As I sit down to write this, I'm not even sure I know the answer to the question asked in the headline. And as encouraging the continued development of Greg Monroe has been. And has encouraging as the growth of Rodney Stuckey has been, the most surprising story of the season for the Detroit Pistons has been the re-emergence of Jason Maxiell.
When the lockout ended Maxiell was viewed as a stealth amnesty candidate. He had certainly played poorly enough to be amnestied, but there was a question whether dropping his $5 million salary off the books provided enough cap relief to make the move worth it.
The fact that we are now wondering whether Maxiell has played well enough to forgo $5 million in guaranteed money for a chance at another multi-year deal is really quite remarkable.
Via the Detroit News:
"I want to talk to them (management), see where everybody's head is at," Maxiell said.
While he's unlikely to get $5 million a season from another team, long-term security could be in mind for the 29-year-old forward and now could be just as good a time as any to hit the market.
"That could be the smart thing to do, but Detroit's my home and the security I have with them could be great for next season," said Maxiell, who's married and a father of an infant son. "But again, I had a great year but the time hasn't come yet."
But that begs the question -- two actually -- how "great" has Maxiell's year been? and how likely is another team to reward him with a multi-year deal.
That is where it gets a little exciting and a little scary. Maxiell's initial quote indicates that perhaps the biggest factor in him deciding to opt out would be if Detroit was willing to extend yet another multi-year contract to retain one of their veterans.
Needless to say, this idea should be off the table. It should be off the table and out of the house. It should be off the table and out of the house and transported in the middle of the night via truck and boat to a deserted island that doesn't even have a table.
The Pistons need size, athleticism, rebounding and shot blocking to pair alongside Greg Monroe and those are attributes that Maxiell simply doesn't offer. He's a willing defender (when he's not overweight) but he's never been particularly good at boards and blocks. That was something the team could live with when Wallaces Ben and Rasheed were patrolling the paint; but no longer.
That will most likely come in the draft. Currently, the Pistons look to select in the Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller, Perry Jones, John Henson axis of the NBA draft. That means another young player that the team should commit 20 to 30 minutes per game to. And that means someone to eat up the playing time of Maxiell and the retiring Ben Wallace.
If Maxiell returns he might be on the outside looking in just as Charlie Villanueva has been so far this year. Perhaps if the team converts Jonas Jerebko to a full-time small forward Maxiell could get minutes in a reserve role but the starts slot will likely disappear.
So if Maxiell wants to leave for playing time and a longer guaranteed pay day would there be any takers?
Judging by his total lack of productivity the season prior to this and the fact that his stats indicate that he is still a below-average player who probably shines a little brighter by being on such a big-man starved club the answer should be no. But that might not be the case.
In the past two offseasons the combination of Drew Gooden, Glen Davis, Darko Milicic, Jermaine O'Neal, Kwame Brown and Chuck Hayes signed for a total of 20 years and $114 million in guaranteed money. Whether its to add depth to make noise in the playoffs (Gooden), a misguided attempt to build a playoff-caliber team (Brown) veteran savvy (O'Neal) or just plain overpaying for mediocre production (Davis), there are always teams willing to shell out serious money for big men.
So even though Maxiell has shown that he can only help a team in a limited capacity there are teams out there willing to shell out multiple years for that kind of help.
And now for the exciting bonus round where the question is -- just how much would Maxiell electing to become a free agent speed up the rebuilding process in Detroit? The answer depends on how desperate you are for the team to get rid of at least one of Ben Gordon or Charlie Villanueva. Because without the ability to rid themselves of at least one extra contract (such as Maxiell's) it doesn't really make sense for the Pistons to amnesty either under-performing player.
Because the team is already at $66 million in salary next year, assuming Maxiell returns and considering money for a first- and two second-round picks, it doesn't make much sense for the Pistons to rid themselves of BG or CV while dealing with a $58-ish million salary cap.
But if you can eliminate something as simple as Maxiell's $5 million from the payroll suddenly things get a lot more interesting. Then you can start thinking about how shedding Gordon's $12 million salary opens up the possibility of the team signing of an impact player or the opportunity to cut Villanueva and bid on a player for slightly above the mid-level exception other teams will be using.
So what do you think? Will Maxiell risk a $5 million payday for the chance to earn $12 million over three years? And what weapon would you use to kill Joe Dumars if Maxiell opted out only to re-sign with the Pistons for that same $12 million deal?