Assuming the draft of Jalen Duren takes the Detroit Pistons out of the running for DeAndre Ayton, it is time to turn our attention to other free agents the team could sign. I know they still are linked to Miles Bridges, but with the way Troy Weaver has used free agency so far, this doesn’t seem to line up. Every offseason since he has been running the Detroit Pistons, Weaver has spent money on solid vets who fill team needs. From the go-to veteran scoring of Jerami Grant, to the stretch-5 abilities of Kelly Olynyk, Troy Weaver has given out his biggest contracts to guys that are solid at worst. And these “big” contracts have also been labeled “above market value” only to turn “below market value” by the All-Star break.
I expect Weaver to do this same this offseason as this market is not filled with big names, restricted free agents notwithstanding, and there are quite a few guys they can pay these above current market deals that won’t potentially haunt them down the line the way a Miles Bridges max deal could.
I am going to break these free agents up into three tiers: 1) Don’t Break the Bank being guys who will most likely sign contracts worth $5 million per season or below; 2)Mid-Level Money are guys who will most likely sign for somewhere just north of $5 million all the way up to $12 million per season; and last but certainly not least, 3) Instant Starters are guys who if signed would immediately require the team to start because of their skills and, in most cases, what the Pistons will have to pay them.
The roster as of now:
- Cade Cunningham
- Saddiq Bey
- Jaden Ivey
- Isaiah Stewart
- