The contract amnesty option in the forthcoming CBA is going to shake up the free agent market come December 9th. While the Pistons will likely use their amnesty clause at some point this season, other teams have salary to shed as well. This will open up free agency options that were otherwise unavailable, and one in particular might have interest to the Detroit Pistons.
The Dallas Mavericks owe Brendan Haywood $45.4 million through 2016, with the last season a team option no one in their right mind would execute. Haywood is the most likely player to be cut in Dallas with the amnesty option, a near certainty for a team gunning for another title. If Haywood finds himself a free agent before December 25th, the Pistons would be wise to consider him for their 2011-12 frontcourt.
Chances are, the Pistons won't have many opportunities in free agency this season. Detroit doesn't have the cap space, upward mobility or potential for contention to attract this year's top frontcourt free agents. Samuel Dalembert, DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol and others have better options elsewhere, and it's a pipe dream to think they could sign with the Pistons. Haywood, on the other hand, hasn't been on the radar of GMs until yesterday, when the reality of an amnesty option really sank in. Yesterday was also Haywood's 32nd birthday, and his perceived drop-off in production in 2010-11 won't gain him much confidence in this
summer's winter's free agency.
That "perceived" drop-off in production had more to do with playing time than it did performance. The addition of Tyson Chandler (who had a statistically amazing season) pushed Haywood to the bench after a remarkable effort in 2009-10. Per minute, however, Haywood was roughly the same. If given 32 minutes a game and an increase in usage, Haywood could have been counted on for 9 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks a game. Still, it's unlikely that many GMs will look at these numbers and consider Haywood given what looks like a natural decline.
Why would the Pistons be interested in Haywood? He has the size, defensive game and knack for shot blocking that would pair well with Greg Monroe in the frontcourt. He's a genuine seven footer, weighing in at 270 pounds, and he's averaged more than 2 blocks a game as a starter over the last three seasons. He'd immediately fill the role that Kwame Brown, Ben Wallace and Chris Wilcox have held over the last few seasons, and he could do it on the cheap.
Brendan Haywood isn't a flashy player and few would be excited if he were to sign with Detroit. If he could be had for a reasonable contract, say $12-14 million over three years, he could be a serviceable option at center while the Pistons rebuild. There's a long list of centers that the rest of the league will be drooling over during free agency, and if Haywood is indeed an amnesty case, the Pistons might luck in to solid production for a reasonable cost. That kind of thing is rare in the NBA.