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Playing “Guess Who” with free agent wings for the Pistons

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Detroit needs a starting-caliber small forward. Let’s narrow down some possibilities.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone on Detroit Bad Boys has talked about the team’s need to add another shot creator on the wing being a big priority this offseason. The criteria for what the Pistons need seem simple: A guy who gets to the paint, draws fouls, and hits some (SOME) threes.

That doesn’t seem like much to ask for - that’s not even THINKING about a quality defender to cut the music to the conga line - but surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly, given that the Pistons have been searching for this guy on the wing since...Corey Magette’s corpse?) it’s hard to find that player, given that the biggest carrot the Detroit Pistons have to offer is the full mid-level exception (~$9 million and change).

So, let’s cast the widest possible net, and narrow it down from there. Here is every single wing free agent available this offseason:

ATLANTA HAWKS

BOSTON CELTICS

BROOKLYN NETS

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

CHICAGO BULLS

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

DALLAS MAVERICKS

DENVER NUGGETS

DETROIT PISTONS

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

HOUSTON ROCKETS

INDIANA PACERS

LA CLIPPERS

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

MIAMI HEAT

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

NEW YORK KNICKS

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

ORLANDO MAGIC

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

PHOENIX SUNS

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

SACRAMENTO KINGS

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

TORONTO RAPTORS

UTAH JAZZ

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

That’s ... too many names. Ok, let’s start the Guess Who and flip some of these names down: Who can help the Pistons in the short term right away (is over the age of 25), played at least 1000 minutes last season, and has a free throw rate (Free Throw attempts per field goal attempt) over 20 percent?

I understand if you think using FTR as a shortcut for shot creation isn’t quite right, but it makes sense to me - NBA players (mostly) don’t foul on jump shots, they foul when guys are being aggressive and dictating actions to a defense. Free throw rate is something I’ve harped on in the past - Steve Hinson’s thing has always been this team has a bad True Shooting percentage, and my thing has always been this team has a bad free throw rate.

Also, a 20 percent FTR is not that high. For comparison, Reggie Jackson had a free throw rate of 22.5 percent this year and averaged “only” 2.9 FTA/g. Another Reggie Jackson-level shot creator on the wing would be great for the Pistons, given that that guy doesn’t hold the ball like a wing version of Reggie Jackson.

So, that criteria narrows it down a bunch. Now, we’ve got the following free agents:

  • Kent Bazemore
  • Marcus Morris
  • DeMarre Carrol
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrest
  • Jeremy Lamb
  • Kevin Durant
  • Bojan Bogdanovic
  • Tyreke Evans
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • Malcolm Brogdon
  • Khris Middleton
  • J.J. Redick
  • Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • James Ennis
  • Garrett Temple
  • Trevor Ariza
  • Wesley Matthews
  • Rodney Hood
  • Tyler Johnson
  • Alec Burks
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Tobias Harris
  • Jeff Green

That’s a MUCH more manageable list.

Now, I want to point out a couple guys, not on this list, who we at DBB have targeted that perhaps we shouldn’t: Terrence Ross, Kelly Oubre Jr., Rudy Gay, and Reggie Bullock. Ross, Gay, and Bullock all had sub-20 percent free throw rates, and Oubre Jr. isn’t 25 years old (he’s 23). Oubre Jr. qualifies by the numerical criteria, so you can add him in if you’d like, but he’s getting eliminated later.

Ross and Bullock are more three-point/midrange shooters than rim attackers, and that’s reflected in their free throw rate. We’ve seen what Reggie Bullock can do in Detroit, and he’d be a fine addition, but just like when he was here, the team would still need more shot creation if he were to return. Ross is maybe a more versatile shot-taker than Bullock, but he’s never hit 20 percent FTR in his career, so he’s not on the list. And Rudy Gay posted the first sub-20 percent FTR of his career, which is not a great sign for his long-term prospects. Maybe he could make an impact in Detroit for a year, but I wouldn’t count on him to fix the current hole at small forward beyond that.

So now, with our much smaller list of targets, we go deeper. Eliminate everyone who is a restricted free agent (no guarantee their team won’t match the full MLE), everyone with a player option greater than the MLE (probably not opting out of more money to sign in Detroit), and everyone who we all can agree is going to get more than the full MLE (hi, Kevin Durant. Bye, Kevin Durant).

That leaves us with the following names:

  • Marcus Morris
  • DeMarre Carroll
  • Jeremy Lamb
  • Tyreke Evans
  • Wesley Matthews
  • Garrett Temple
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • J.J. Redick
  • James Ennis
  • Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Rodney Hood
  • Alec Burks
  • Trevor Ariza
  • Jeff Green

Ok, now, I’m gonna flip your Guess-Who card face-down if you’re listed at 6’5 or shorter. Not because you’re bad, but because the Pistons have enough 6’5 guys already - Detroit needs size from their shot creator.

  • Marcus Morris
  • DeMarre Carroll
  • Tyreke Evans
  • Garrett Temple
  • James Ennis
  • Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Rodney Hood
  • Alec Burks
  • Trevor Ariza
  • Jeff Green

Let’s add in the shooting element: I’m flipping your card down if you shot worse than 35 percent from three this past season.

  • Marcus Morris (37.5 three-point percent)
  • Tyreke Evans (35.6)
  • James Ennis (35.3)
  • Rodney Hood (35.6)
  • Alec Burks (36.3)

Ok, five guys is enough to where we can quit narrowing down the list. These are not the five names I expected to be left with - I’m a little stunned that Garrett Temple didn’t shoot 35 percent from three this season and that Alec Burks is still here, somehow. Of the five guys that are left, I would say Morris and Evans are the clear top picks, Hood would be an interesting consolation prize, and Burks and Ennis would be unspectacular additions.

Two things stand out to me during this exercise: The list of wing options is pretty slim pickings this offseason, and I’m now genuinely compelled to contemplate “Jeff Green, Detroit Piston” for more than picoseconds.

Is my free throw rate criteria the correct place to start on the wing? Which guy isn’t listed here that you thought would be? Which one of the final five should the Pistons spend some (or all) of their MLE on? Let me know in the comments.

Poll

Which one of these wings should the Pistons spend their MLE on?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Marcus Morris
    (483 votes)
  • 34%
    Tyreke Evans
    (372 votes)
  • 2%
    James Ennis
    (26 votes)
  • 14%
    Rodney Hood
    (156 votes)
  • 3%
    Alec Burks
    (38 votes)
1075 votes total Vote Now