This might be a little tough for some of you. Take a deep breath.
As most of you already know, Ben Wallace came through with one last breath-taking rejection in Detroit, surprising just about everyone by turning down the Pistons' and agreeing to a four-year contract with the Bulls.
Don't forget to exhale...
While initial speculation was that Wallace turned down Detroit's $49.6 million offer to accept $52 million from the Bulls, more recent reports indicate that the difference between the two offers was closer to $8 million, putting Chicago's deal at about $60 million.
And now inhale...
It's been clear for some time now that losing Wallace was a distinct possibility, but if it had to happen, most people figured it'd at least involve a sign-and-trade where Detroit would receive some talent in return.
But that didn't happen.
Nope, Detroit lost their most recognizable player, the very foundation upon which their success from the past few years has been built on, and -- perhaps most importantly -- they lost the right to sign an impact player to a big hefty contract which exceeds the salary cap.
Gone out the window is Detroit's Offseason Plan A, which involved re-signing Wallace and adding an athletic slasher (Bonzi Wells?) with the mid-level exception. Instead, it's on to Plan B. What's that? Apparently going after Joel Przybilla with the mid-level exception, and then quietly waiting for the season to start. Because unless I'm seriously under-estimating the amount of wiggle room Detroit has under the salary cap, the team's hands will be tied when it comes to adding another impact free agent.
Sure, Joe Dumars could always pull off a trade, but the team lacks any disposable salaries such as Kelvin Cato, meaning any meaningful trade most likely will have to involve moving one of Detroit's key players.
Okay, you're turning blue -- you forgot to inhale again!
Everyone should relax, because I think Detroit's situation looks more precarious at first glance than it really is, and I seriously doubt it will result in Dumars moving any of the other starters.
Here's what I'd do: move Rasheed Wallace to center and install Antonio McDyess as the new starting power forward. Sign Przybilla to come off the bench, take that sandwich out of Jason Maxiell's hands and mail it to Cheick Samb. With Wallace, McDyess and Przybilla getting most of the minutes and Maxiell given a real honest chance to earn more minutes as the season progresses, Detroit should be able to put some points on the board without completely sacrificing on the defensive end.
If Przybilla does in fact sign, I could see him starting over McDyess, perhaps out of concern about McDyess's durability. Personally, I'm no longer worried about Antonio's knees falling off -- he didn't miss a single game last season and played in 77 games the year before. Plus, he's only 31 years old, which puts him a year younger than Ben Wallace. We don't want to ride him too hard, but I'd be surprised if he can't handle 30 minutes a game.
If you're not too familiar with Przybilla, don't get your hopes up -- he doesn't do much on offense and is almost just as challenged on the free-throw line. But, in less than 25 minutes a game last year with the Blazers, he blocked 2.3 shots per game, averaged seven boards and scored 6.1 points. It's possible the Blazers can convince him to stay in Portland (he can earn slightly more money if he does), but he's said to be excited about the chance to play for a winner.
Because it doesn't look like Detroit will be able to add that slasher they were hoping for, Flip Saunders will have little choice but to turn toward Carlos Delfino as the in-house option. Personally, I expect Delfino to flourish in the role. Don't act surprised, he was a first-round pick for a reason, and it was almost a crime the way he was used so inconsistently last season.
I think one thing is for sure, and that's that Tayshaun Prince is due for a huge breakout season. Without Ben Wallace clogging things up on offense (and without Wallace helping slow down the other team on defense), the Pistons should be running something fierce. I anticipate we'll see a lot more of Tay in the open court, and it honestly won't surprise me if he actually leads the team in scoring next year, or at the very least finishes a close second to Rip Hamilton. Somebody had to be the first to say it, so there it is.
Tay proved in the playoffs that he could carry the team on offense when needed, especially when he took his man into the post. Unfortunately, he was rarely given a chance to shine for an entire game at a time since he's not normally any higher than the third or fourth option, but I have a hunch that will change this season.
For the past few years, it's been very hard to argue with Joe Dumars' success as a GM, but I think his reputation as one of the league's top execs will be on the line this season. I'll never hold his decision to draft Darko over Carmelo, Dwyane or Bosh against him -- we got a championship out of the deal -- but giving up Darko and Carlos Arroyo in a salary dump to clear up salary cap space that the team will never be able to use no longer looks that hot, though it's still graded as an "incomplete" until that future first-round pick is in the books.
You could also argue that dumping Mo Evans for a project second-rounder like Cheick Samb might have been rash, though I say that without having any insight as to what the market for Evans really was. In any event, there's no denying that Dumars has made several decisions with the sole intention of structuring the payroll to accomodate the re-signing of Ben Wallace, which resulted in moving players that might otherwise be awfully useful right about now.
I'm not bitter Detroit didn't break the bank to bring him back -- I'm guessing Wallace's contract will be something of an albatross around Chicago's neck two years from now -- but the contingency plan of Przybilla seems thrown together at the last minute. Detroit will compete in the East next year, and they may even win the Central, but it'll be an absolute dogfight to return to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth year in a row.
Unless, of course, Dumars pulls something else out of his sleeve, which to be perfectly honest, we can't really rule out.
How do you expect the rest of the offseason to play out? Tell us in the comments.