Remember those crazy "Baron Davis to Detroit?!" rumors from last month? They fizzled out the moment Davis opted out of his final year with the Warriors, but as luck would have it, his decision to hit the open market just might help facilitate a different big-ticket move for the Pistons.
By returning to his Los Angeles roots to play in Kobe's shadow for the Clippers (and with Elton Brand almost certainly re-upping with a monster deal of his own), Corey Maggette has become the odd-man-out in Clipper-land. But as A. Sherrod Blakely points out, there aren't exactly a lot of teams with money under the cap, meaning Maggette may have to settle for the mid-level exception
And while the Pistons have been reluctant to use it all on one player this summer, they may if it means landing Maggette.
The NBA champion Boston Celtics also have been hesitant to commit their full mid-level exception to one player, even one of their own free agents, James Posey.
Boston also has inquired about Maggette and have reportedly offered their full mid-level exception.
Maggette, who opted out of the final year of a contract that would have paid him $7 million this season, appears to at least be receptive to the idea.
"If you want to win, you have to make sacrifices," Maggette told the Boston Globe.
(I'm going to skip over a lengthy explanation of why the Pistons should want Maggette, but the short version is that he's a 28-year-old slasher who loves contact, gets to the line about 10 times a game, has pretty good range, rebounds well for his position and is an underrated defender. Debate his merits in the comments if you like, but for me it's an open and shut case.)
First, some math. Accepting the mid-level exception would be a pay cut, but not as much as you might think. It's true that the MLE has been set for $5.8 million this year, but it also includes 8% raises each season. If he signed a five-year deal, the total value of his contract would be just over $34 million. He'd make almost $7.9 million in the final year, and he'd average $6.8 million over the life of the deal. Obviously he was hoping for a raise (aren't we all?), but if that can't happen, a lateral move to a contender is still a solid career move.
Now, before Pistons fans get too excited, realize that both the Celtics and Spurs are dangling the MLE at him, and even if the Pistons decide to follow suit, it'll be awfully difficult to persuade him that Detroit is closer to a title than Boston or San Antonio. (If anything, I'd argue that the three teams are all so close it's a wash.)
So what other factors might factor into his decision? For one, playing time. He can play either the two or the three, but as rosters are currently constructed, only the Spurs can afford to offer him a starting job (and that's only because Manu Ginobili is content being the world's best sixth man). I'd understand if the Celtics wanted a contingency play for Ray Allen, but I can't imagine Danny Ainge has the guts to bite the bullet and deal Allen before the start of the season.
As for the Pistons, Maggette would be blocked by Rip Hamilton and/or Tayshaun Prince, though his arrival would in turn allow Joe Dumars to fashion a trade around Rip or Tay without demanding a starting-caliber swingman in return. If Maggette can be convinced that -- some how, some way -- a starting job would be his come November, perhaps he'll bite. (Or in a perfect world, maybe he's content coming off the bench. He did it sporadically in L.A., though I attribute that mostly to the Clippers' mismanagement than anything else.)
Last but not least, here's another interesting tidbit (dug up by PistonsForum.com member armygirl) Maggette has family ties to Michigan through his wife, Milagro "Mili" Martinez Maggette, who's originally from Imlay City, MI, which, as luck would have it, is a mere 40 miles north of Auburn Hills. All things being equal, wouldn't allowing his wife to move close to family (assuming, you know, she still has family there) be a nice bonus? Of course it would.
Mind you, the Pistons haven't officially joined this race, and even if they do, there are plenty of hurdles. But in my eyes, this is a guy definitely worth pursuing. Cross your fingers.