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A look at the Pistons' salary cap situation and roster constraints

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The Pistons are under the cap and over the roster limit.

Gregory Shamus

The Detroit Pistons went into the offseason with a healthy dose of cap space and a specific plan -- get quality, affordable veterans in free agency and lock up Greg Monroe into a long-term contract while still leaving the team with enough flexibility to continue adding talent and to lock up Andre Drummond to an expected maximum contract a year from now.

The first part of the equation went about as well as planned if you ask president Stan Van Gundy and GM Jeff Bower. The Pistons added Jodie Meeks, Caron Butler, DJ Augustin, Cartier Martin and Aaron Gray with only Meeks representing any sort of long-term commitment.

Then Greg Monroe spurned long-term contract offers and sign his one-year qualifying offer making him a restricted free agent in 2015-16.

Pistons Cap Situation

The salary cap is $63,065,000 million for the upcoming season, and the Pistons had a $10 million cap hold on Monroe and the ability to exceed the cap to re-sign him. Because Monroe signed his qualifying offer he will be playing for the bargain rate of only $5,479,934. The Pistons are now $3,098,166 under the salary cap.

The Pistons can use this extra room to take back more salary than it sends out in any trade . The team can also use its surplus of cap space in conjunction with its expiring contracts to further remake its roster.

And the Pistons are loaded with expiring deals. Jonas Jerebko is on a $4.5 million expiring contract. Will Bynum's deal of $2.9 million is also ending after this season. Monroe's final year pays him $5.5 million. End-of-the-benchers Luigi Datome and Tony Mitchell have options that might not be exercised that represent another $2.6 million. And Butler's second year is an option at $4.5 million. Add it all up and the Pistons have about $20 million in expiring deals.

It would not be a surprise to see the team make deals in season as it looks to remake itself in Van Gundy's image. Nobody should be presumed safe except for Andre Drummond and perhaps Jodie Meeks and DJ Augustin. Everyone else must prove their worth going forward.

Roster and the D League

While the Pistons have salary cap flexibility, what they don't have is space for everybody.

The Pistons roster currently sits at 16 players with guaranteed salaries and one deal -- training camp invite Lorenzo Brown -- who's deal is either completely  or mostly unguaranteed. The signing of Brown seemed to cause some confusion among fans. Why would a team already over the limit sign another player? The answer lies in the fact that the team is about to launch its first season with the NBA Developmental League's Grand Rapids Drive.

The Pistons have sole ownership of the team and, therefore, more of a stake in how it operates. Van Gundy already named close friend Otis Smith as its manager, and for the first time the Pistons won't treat the D League as an afterthought.

Most people know that teams can send draft picks down to the D League (and Spencer Dinwiddie, Tony Mitchell and Luigi Datome are all prime candidates to spend time with the Drive). But the D League also offers "affiliate players." This is a select group of players that can be directly assigned by NBA teams and have the players forgo the annual league-wide D League draft.

Previously, these assignments were to keep local players in the region with their biggest fan base. A way to drum up interest in sparsely attended minor league games. But as the D League becomes a true minor league feeder system for NBA teams these affiliate players become more important.

That is why the Lorenzo Brown signing makes sense. D League pay is ridiculously low. It is set at three levels $25,000, $19,000 and $13,000 with the bill being paid by the league itself and not the team. With overseas leagues paying players six figures it's obviously hard to keep good young players stateside.

But the Pistons now have a single affiliate franchise to stock with its kind of players and the aforementioned $3 million under the cap to work with. I believe the team could go so far as to sign players to partially guaranteed deals or deals with a signing bonus in order to entice them to take part in camp and go to the Drive. While it's unclear if any of Brown's deal is guaranteed, he did sign with the club with the intention of taking part in training camp and then being waived and sent to the Drive.

UPDATE: Friend of the blog and PistonPowered head honcho Dan Feldman, who knows more about the messy details of D League rights, informs me that Brown would not qualify as an affiliate player because his rights are held with his previous D League team the Springfield Armor. The Armor relocated to Grand Rapids and became the Drive. So that is a sensible reason why Brown would sign with Detroit and eventually go to Grand Rapids.

League rules stipulate that NBA teams can allocate three training camp players directly onto its D League roster and according to D League Digest, league sources indicate that the number will be bumped up to four for the 2014-15 NBA season.

This is exactly what the Orlando Magic did when signing former Piston Peyton Siva in the offseason.

The D League roster limit ranges from 10-12 players depending on if the Pistons send anyone down from the big club. That means the Pistons could directly assign up to seven of 12 players on the Drive this season (three roster players and four "affiliate players."

So don't be surprised if there are three more Lorenzo Brown-type signings in the next week or so.