Looking at the Pistons’ roster for the 2013-14 season, most of us would probably say that SG is our most obvious weakness. The reasons for this are clear. Rodney Stuckey began last season as our starter, but had such an awful opening month (shooting 1-23 our first 3 games and averaging under 10 points on 34% shooting through November) that rookie Kyle Singler took over the starting job. Yes, I know the official version is that Stuckey asked to come off the bench after Singler performed well in his place when he missed a game due to injury. But if Stuckey had been playing well, this would not have happened. While his performance improved over the rest of the season (it could hardly have gotten worse!), on the whole Stuckey gave us few reasons to feel confident about his future in Detroit. The fact that our new starting frontline will be devoid of 3-point threats makes the similarly challenged Seattle native an even more unlikely choice as a starter this fall.
So who are our other options? While Singler performed passably as the starter until the February trade that brought Jose Calderon to Detroit, he’s clearly better suited to play SF (and in a reserve role). Chauncey Billups is a possibility, but he prefers to play his natural position of PG. Finally, we have our rookie first round pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He appears to offer us everything we want in a SG – size, athleticism, defensive ability and a steady shooting stroke. Ideally, he’ll become the starter sooner rather than later.
But even if KCP quickly proves to be a quality NBA player, we’re still weak at SG. And if Stuckey returns to his previous form and proves to be a very competent reserve this year, he still doesn’t offer us 3-point range. Since he’s in the last year of his deal, it makes sense for us to be looking for his replacement. While I’m not ruling out re-signing him, I think it makes sense to start looking for a better model for our money.
With that purpose in mind, I decided to investigate the NBA SGs who might be UFAs next summer. While we could try to swing a trade for one of these players before the February deadline, we could just as easily pursue most of them in the offseason. By then we should have greater clarity about what particular role we’ll most need to fill on the 2014-15 Pistons. My hope is that KCP will have already become our starter, or will at least shown clear signs that he’ll soon be ready for that role. Yet either way, we’ll need a capable reserve SG who can dependably fill-in as needed.
With that goal in mind, I thought a useful Motown analogy for this investigation would be to approach it as if we’re shopping for a used car. Therefore, for each player I’ve provided a year (when they entered the league), make, model and sticker price (their 2013-14 salary). For each one of these choices, we have a trade-in – Stuckey! Since his deal comes off the books in 2014, we should have at least $8.5M to spend on a new Piston. Depending on how we handle Monroe’s extension, we could also trade up for a better ride. So let’s start shopping!
Kobe Bryant 1996 Ferrari F50 GT Lakers (1 owner) 6-6, 205 $30.5M
Born in the City of Brotherly Love, he also lived for 7 years in Italy, where his dad played basketball. The “Black Mamba” entered the NBA after graduating from Philadelphia’s Lower Merion High School. He was actually drafted by Charlotte, but his rights were soon traded to L.A. for a used Yugo (Vlade Divac). He’s run up a lot of miles in 17 years, but his production last year was very close to his career averages (25 points per game on 45% FGs and 34% 3s). The big question is how well he’ll recover from the Achilles tendon injury he suffered in April. A 15-time NBA All-Star and 5-time champion, Bryant will be the most expensive UFA of 2014. My best guess is that he’ll stay in L.A., but if the Lakers decide to empty their garage of all their older models (their salary cap commitments for 2014-15 are only $12.7M), he could show up on the lot. Could the Pistons afford him? Maybe. Even if we give Greg Monroe a max deal, we could conceivably offer Kobe $15M and stay under the luxury tax threshold. And if we could find a taker for the final year of Jonas Jerebko’s $4.5M contract, we could offer even more. Any chance that the Pistons would sign him? Not much, but it is fun to speculate!
Dwayne Wade 2003 Chevy Corvette Miami (1 owner) 6-4, 220 $18.7M
A Chicago native (just like Coach Maurice Cheeks and Will Bynum!), he played his college ball at Marquette. If the Pistons had picked him instead of Darko Milicic in the 2003 Draft, we’d have won more NBA titles and Miami would have won less. He’s a 9-time NBA All-Star and 3-time champion. Through 10 seasons he’s averaged almost 25 points per game (49% FGs and 29% 3s). Wade has an ETO in his contract (as do Chris Bosh and LeBron James) that allows him to become an UFA in 2014. I doubt that he’ll exercise it, but if he did the Pistons could offer him the same deal we could give Kobe. That might be a fair offer for a guy who will be 32 and whose best years are probably behind him. But in the unlikely scenario Wade does leave South Beach in 2014, I seriously doubt that he’d head for Auburn Hills.
