One of the largest questions entering the offseason for the Detroit Pistons, and the one most repeated by anxious fans, is how much emerging big man Christian Wood is going to command in free agency.
Picked up from the scrap heap the previous offseason and entering camp fighting with Joe Johnson for the final roster spot, Wood has emerged as an offensive force. Because he only spent one season with the Pistons, Wood enters unrestricted free agency seemingly with a league full of suitors but very few teams who can offer him the bag.
While some presume the Pistons would be able to retain him for roughly the mid-level exception (around $10 million), I have argued that he’ll be even more expensive to retain — even up to $15 million per season. Others argue that he might even command more than that. Not bad for someone with just over 1,800 minutes under his belt.
But I’m certainly no expert. Luckily, former GM and current ESPN analyst Bobby Marks is, and he surveyed people around the league while compiling an expected salary range for every potential NBA free agent entering the offseason, including Wood.
Marks projects Wood to command $10 million - $12 million, which is the top range for centers entering unrestricted free agency along with Serge Ibaka and Monrezl Harrell. That essentially means that Wood could go to just about any contending team for the MLE provided he’s willing to shave a couple million off his annual salary. Or he could get slightly more from one of the few teams with significant money this offseason. Incidentally, Marks also writes that Wood is the third-best free agent on the market behind only Anthony Davis (definitely going to the Lakers) and Fred Van Vleet (almost definitely not coming to Detroit).
It’s important to note just how different this free agent landscape is compared to years prior, and that is even before accounting for any potential financial changes brought on by the economic downturn in our COVID reality. In 2019, Marks writes, $1.1 billion was spent in free agency. This year, however, only $450 million is expected to be spent, which depresses the market for everyone, Wood included.
Of course, it only takes one and if the Knicks want to throw the Brinks truck at Wood they are within their right. The Pistons might have to be aggressive even beyond that projected $10-$12 million to get Wood’s signature on the dotted line. But it’s a great baseline to start from.
What about other Pistons?
Interestingly, Svi Mykhailiuk is projected in the $6-$8 million range should he enter free agency, and is the fifth-ranked small forward on the list. Svi will return to the Pistons via an extremely team-friendly $1.6 million option, but he’s already showing he’ll be an expensive free agent to retain a year from now when he enters restricted free agency.
The flip side of that is Tony Snell, who sits in the $2-$4 million range but will exercise his player option that will pay him $12 million in the final year of his deal. Langston Galloway is expected to fall in the $4-$6 million range along with John Henson, and for those wondering how likely Detroit is to extend a qualifying offer to Thon Maker, I’d put it at not likely.
He’s projected to be a minimum salary rotation player along with Brandon Knight and Jordan McRae.
What about former Pistons?
Andre Drummond has an option for $28 million he will assuredly pick up. But if he didn’t? Marks predicts Drummond would fetch $20-$22 million per season. Color me skeptical. That seems about $6-$8 million higher than I would expect.
Former beleaguered starting point guard Reggie Jackson projects to command $4-$6 million per year, the same as DJ Augustin, one of my preferred point guard targets this offseason.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope looks ready to cash in again, hopefully on a multi-year deal, to the tune of $12-$14 million. Avery Bradley has a player option for $5 million or he could command roughly the same for multiple years, per Marks.
The Morris twins are looking for a decent pay bump. Marcus is expected to fetch $10-$12 million per year while Markieff is expected to get a boost from his vet min deal and get $4-$6 million. Glenn Robinson projects at $2-$4 million.
What about potential Pistons targets?
There are some names peppered throughout this list that intrigues me, especially as the team has $30 million in cap room and plenty of holes to fill on its roster. I already mentioned Augustin as a vet stop gap but I’m also mildly intrigued by Kris Dunn as a defense-first point guard who has a tiny chance of putting enough together to be a passable starter. He’s projected to make $6-$8 million as a restricted free agent.
Derrick Jones Jr is a named associated with the Pistons, and he’s expected to cost only $4-$6 million, which is much more palatable than the $12-$14 million anticipated to come Jerami Grant’s way.
Harry Giles is also slotted into that $4-$6 million range, but Detroit might have to pay a bad team tax if it wants to sway any of these players from a playoff team.