, C, Greece (No. 58)
How many teams with the best record in their conference end up with the best big man in the draft and a draft-night steal in Carlos Delfino? By now, you know about Darko, but Delfino will also be important down the road. He’s tough, a strong shooter and plays aggressive defense. He reminds me a lot of Michael Finley. He could play an immediate role on the Pistons if he stays here next year. Gliniadakis was a nice pickup at the end of the draft. He’s a 7-footer who can actually play. The Pistons will leave him in Greece for a few years and bring him over when he’s ready.
Grade: A-

2004
Detroit Pistons
Round 1: No pick
Round 2: Rickey Paulding, SG, Missouri (No. 54)
Assistant GM John Hammond used to be an assistant coach for Missouri, so maybe he knows something we don’t about Paulding’s slide from a possible lottery pick all the way to the second round. A solid second-round pick.
Grade: B

2005
DETROIT PISTONS
Round 1: Jason Maxiell, PF, Cincinnati (No. 26)
Round 2: Amir Johnson, PF, Westchester HS (No. 56)
Round 2: Alex Acker, G, Pepperdine (No. 60, from Utah via Philadelphia)
Joe Dumars knows what he likes. He identified Maxiell early and knew he’d be a great fit on Detroit’s squad. He’s a mini-Ben Wallace who plays with an intensity and aggression that’s rarely seen in the league. The Pistons went for upside in the late second round and will probably send Johnson and Acker to the NBDL next year.
Grade: B

2006
DETROIT PISTONS Round 1: No picks
Round 2: Cheik Samb, C, Senegal (No. 51, acquired from Lakers)
Will Blalock, PG, Iowa State (No. 60)
Analysis: The Pistons didn’t have a first-round pick, but they made the most of their opportunities. Cheik Samb is the type of reach you make in the second round. He’s a 7-foot, athletic kid that a team in Spain will spend time and money developing for you. I had Will Blalock ranked in the 30s and think he not only will make the Pistons roster but also could play for them down the road.
Grade: A

So you have four drafts, and the best player so far from any of those drafts has turned out to be Carlos Delfino, but you still get no grade lower than a B? With a grade scale like that, sign me up for Professor Ford’s classes out in Hawaii!

Losing Ben Wallace is not only going to hurt the Pistons next season, but it also just exposed how thin Detroit’s drafts have actually been. The truth of it is, while Joe Dumars may have a wide world view and an understanding of the complexities of the salary cap, he’s simply not very good at spotting undeveloped talent.

At long last, Isiah is finally better than Joe Dumars at something in the front office.