Well, you can at least say the Detroit Pistons aren't boring. The first day of free agency was a whilrwind of activity, day two was spent coming to terms with day one and separating fact from fiction. So what can we expect on day 3? Perhaps a little, perhaps a lot. Let's see where the Detroit Pistons stand.
The Pistons entered the free agency period with as much as $23.5 million in cap room. There is a $10 million cap hold on Greg Monroe so that shaves off a lot right there. Detroit handed Jodie Meeks a three-year, $19 million deal on the first day of free agency, which shaves anywhere from $5 million to $6.5 million off the top. We can also conservatively estimate that the Pistons paid about $1 million for veteran (and likely fringe rotation player) Cartier Martin. That leaves Detroit with between $5.5 and $7 million in cap space.
The Pistons jumped out of the gate and were reportedly ready to offer Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas three-year, $24 million deal. As noted, the Pistons no longer have enough cap space to sing Thomas to that deal. That means the team either needs to cut salary (release Peyton Siva and Josh Harrellson), make a separate trade to free up room or conduct a sign-and-trade with the Kings.
The market for Thomas has been quiet ever since because it seemed the guard was waiting for the Kyle Lowry market to settle before knowing who his suitors were and how much they'd be willing to offer. Well, late last night Lowry reupped with the Toronto Raptors on a big $48 million deal. That means Thomas could sign with another club relatively soon.
To make matters more intriguing a story broke just before noon that the Kings are already prepared for life without Thomas, inking Detroit Bad Boys favorite Darren Collison to a steal of a deal at $16 million for three years. This essentially eliminates the Kings for the Thomas picture so dominoes could start to fall extremely quickly.
The fans want Josh Smith gone and reportedly Greg Monroe does too (though he adamantly denies it). And before the draft it seemed that the Kings and Pistons were deep into negotiations to send Smith to Sactown in exchange for spare parts. Detroit reportedly broke off the talks and while that seemed strange at first it might be related to their interest in Thomas. The Pistons spoke with Thomas right out of the gate and their interest seems genuine. He's not Thomas' only suitor so it's unclear how everything shakes out, but it looks somewhat likely that the Kings and Pistons could center a trade on shipping out Josh Smith and getting Thomas and an onerous contract or two back in return.
Sign-and-trade rules are relatively complex, but long story short, something like this could be worked out.
What makes matters even more confusing is the apparent mutual interest between the Kings and Celtics in Rajon Rondo and Thomas, respectively. If the Kings' ultimate goal is to pair Rondo and Smith into their existing core then we start having discussions about three-team trades and that just makes my head hurt. It's unlikely but it's possible.
Monroe, as mentioned, is allegedly pissed. Maybe not ultimatum pissed but certainly "I'm not sure if Detroit is the best place for me" pissed. Vince Ellis wrote a sad but provocative piece speculating that perhaps the best thing for both sides is a short-term deal for two years that allows both sides to prove that they really love each other. Unfortunately, Monroe then becomes an unrestricted free agent, meaning that even if the Pistons love him and want to give him the max, he could always reject it and go to another team.
Unsaid in the piece, is that a two-year deal would end right when the current TV deal is being renegotiated. And that means either lockout or huge bump in cap space and if Monroe is really everything we think he'll be then he becomes a mighty expensive Moose.
Probably the biggest name on the free agent market associated with the Pistons, interest in Ariza has simultaneously heated up and cooled down. The number of teams after him remains long -- including the Clippers, Lakers, Mavericks, Jazz, Cavaliers, Suns, Rockets and the Wizards, but as the Washington Post reports, nobody is ready to move until the destination of premier free agents LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are settled.
I would confidently speculate that the Pistons are out of the running for Ariza simply because they no longer have the available cap space to sign him (assuming they don't simply let go of Monroe or sign-and-trade him to the Wizards). There is no way Ariza is signing in this market for $6 million per year. I wouldn't be surprised if he signed for between $8 million and $10 million.
Unless a small forward is picked up in a Josh Smith trade or a Monroe sign-and-trade, I would speculate that the team is looking to sign another small forward. Right now small forward is the team's thinnest position, with Kyle Singler No. 1, Martin as a deep reserve and perhaps Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sliding over from the shooting guard position on occasion. Despite previous reports, I don't think the plan is to play Meeks at small forward more than sparingly. He's only 6-foot-4 and has played small forward in only 7 percent of his minutes, according to basketball-reference.
The only other small forward linked to the Pistons is Morrow, who is even more of a 3-point specialist than Meeks. While there were early indications that the Pistons were interested, and reports of an impending meeting from Vincent Goodwill at the Detroit News, but John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that a source close to Morrow said the Pistons are "no longer pursuing him."
Perhaps the team was interested in one of Morrow or Meeks and when Meeks accepted the deal, the team moved on to other priorities. What those priorities are could range from a more defensive-minded small forward, a backup point guard, the Thomas trade or any number of other deals.