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NBA Draft: The cap and trade implications of the Mason Plumlee trade

Could the Pistons use their new-found cap space on a pick or will they focus on free agency?

Chicago Bulls v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

If you could describe Mason Plumlee’s Detroit Pistons career in one word it would be serviceable. He was a completely competent player who didn’t wow, but also didn’t make many mistakes. Important features on a team that was one of the youngest in the league and wanted to focus on playing and developing a bunch of rookies.

Now, Plumlee has served his purpose, and he is now gone. Signing Plumlee for three years at $25 million was an overpay, and trading a decently high second-round pick just to get rid of him is a heavy cost to bear. But it opens up a lot of opportunities for the Pistons that are worth thinking about.

First, it opens up a starting spot and plenty of playing time for Isaiah Stewart, who really impressed his rookie year and looks ready to take on a much larger role. Second, the Pistons could get roughly $18 million under the salary cap by cutting bait on Cory Joseph and renouncing their free agents other than Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson and Saben Lee.

If they could somehow find a taker for one or both of Josh Jackson and/or Jahlil Okafor, they could get between $3 million and $8 million of additional cap space.

This provides the Pistons an opportunity to trade back into the first round (currently at the 21st pick as I type this) by taking on another team’s bad contract. Alternatively, they could already have plans for free agency.

Last year, it was no secret that the Pistons were targeting Okafor, Grant and Plumlee even before free agency began. There have been no names associated with the Pistons as of yet as everyone has been laser-focused on the NBA Draft, but they could already be ready to offer one or more players a major contract.

What kind of player would they add? That’s a good question. Assuming they are good with Stewart as a starting center and Jerami Grant is obviously locked in at power forward. Cade Cunningham could play either wing spot, and Saddiq Bey would play the other. That leaves Killian Hayes, who was anointed the starting point guard as soon as he was drafted 7th overall last season.

Hayes famously struggled last season. Cade could take a lot of ball handling pressure off of him, but are the Pistons ready to give Hayes a spot in the starting lineup again? If not, then there are point guard or point guard adjacent players available like Spencer Dinwiddie and Lonzo Ball.