An Updated Look Ahead...

This is an extension for an article I did earlier, with 25 games remaining in the regular season. It was toward the beginning of the big losing streak and I had playoffs hopes. I wanted to update my thoughts on the 2015-16 Detroit Pistons. First, looking at the salary cap, players under contract, then the draft, and finally free agency. 

Salary Cap/Resigning
The Cap is projected to be $67 million. Using that number, lets look at players under contract for next season:
Brandon Jennings - $8,344,497
Jodie Meeks - $6,270,000
(Josh Smith Stretch - $5,400,000)
Andre Drummond - $3,272,091
Anthony Tolliver - $3,000,000
K. Caldwell-Pope - $2,891,760
Quincy Miller - $981,348
Spencer Dinwiddie - $845,059
(Aaron Gray Stretch - $452,049)

Those are the only guaranteed contracts for next season, totaling $31,456,811

Looking quickly at non-guaranteed deals and options:
Caron Butler - Team Option for $4,500,000 - Accepted
Shawne Williams - Team Option for $1,356,146 - Declined
Cartier Martin - Player Option for $1,270,964 - Accepted

So nine players under contract for $37,227,775, $29,872,225 in cap space. Quincy Miller’s deal is not guaranteed and could be renounced by July 11, for now, I counted it against the cap. 

Players not under contract past 2014-15 season: Greg Monroe, Reggie Jackson (QO), Tayshaun Prince, Joel Anthony, John Lucas III

Of the players not under contract, I think three could return: Monroe, Jackson, and Anthony. 

Let’s start with the most realistic to return: Reggie Jackson. I like that Jackson seems eager to be a piece for the Pistons’ future. What will it take? I’m thinking close to Kyle Lowry and less than Eric Bledsoe. I’m thinking $11,250,000 a year, on a four year deal. Or, 4 years/$45 million - As a fan, I don’t love that number. But, many including Adrian Wojnarowski have speculated at a number close to 13 or 14 is possible. It seems high, maybe we can factor a slight discount (What’s his market, who is interested? Anyone besides the Knicks?). But, I don’t see how we get him for anything less than $11 a year.

I know the coaching staff really like Joel Anthony and he has said he wants to return. Heading into his 10th season, I think the veteran minimum ($1,499,187) is reasonable. Continuity is something this team lacked throughout last season. SVG has valued veteran leadership, which is why I completely expect Caron Butler and Joel Anthony to return. An improved roster means a reduced role for both, but they can still give the team something now. 

My predictions thus far have 11 players under contract and $17,123,038 in cap space. The 8th pick is a cap hit for ‘15-’16 of $2,368,300; so keeping that pick takes our cap space down to $14,754,738. 

The Draft
"With the eighth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select… Stanley Johnson, forward out of Arizona."

Let me go on record and say I want two players in this draft: Mario Hezonja or Stanley Johnson. If both are there, I want the Stanimal. He has an NBA ready body, ready for the small forward spot. I think he’s Ron Artest with better shooting mechanics and less to give on the defensive end. He surprised so many with his shooting percentages at Arizona, I think he’s a solid all-around player. A tremendous pick and instant starter for the Pistons. Hezonja has bust potential, but I like what he could become - a Croatian Klay Thompson. Both would make me happy, I really don’t want Myles Turner or Frank the Tank. Especially with my thoughts about free agency. 

In the second round, I have a group of "if (blank) is there, take him" players, including: Rashad Vaughn, R.J. Hunter, J.P. Tokoto, and Justin Anderson. I think only one will be there: Tokoto. 

The Pistons interviewed Tokoto at the Combine, and he looks like a potential "3 and D" player for the Pistons. He shot well at North Carolina (it’s a small sample size) and played well in scrimmages at the Combine. His 6’10" wingspan fits the ‘team of Pterodactyls’ that Bowers and SVG are constructing. So an above-average shooting stroke, wing span and defensive prowess… I want him! Put him in Grand Rapids next year and allow him to spot Meeks and KCP minutes in the near future. 

Free Agency
I would be shocked if Greg Monroe returned to Detroit. Furthermore, I would be surprised if he plays anywhere other than New York next season. Losing Moose hurts, I think we will definitely offer him a contract. I think he would settle for less to play elsewhere.

So the Pistons will likely turn to a handful of free agents to fill that spot: DeMarre Carroll, Draymond Green, Tobias Harris, and Paul Millsap. The Warriors fully intend on matching any offer for Green. Millsap could return to Atlanta, I see him likely moving based on the LaMarcus Aldridge domino effect (who gets LMA, and who misses out). That leaves Carroll and Harris, with the latter being a restricted free agent. I think we would first offer Harris, and there is a realistic chance that Orlando does not match an offer for him. Part of the reason is the Magic hiring Scott Skiles. It is likely he is named the Head Coach later this week. If that’s the case, both parties might want to move on. 

Some local reports have Orlando not wanting to give Harris a max. Then, there's of course the relationship between Harris and Skiles. It went sour in Milwaukee, part of the reason he was subsequently traded to Orlando. Also Orlando’s draft position could have them considering big men (Cauley-Stein or Kristaps). If the team believes in the growth and potential of a new big and Aaron Gordon; maybe they can go forward without Tobias Harris. 

Let’s hope because he seems a perfect fit for SVG and the 4 spot. Carroll is a solid consolation prize and would also come at a lesser price tag. But pairing the 22 year old Harris next to Drummond (22 in August), KCP (22), Reggie Jackson (25), (maybe 19 year old Stanley Johnson) gives the team a really nice, young nucleus. 

A deal just under max money might get it done. When considering his worth, think about Chandler Parsons' contract. Two years and a player option for a third. The salary cap is going to explode soon, so players might prefer shorter deals and a chance to get even more money in the future. What about $13,750,000 in the first year, increasing by 10% each season ($15,125,000 in ‘16-’17, player option for $16,500,000 in ‘17-’18): 3 years, $45,375,000. 

A contract like that would keep us under the salary cap, but just barely (about the difference of keeping our second round pick). So all we could use beyond that is the mini mid-level worth $2,854,940. 

Would a player like Brandon Bass come to Detroit for that? It’s questionable, but plausible. Maybe build in a player option for a second year, and I think he is an intriguing player. Drafted by Jeff Bowers, played some of his best under SVG - he is playing more at the Center spot now. Still a productive player, he just gave Boston 10 points and 5 rebounds a game (playing 23 minutes per). All while shooting 50% from the field and hitting 80% of his free throws!

If that all comes true, here is next year’s roster/depth chart:
C - Andre Drummond | Brandon Bass | Joel Anthony
PF - Tobias Harris | Anthony Tolliver | Quincy Miller
SF - Stanley Johnson | Caron Butler | Cartier Martin
SG - K. Caldwell-Pope | Jodie Meeks | J.P. Tokoto
PG - Reggie Jackson | Brandon Jennings | Spencer Dinwiddie

That’s not terrible, in fact, it’s probably a .500 or better roster. There are still a lot of ‘ifs’ depending on the improvement of KCP and Drummond, the production from the point guard spot and two larger IF’s: If we can improve the offensive efficiency and overall defense. 


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