While the NBA Draft is an exciting time for Pistons fans, it was likely quite stressful for former second-round pick Saben Lee. Today, it was reported the Pistons offered Lee a qualifying offer, but leading up to the draft the prospects of that looked to be in doubt.
The Detroit Pistons drafted Lee in the second round and offered him a two-way contract. The deal gave Lee a decent salary while not requiring him to be on Detroit’s full 15-man roster.
Lee showed quite a bit his rookie year, even holding his own in a few starts later in the season. But before the NBA draft, the Pistons had three pending restricted free agents — Frank Jackson, Hamidou Diallo and Lee — and they only gave qualifying offers to Jackson and Diallo.
A qualifying offer is a set salary you are willing to pay a player and is essentially a team taking dibs on a player as they enter restricted free agency. Any of those three players could come to terms on a contract with another team, and the Pistons would have the right to match it or let him go to a new team.
This is a bit of speculation, but it seems like the only reason the Pistons wouldn’t have already given an offer to Lee is that they were thinking either via trade or a draft pick, someone might have squeezed Lee off the roster altogether.
The draft has come and gone, and the Pistons drafted two wings (Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Livers) and two centers (Luka Garza and Balsa Koprivica). No point guards and so Lee seems safe.
The Pistons now are able to come to terms with Lee outright or match any offer he receives from another team on a full NBA salary and a guaranteed roster spot. Breathe a little easier now, Saben.
Elsewhere, the Pistons came to terms with two undrafted free agents. The Pistons offered a two-way contract (like the one Lee signed last year) to UCLA guard Chris Smith, who is an intriguing prospect whose career got derailed by a torn ACL.
In 2020, Smith was a borderline first-round pick, but he decided to return to UCLA to improve his draft stock. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL just eight games into his junior season.
He’s a springy (pre-injury), 6-foot-9 guard who averaged 12.6 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 50% from 3 in his limited eight-game junior season. The 3-ball is something he had worked to develop every year of his college career, and the Pistons will give him a shot to see if it can develop into a dangerous part of his arsenal. He isn’t expected to be healthy enough to play in Summer League, but there is no indication about availability for training camp.
The Pistons also added University of Toledo sharpshooter Spencer Littleson to their Summer League roster. While he’s more likely to see success oversees, Littleson shot 47.5% from 3 and led the NCAA in 3-point makes last season. He’s also a quality defender.
Another person likely on Detroit’s Summer League is Coppin State’s Anthony Tarke. He’s a bulldog of a defender who averaged 2.6 steals and 1.9 blocks for Coppin State as a 6-foot-6 forward.
While there is no indication who from last year’s draft class will be in or out of the Summer League team, it could be absolutely stacked for the Pistons. Not only will it feature No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham and the rest of this year’s draft picks, but also last year’s crop of Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee. Isaiah Stewart could also play, but he’s recovering from an ankle sprain sustained while on the USA Select Team.
Summer League begins Aug. 8 in Las Vegas.