After making the playoffs for the first time in seven years, the Detroit Pistons find themselves in an ideal situation. Led by mastermind Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons have turned the ship around by getting younger and better simultaneously. They have many key pieces in place, enabling them to grow as a unit together for many years to come. This summer is critical for the Pistons management as the team's fan base aspires to see the team advance past the first round of the playoffs. This is how that goal will become a reality:
Step 1: Addressing Financial Situation
All salary cap information courtesy of spotrac.com, unless otherwise stated.
Salary Cap Info:
Tobias Harris- $17,200,000
Reggie Jackson- $14,956,522
Aron Baynes- $6,500,000
Jodie Meeks- $6,540,000
Marcus Morris- $4,625,000
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope- $3,678,319
Stanley Johnson- $2,969,880
Reggie Bullock- $2,255,644
Darrun Hilliard- $874,636
+ (Andre Drummond Salary Cap Hold- $8,180,228)
(* a cap hold is set in place so that a team can use all their cap space before re-signing a free agent using the Larry Bird Exception)
+ (Dead Money: Josh Smith and Aaron Gray- $5,952,049
Estimated 2016-2017 NBA Salary Cap: $92,000,00
- Total Pre-Summer- $71,702,198
= Approximately $20,297,802 for Draft + Free Agency
$20,297,802 is plenty enough for SVG and Jeff Bower to work their front office magic before resigning Andre Drummond.The current depth chart shows that the Pistons have a few glaring needs. First, they need a backup point guard. Steve Blake and Spencer Dinwiddie are not going to cut it. Second, they need more depth at the 4 and 5. Third, they need more reliable three point shooting. The team did not have a single player in the top 60 most efficient regular season 3- point shooters (minimum 100 attempts, espn.com).
Step 2: The Draft
I am making the assumption that the Pistons do not make any trades and retain their picks #18 and #49.
At pick #18, there are five key prospects that I believe address the Pistons needs best and have a realistic chance of being on the board when the team is on the clock.
1. Demetrius Jackson
2. Wade Baldwin IV
3. Domantas Sabonis
4. Timothe Luwawu
5. Furkan Korkmaz
If I had my choice between those five prospects, it would come down to either Luwawu or Baldwin. While Baldwin might fill the role of our future back-up PG, Luwawu has more potential and would still provide us with a 3/D - type impact. The Pistons need a trustworthy compliment to Reggie, not a project who will struggle as a rookie. With that said, I think they should go with a 'best available' approach and pick Luwawu contingent on him still being available at #18.
With their second round pick at #49, they should take a hard look at any big man left who has the ability to shoot 3s.
Draft Picks' Salaries (assuming 2nd round pick goes to D-League: $1,372,000
$20,297,802 - $1,372,000 = $18,925,802 for Free Agency
Step 3: Free Agency
Obviously the Pistons #1 priority is to resign Drummond to a max-deal contract. They have the ability to use his cap-hold and the Larry Bird Exception to sign players (using all of our remaining cap space) before re-signing him. Although that would give the Pistons the best chances to be successful next season, the front office probably does not want to go over the cap by $20,000,000+ and therefore will be conservative with their spending. Hence, the Pistons do not have the ability to sign any max-level player aside from Drummond. Most likely, they will be focusing on getting under the radar pieces to help fill their needs. Van Gundy's past history in free agency supports this as normally he acquires big key pieces via trade. I think SVG will let both Steve Blake and Joel Anthony go as well. Here are three players the Pistons should target:
1. Mirza Teletovic- $5,000,000 - $7,000,000: Mirza would offer (relatively cheap) immense help at the 4 with his 3-point shooting. He shot the rock approximately 40% from 3 last season which is what the Pistons needs as it helps clear the paint for Drummond.
2. D.J. Augustin- $5,000,000 - $7,000,000: D.J. played with the Pistons two seasons ago but was traded at the deadline in a package for current Pistons PG Reggie Jackson. He would offer a reliable veteran presence on the second line and would also add some more 3-point shooting.
3. J.J. Hickson- $1,000,000- $3,000,000: Provides extra C depth.
Lets say the Pistons sign all three players for a total of approx. $12,000,000.
Then, they re-sign Anthony Tolliver and Spencer Dinwiddie for a total of approx. $4,000,000.
$18,925,802 - $16,000,000 = $2,925,802 Cap Space Available.
Step 4: Re-Sign Andre Drummond for approx. $21,000,000 per year
$2,925,802 - $12,819,772 (only this amount will be subtracted because I already accounted for his cap hold) = -$9,893,970
To decrease the debt, the Pistons should then trade injury-riddled Jodie Meeks for 2 future second round picks.
-$9,893,970 - $6,540,000 = - $3,353,970
2016-2017 Detroit Pistons Depth Chart:
PG: Reggie Jackson, D.J. Augustin, Spencer Dinwiddie
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Reggie Bullock, Darrun Hilliard
SF: Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson, Timothe Luwawu
PF: Marcus Morris, Mirza Teletovic, Anthony Tolliver
C: Andre Drummond, Aron Baynes, J.J. Hickson
Step 5: Eastern Conference Finals Here We Come!