Basketball fans are about to see something they've never witnessed before in the NBA. No, I'm not talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers finally winning a championship or the absolutely absurd amount of money that is about to be tossed out to free agents in approximately 12 hours. The NBA is about to become an honest to goodness meritocracy.
Dozens and dozens of free agents are about to hit the market and just about every team in the NBA has the ability to sign any player they want.
Want to sign Kevin Durant? Of course you do, but the line starts around the corner.
With so many suitors, such a shallow pool of free agents and an exploding cap that opens up near max money for the large majority of the teams in the NBA, it now becomes about making your best pitch. You're only constrained by the quality of your organization (and maybe the allure of your city).
All the players are going to get seriously paid. Jeremy Lin, Marvin Williams, Matthew Dellavedova. Even guys like Tyler Johnson and Ian Mahinmi are about to get salaries that are going to make your eyes bulge out of your head. These players are going to command the money they want, the role they want, the minutes they want. Everything. They. Want.
That is why the rumors of the Detroit Pistons being interested in Al Horford should not be dismissed. But it's also why fans should not get their hopes up too high.
All the teams seriously interested in Horford are going to offer him a max contract. So if money isn't a factor then what is left? It will be all about situation, fit and the path to a championship.
Does Detroit have the best case in that regard on that list? Maybe not, but it's certainly not the worst.
Detroit can offer the bulk of minutes at Horford's preferred power forward spot, a well-regarded coach in Stan Van Gundy, a less crowded path to the conference finals, organizational stability, a deep-pocketed owner and a young core on the rise.
It's a hell of a pitch combined with $107 million that still might not be enough.
Sadly, Detroit could make the same pitch to any number of free agents and still strike out. Players will get their say and there will be no settling this year. Lin could make north of $18 million per year. Ryan Anderson could go from making about $40 million during his eight-year career to making that much in the next two seasons.
And it won't be because "it only takes one team" to overpay a guy. Everyone will be throwing around money like it's on fire. Teams want to get better and have nothing better to do with it. There are few rewards for patience this offseason.
Whether it's monstrous one-year deals north of $25 million per year to marginal starters or four-year deals worth an average of $15 million per season (also known as what Jimmy Butler got paid last season), the money will make little sense to the average fan.
But it all makes perfect sense, really. This is what happens when your team doubles its income from a new TV rights deal. And, really, fans should be happy Dellavedova is about to get more than $10 million per season to play basketball. It was either that or Comic Sans fan, Flint native, Detroit revitalizer and owner of a predatory lending business Dan Gilbert pocketed an extra $25 million.
It's also another reason that a team like the Pistons should be swinging for the fences. In an economic marketplace where Horford and Anderson make roughly equivalent annual salaries, don't you want to go for the player who is about 75 percent better at the game of basketball?
Stan Van Gundy's arrival in Detroit brought some logic back to the free agency process. His young, unproven team would forgo trying to lure stars and instead strike quickly securing mid-tier players (Jodie Meeks, Aron Baynes) and use the eagerness of those wanting to play in the free agent waters to extra talent in exchange for cap space in trades (Ersan Ilyasova and Marcus Morris).
Now, Van Gundy is the one trading players for cap space (Meeks) and trying to talk to a star free agent. Does that mean SVG has lost his mind and channeled his inner Joe Dumars?
Don't worry, Van Gundy's not going to be taking the two-cellphones-at-once approach to free agency. It's just an acknowledgment that this free agency won't be operating using the standard playbook. Too many teams have too much money for not enough free agents.
Make your pitch to your star and hope you make the best case. Because the fallback options are not extremely appealing.
Assuming the Pistons do not land Horford, I don't expect them to go to the next player on their talent list (Williams, Anderson, etc.). It probably means they took their one big swing and will have to settle for the bargain bin players. And by bargain bin players, I mean those who will "only" command $7 million per season.
Who those players might be I have no idea. But Van Gundy and the Pistons are playing this smart. Even if the entire situation is illogical, unprecedented and about to get batshit crazy.
The stroke of midnight is coming soon ...