Ben Gordon 2004 BMW Mini-Cooper Charlotte (3 owners) 6-3, 200 $13.2M
Born in London, England, he was selected by Chicago out of UConn and won the NBA’s 6th Man Award as a rookie. From the beginning he had the ability to light up the scoreboard, but the other limitations in his game led the Bulls to decline matching the 5-year/$58M deal the Pistons handed him in 2009. Gordon rewarded Joe Dumars for his confidence by going from an above average performer to a below average one. For his 9-year career he’s put up 16 points per game (43% FGs and 40% 3s). He’ll be 31 next summer, and won’t get any contract offers close to what he’ll make this season. Anyone want to bring him back to Motown? I thought not …
Jason Richardson 2001 Ford Taurus Philadelphia (5 owners) 6-6, 225 $6.2M
He’s a native of Saginaw, MI and is a Michigan State alum. For his career he’s averaged 17 points (44% FGs and 37% 3s). He has a player option to become an UFA, but since he’s due to make $6.6M in 2014-15, it’s unlikely he’ll put himself on the market. The last 2 seasons his productivity and efficiency have declined, so it looks like his best years are behind him (he’ll be 33 in 2014). Richardson would certainly need to return to his previous productivity to merit better offers than his current deal already pays him. I think I’ll keep looking …
Kirk Hinrich 2003 Dodge Ram Chicago (3 owners) 6-4, 190 $4.1M
From Sioux City, Iowa and KU, Hinrich was a first round pick of the Bulls. With brief stays in Atlanta and Washington, he’s spent 8 of his 10 seasons in Chicago. He played PG his first 5 years, but has played SG much more since then. He’s averaged 12 points per game (42% on FGs and 38% on 3s). Hinrich will be 33 next summer, so $3-4M per year is the most he can expect to be offered. As a wily vet with decent range who can also play PG, he’s worth a look.
Brandon Rush 2008 Mercury Sable Utah (3 owners) 6-6, 210 $4.0M
From Kansas City, MO and KU, he was chosen in the 1st round by the Trail Blazers, but traded soon thereafter to the Pacers. He's never been especially productive (9 points in 27 minutes) but he’s at least been efficient (44% on FGs and 41% on 3s). He’ll be 29 in 2014, so there’s not any appreciable upside left to his game. But if we’re simply looking for an affordable model whose main job is to hit an open 3, Rush is a solid option.
Thabo Sefolosha 2006 Volkswagen Passat Oklahoma City (2 owners) 6-7, 215 $3.9M
A native of Switzerland, he was drafted by the 76ers but immediately traded to the Bulls. After nearly 3 solid seasons in mostly a reserve role, he was dealt to Oklahoma City in 2009. He’s started almost every game at SG for the Thunder the last 4 years. For his career, he’s averaged under 6 points (45% on FGs and 35% on 3s), but his primary role is as a defender. The last 2 seasons he’s connected on over 40% of his 3s. As a 3 and D guy who would be affordably priced, I think he’d be a definite upgrade. Certainly worth a test drive …
Shannon Brown 2006 Ford Focus Phoenix (5 owners) 6-4, 210 $3.5M
From Maywood, IL and Michigan State, he was a late 1st round pick by the Cavs. He’s bounced around the league, mostly playing a reserve role. In 19 minutes per game he’s averaged 8 points (42% on FGs and 33% on 3s). Brown will be 28 next summer. It’s hard to envision him being an upgrade over Stuckey; the only thing in his favor is that he’d come cheaper. But in this case, you get what you pay for …
Ray Allen 1996 Toyota Avalon Miami (4 owners) 6-5, 205 $3.2M
From Merced, CA and UConn, his sights are currently set on a 3rd NBA title with the Heat. But next summer he’ll be 39 and on the market. If Miami keeps its Big 3 – or at least two of them – he might want to stay there for still another championship chase. But if two or more jump ship, he might need to look elsewhere – if he doesn’t decide to retire. While he’ll never reach his career average of 19 points again, he’s still a sharpshooter (45% on FGs, 40% on 3s). So if the Pistons look primed for a strong playoff run in 2014-15, it might be worth kicking the tires on this very reliable older model.
Vince Carter 1998 Ford Mustang Dallas (5 owners) 6-6, 220 $3.2M
Hailing from Daytona Beach, FL and UNC, he was a dynamic scorer from the beginning of his career in Toronto, where he toiled for 7 seasons. He’s averaged 21 points for his career (44% FGs and 38% 3s), but we can’t expect that production from him as he enters his 16th year. While Carter will be 37 next year, he still appears to have something left in the tank. So I wouldn’t rule him out as a possibility in 2014.
