A seemingly minor trade involving Marreese Speights is a great example of the value of not spending money on free agents.
The Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers agreed to a trade today that should hardly cause a disruption in the Twitterverse and might even have both fan bases scratching their heads. But every Detroit Pistons fan would be wise to heed the lessons of the deal.
The details: Memphis Grizzlies send out Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a
second-round pick (Update: Sources are now saying the pick is a first rounder and the original article link has been updated). Cavaliers send back little-used reserve forward Jon Leuer.
So what's the big deal when the biggest-name player clocks in 15 minutes per game this season and everyone else hardly plays at all? Well for one, Speights is mighty productive in those 15 minutes, even with his questionable shot selection this season. He is a passable team defender and great rebounder.
But really, it's all about money. That and putting to rest the Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph trade rumors.
You see, the Grizzlies had a payroll over the $70 million luxury tax threshold this season that would have cost the franchise several million dollars. Getting under the tax line was a priority. That is why you heard endless rumors involving Gay and Randolph despite the Grizz being a sure-fire playoff team and fringe title contender.
The trade was possible because the Cavaliers had about $10 million in cap room and could absorb all the Grizzlies contracts without sending equal value in return. So the Cavs get Speights, who might be more mindful of his shot selection with an expanded role, something he did last year when subbing for the injured Randolph. The Cavs also take a flier on Ellington and Selby and a free pick.
It's not the sexiest deal and it won't move the needle in the Cavs' rebuilding process but it was a smart no-risk move by the Cavs. And the Pistons should follow it to the letter next year.
The Pistons will have between $15-$18 million in cap space after this season with Jason Maxiell, Corey Maggette and Will Bynum coming off the books and assuming they decline their option on Austin Daye. If they amnesty Charlie Villanueva they would have $8 million in additional cap room.
Obviously this team will be shoppers in the offseason: a real point guard, a shooting guard that can shoot and a perimeter defender should be the biggest priorities. But the Pistons should keep $6-$8 million of that cap space free so they can be the 2014 version of the Cavaliers. Swooping in on a cash-strapped team desperate to avoid the luxury tax.
And as the league gets closer to some seriously punitive luxury tax rules teams will be more desperate than ever, which means the Pistons might make out even better than the Cavs did here.
The Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks are all projected to have payrolls north of $70 million. Another handful will be extremely close to the tax line as well depending on how serious they are in retaining key pieces.
It's the perfect opportunity for the Pistons to take advantage of -- if they are smart enough.