The Pistons showed they were a team on the rise in the East this year, making their 41st playoff appearance overall, and their first in the last seven seasons. With that being said, the 4-game sweep at the hands of the Cavs shows they have a long way to go before becoming true title contenders in the East. Detroit still isn't a free agent destination, but a few smart moves from Stan Van and Jeff Bower could net them a top-4 seed in next seasons playoffs, and make them more attractive for a star to come in the 2017 offseason.
Starting Salary Cap:
Tobias Harris - $17,000,000
Reggie Jackson - $15,000,000
Jodie Meeks - $6,540,000
Aron Baynes - $6,500,000
(Josh Smith stretch) - $5,400,000
Marcus Morris - $5,000,000
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - $3,678,319
Stanley Johnson - $2,969,880
Reggie Bullock -$2,255,644
(Aaron Gray Stretch) - $452,059
Non-guaranteed and options:
Of the four players with non-guaranteed contracts, Darrun Hilliard and Joel Anthony are the two to be coming back to the team. Hilliard has shown flashes of his potential, and with a few more years of development could be a very good bench player for the Pistons, and Anthony offers veteran leadership as a 3rd string center.
Darrun Hilliard - $874,060
Joel Anthony - $2,500,000
This will leave us with around 14 million in cap after signing the draft picks.
DET receives: Pick #48, Taj Gibson, and Tony Snell
CHI receives: Pick #18 and Jodie Meeks
This offseason, one of the main goals for Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower is to keep the core from last season in tact. The team grew a chemistry around each other after the All-Star break, which is something that they don't want to ruin. The trade I have proposed loses us the #18 pick this year, which isn't entirely bad due to the surplus of young talent on the squad, and Jodie Meeks, a free-agent signee from Stan's first offseason that never really panned out due to injury, while still keeping the main roster pieces together.
Losing the #18 pick is hard, especially with receiving only one guaranteed year of Taj Gibson, but it is a necessary price to get rid of Jodie Meeks. The pistons also get a mid-second rounder, and a late first-round pick from a few season back in Tony Snell. Bringing Taj in fills the void the Pistons have for a more traditional PF, who will have no problem fitting next to Andre (seeing as he's played with Joakim Noah his entire career). He also bring veteran leadership with playoff experience, something the Pistons lack. The long term plan would be to resign Taj after the season at around 7-9 mil, while still being able to backout if he fails to fit with the current roster.
I see this as a trade Chicago would be willing to make for a few reasons. For starters a youth movement is needed in Chicago, and Bobby Portis is their PF of the future. Losing Gibson will give him a better opportunity to develop. The Bulls will also have the option to try and get Carmelo in a blockbuster deal, and adding a second first rounder will sweeten up whatever offer they can come up with.
Like I mentioned, my one reservation with this trade is the one year guaranted of Taj Gibson, but with the draft losing strength after the first 8-10 picks this trade may be worth it. Ideally, Al Horford would be my target for the starting PF position, but I just don't see how the Pistons can offer him the contract he is after.
With the trade, the Pistons now have two mid-second round picks.
It's hard to guess who will still be available at these picks, but any of Ben Bentil, Robert Carter, Caris LaVert, Kay Felder, and Gary Payton II all excite me at this point, and have been slotted around the 47th pick in recent mock drafts.
For this exercise, I will assume Bentil is off the board, however if he is still available, he would be a steal at this point.
Pick #48 - Gary Payton II, PG
Pick #49 - Robert Carter, PF
Gary Payton II will offer insurance at the back up PG position, and has the tangibles to develop into a very solid defensive player. Having averaged 16 pts, 8 rbs, and 5 last this past season the potential is clearly there on the offensive end, as well as on the glass. Robert Carter will be a bit of a project, but is worth the risk at this point. He has the measurables (7'3" wingspan) to be an excellent defender and already has an NBA range 3-pointer. If he is given the time to develop, I can see him becoming a Paul Milsap lite type of player.
With the PF position taken care of in the trade with Chicago, the Pistons can focus all of their attention on the backup PG position. The idea player for this role would be Jeremy Lin, but I cannot see him turing down a starting role and more money to come to the Pistons. He is probably too expensive for us at this point, and the only way I see him taking a discount is to stick with the Hornets.
With Lin out of the picture, we go to the my second option in Ish Smith, who played for the Pelicans and 76ers last season. He showed he can play very well in the pick and roll with an offensively limited player in Nerlens Noel (Andre Drummond is much ahead of him as far as offensive skills go), and shoots the three at a league average (33%) to at least keep the defense honest. Looking at some of the backup PG signings from last season, and accounting for the jump in cap, I can see Smith getting a contract at around 7-8 mil a year, something similar to what Cory Joseph got from the Raptors last season. I value CoJo a bit higher than Smith, so we will say his contract will be right around 4-years for 29 million (7.25 mil a season).
Following the Ish Smith signing, Andre will be given a max contract, locking him in as the face of the Pistons for years to come.
PG: Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Gary Payton II
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson, Tony Snell, Darrun Hilliard
SF: Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock
PF: Taj Gibson, Tobias Harris, Robert Carter
C: Andre Drummond, Aron Baynes, Joel Anthony
Just a few closing remarks.
I would have loved if somehow we got both Lin and Horford, but I do not see a way to get either due to salary reasons.
I have Taj starting the season as the starting PF, in order to have Tobias be the primary scorer of the second unit and feast off the lesser defenders. Having Taj also gives us the option to go small if/when hack-a-drum happens, but if Andre works on his free throws over the offseason, the closing line up will be Reggie, KCP, Marcus, Tobias, and Andre.
Depending on how Stanley progresses over the offseason, he could slide into the starting SF role, giving us a lineup with two defensive stoppers in him and KCP. This would obviously be dependent on if he can be more consistent at the 3-pt line and make strides as an overall basketball player. It may just be wishful thinking, and more of a goal for him two seasons down the road.
One more trade I could see Stan pulling off is for Devin Harris from the Mavs. This is dependent on how the backup PG position looks, and would be similar to the swap of a second rounder last year for Steve Blake. It would give us one more season to develop or find a quality backup PG.
That is all, Go Pistons and let's all hope for an even better season next year.
Feel free to comment and let me know what you think!