C.J. Miles 2005 Chevy Cavalier Cleveland (2 owners) 6-6, 222 $2.2M
This Dallas, TX native entered the NBA straight out of high school as a 2nd round pick of the Jazz. He spent 7 seasons in Utah before signing a 2-year deal with the Cavs in 2012. He’s served mostly as a reserve, averaging 9 points in 20 minutes (42% FGs and 34% 3s). Miles will be 27 next summer. Since he’s never been a very efficient scorer, he wouldn’t be my first choice.
Jodie Meeks 2009 Dodge Caliber Lakers (3 owners) 6-4, 208 $1.6M
From Nashville, TN and UK, he was drafted by the Bucks in the 2nd round. He was traded to the 76ers during his rookie year and signed as a FA with the Lakers last summer. He started a lot of games in Philly, where he displayed solid accuracy from 3-point range. For his career he’s averaged 8 points in 20 minutes (40% FGs and 37% 3s). He didn’t shoot as well for L.A. last season. Meeks will turn 27 in 2014. If we’re looking for a cheap, no-frills model, he could be adequate.
Francisco Garcia 2005 Nissan Sentra Houston (2 owners) 6-7, 195 $1.3M
A native of the Dominican Republic, he spent 3 years at Louisville before being drafted by the Kings in the 1st round. In over 7 seasons in Sacramento, he functioned mostly as a reserve. He’s averaged 8 points in 22 minutes (43% FGs and 36% 3s) through his career. Garcia will be 33 next summer, so there’s no upside to his game.
Nick Young 2007 Chevy Cobalt Lakers (4 owners) 6-7, 210 $1.1M
This L.A. lad attended USC, and was picked in the 1st round by the Wizards. He had what looked like a break-out year in 2010-11, scoring over 17 points per game (44% FGs and 39% 3s). His efficiency declined the following season, and he was sent packing along with Javale McGee in a major housecleaning. When things didn’t work out for him with the Clippers, he spent a year in Philly, but they also let him go. The Lakers signed him to a 2-year deal this summer, but he can opt out of it in 2014. If he can improve over his career average of 11 points (43% FGs and 37% 3s) he might test the market for a better offer than the minimum salary he’s making now. Young will be 29 next summer, and might be worth a closer look.
Anthony Morrow 2008 Ford Focus New Orleans (5 owners) 6-5, 210 $1.0M
From Charlotte, NC and Georgia Tech, he signed as a FA with Golden State to begin his NBA career. Amazingly, he shot 47% on FGs and 46% on 3s his first 2 years with the Warriors. Since then he’s had injury-marred tours in New Jersey, Atlanta and Dallas. He signed a 2-year minimum salary deal with the Pelicans this summer, but he can opt out of it in 2014, when he’ll be 28. If he returns to health and again displays accurate shooting (he’s averaged 11 points on 45% FGs and 42% 3s), he’d be worthy of a test drive next summer.
Alan Anderson 2005 Chevy Aveo Brooklyn (3 owners) 6-6, 220 $948K
He comes from Minneapolis, MN, attended Michigan State, and signed as a FA with Charlotte. After 2 nondescript seasons, he was out of the league for 5 years, then reappeared in Toronto in 2011. He signed a minimum salary deal with a 2014 opt out with Brooklyn in July. For his NBA career he’s averaged 9 points (40% FGs and 35% 3s). He’ll be 31 next summer. Even if he were to pursue greener pastures, I think I’d pass.
Garrett Temple 2009 Ford Fiesta Washington (6 owners) 6-6, 195 $884K
He grew up in Baton Rouge, attended LSU, and signed as a FA with Houston. He didn’t stick with them for long, and last year was the first time he’s played for just one NBA team for a whole season. For his career he’s averaged 4.5 points (40% FGs and 32% 3s), so it’s unlikely that he’ll become much more than an end-of-the-bench guy. Temple will be 28 next summer. I think we can do better …
Looking over these 17 “models,” the one I’d most like to see became a Piston is Sefolosha. The Thunder already have salary commitments of $69.8M for 2014-15, so they probably won’t be able to keep him and avoid the luxury tax unless they can jettison Kendrick Perkins’ salary ($9.4M). I think we could sign him to a 2 or 3-year deal for up to $6M annually. Either as a starter or a reserve, he’d improve our defense and stretch the floor for our offense. So feel free to vote for your top choice (including to keep Stuckey if that's your preference) and make any comments and suggestions.