Former Chippewa Hills standout Megan O’Neil ready for one more season

Megan O’Neil is getting ready for her final year of running at Central Michigan University. (Courtesy photo)

Ed Stefanski was asked about the adrenaline rush that comes on NBA draft night.

The Detroit Pistons senior adviser paused.

“When you have a first-round pick, there’s a lot more adrenaline,” Stefanski said with a laugh Thursday night after the Pistons landed two wing prospects during the NBA draft — an impressive first outing for the front office since the firing of Stan Van Gundy.

In adding shooting guards Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown Jr., Stefanski, Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem and other members of the front office addressed the rudderless-ship narrative that’s taken hold among the Pistons fan base.

The Pistons were able to maneuver without a first-round pick, traded away in January to land Blake Griffin.

“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 looked like the guys were coming off the board and then it got exciting for us.

“The scouts and the front office did a terrific job. They worked really hard. They identified the right players in my mind so the credit goes to those guys there. We just got fortunate on the phones.”

After moving on from Van Gundy as team president and head coach in early May after four seasons, the Pistons announced they were going to split the two roles and hire a general manager or president of basketball operations to run the franchise.

The Pistons hired Stefanski and pivoted to the coaching search, causing confusion and worry with an understandable wish for the front office head to hire his own coach.

But Stefanski will have a considerable role and it’s becoming likely that he will be named head of the organization at some point with assistant general managers over scouting, player development and analytics being hired soon.

The Pistons targeted teams with multiple draft picks for dealing. The Philadelphia 76ers came into the draft with five draft picks (two first rounders, three seconds).

It continued to be steep as the night unfolded into the second round.

But when the 76ers were on the clock at No. 38, the front office found a trade partner.

The Pistons parted with two future second-round picks to acquire the draft rights to Thomas, selected by the 76ers. Thomas didn’t visit with the Pistons at the scouting combine in Chicago and never visited Auburn Hills for a predraft workout.

The Pistons selected Brown at No. 42.

Thomas, 22, stands 6 feet 4 and 199 pounds. He measured a 6-10½ wingspan and performed well athletically during the first day of the combine. He’s considered one of the better perimeter defenders in college basketball. He is a three-year collegian.

He scored 15 points per game and shot 41 percent from 3-point range.

Brown, 21, is 6-5, 195. He measured a 6-9 wingspan at the combine. 

He scored 11.4 points per game as a sophomore, but suffered a season-ending left foot injury and had surgery.

“I’m good to go,” Brown said. “I’m fully cleared. All my medicals look fine at the combine so I’m ready to go 100 percent.”

His length and size suggest he should be a capable defender. He is a quick and bouncy prospect that is tough to stop in the open floor. He tends to force the issue, which leads to turnovers.

There were five players the Pistons were targeting in that range – Brown and Thomas were in that group. The Pistons’ cap situation doesn’t allow for high-profile free agent signings in the near future so draft maneuvering is one way to add cheap talent.

“Time will tell in a couple of years if we’ve made a good move, but I’m happy tonight,” Stefanski said. “It’s a lot more than I thought we were going to get.”

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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