NBA free agency begins in just under 24 hours — June 30 at 6 p.m. NBA teams are flush with cash to an alarming degree, and the Detroit Pistons are on the outside looking in. There are way more teams with the space to sign a max contract players than there are max contract worthy players. The last time that happened was 2016 and teams did not just sit on their money, instead they invested it in exorbitant salaries for middle-of-the-road players.
That is all a lot of throat clearing to get to this fundamental point — the Detroit Pistons might not be broke, but they are close to it. The team has the mid-level exception to offer $9.2 million and the bi-annual exception $3.6 million. and can add players on veteran minimum contracts $1.6 million, and if they are vested veterans, they can be given a slightly higher salary and still only count against the cap at that $1.6 million number. The team sits about $14 million below the luxury tax line so if they use their exceptions and sign a vet or two, they are already at their ceiling.
At the conclusion of Detroit’s four-game sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, the Pistons were ... not a deep team. Rotation mainstays Ish Smith and Wayne Ellington are free agents and team had serious holes at backup point guard, starting small forward, backup small forward, backup power forward and backup center.
The team was able to shore up the small forward position somewhat with the trade for Tony Snell and drafting of Sekou Doumbouya, but Sekou is only 18 and can’t be counted on to play a major role. Detroit also drafted Jordan Bone to a two-way contract as a developmental point guard.
So the team still has a big need at backup point guard, backup center and backup power forward.
Assuming the Pistons don’t want to dip into the luxury tax (a safe assumption) and that NBA teams are not going to become bargain shoppers the minute they strike out on Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Al Horford, we can then safely assume just about any big name is out of Detroit’s price range. And that includes players like Jeremy Lamb, Seth Curry and Derrick Rose.
That’s right, Jeremy Lamb is too huge a name to be a realistic option, Pistons fans. Marinate on that for a minute and adjust your expectations accordingly.
OK, ready? This doesn’t mean there aren’t good free agent targets or that the Pistons are relegated to shop in the clearance aisle.
- Tomas Satoransky
- George Hill
- Nando De Colo
- Corey Joseph
- Quinn Cook
- Derrick Rose (bonus)
Satoransky is an unlikely option as he is young and a restricted free agent who is tall (6-foot-7), can distribute and hit the 3. The Washington Wizards are a franchise in flux, to say the least, so maybe they let Satoransky get away
De Colo is also a restricted free agent with rights owned by the champion Toronto Raptors, but he has spent the past five years overseas after washing out of the NBA as a young player. De Colo is also tall (6-foot-5) and hit 45 percent of his 3s overseas.
Joseph is a quality defender and has a history with Dwane Casey from their time together in Toronto. Certainly the less desirable of the two free agent point guards from Indiana but definitely the most realistic.
Cook is also a restricted free agent but he is extremely gettable as the Warriors look to have a roster that costs roughly eleventy trillion dollars. So it might not take much of an offer for Cook to get an offer the Warriors aren’t willing to match. he is also a 40 percent 3-point shooter but doesn’t offer much else.
Rose, meanwhile, would be a tough pill for me to swallow, even as the team is reportedly the “front-runner” to sign him. My head tells me there is a lot about it that makes sense, but my heart won’t let go of all the ways it’s disliked Rose’s game for years. But last year, Rose could shoot. And score. And pass. He makes sense as an option, but he’d take the entire MLE, and the players above him could be had for as much or less and deliver nearly as much as a best-case scenario Rose.
- Reggie Bullock
- Garrett Temple
- Austin Rivers
- Wayne Ellington
- Vince Carter
With Luke Kennard and a bunch of developmental players on the roster, shooting guard is Detroit’s deepest current position. Still, the Pistons could always use more reliable shooting and former Pistons Bullock and Ellington fit that bill. Bullock would be a great addition, but the Lakers might be forced to bring him back at all costs after gutting their roster. Ellington, meanwhile, likely wouldn’t take the veteran minimum and doesn’t have the size or skill to play other positions. Garrett Temple could play either spot on the wing and is a capable effective player on both sides of the ball. Rivers can defend and serve as a pseudo ball handler while Carter is a veteran who is just easy to root for.
- Danuel House
- Jared Dudley
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
- Luc Mbah a Moute
- Thabo Sefolosha
A lot of these selections are small forwards who are on the larger end and can shift to power forward relatively easily. The need for a small forward is greatly diminished with the trade for Tony Snell, who should be a very serveicable stopgap starter, and the drafting of Sekou Doumbouya, who might earn minutes as a backup before the season is out. If the Pistons are concerned they could chase House, a high investment but a player that might also improve. Or they could go for the veteran all-around savy of Dudley.
Dudley’s former Brooklyn teammate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a multi-positional defender who has never really been able to put it all together. Mbah a Moute and Sefolosha are defensive specialist and depth options, though Thabo can sometimes have a hot season from 3.
- Anthony Tolliver
- Jared Dudley
- Mike Muscala
- Taj Gibson
- Al-Farouq Aminu
Power forward depth on the Pistons was terrible and then the team traded away Jon Leuer. Fortunately, the Pistons have Blake Griffin to soak up as many minutes as possible, unfortunately, the team should not put itself in a position where he’s needed to hold down the spot for more than 32-34 minutes a night.
Re-entering the Tolliverse makes all the sense in the world, and unlike last offseason, the Pistons will have the cash to pay him his going right. A solid BAE contender. Dudley would be a nice consolation prize as a really smart defender who can hit the 3. Muscala is nothing special but he can space the floor even as he is on the obvious downswing of his career. Gibson and Aminu are both tough-nosed veterans who could help in the locker room and on the defensive side of the floor.
- Kyle O’Quinn
- Luke Kornet
- Robin Lopez
- Thomas Bryant
- Noah Vonleh
The Pistons are obviously in the market for a backup center, but lack of minutes means they are prime to select a minimum salary player. O’Quinn might be a steal if he can be had for a minimum-level contract. He was lost on a team rich in centers in Indiana, but he’s always been good anywhere he’s played. Kornet is a developmental pick who is big, young, and can hit an outside shot.
Thomas Bryant is a restricted free agent that the Wizards would probably match, but if they wanted to invest some serious money in the position, he might be a wise play. Vonleh is young enough to maybe get better and he would be bouncy enough and quick enough to probably play dividens in a limited role.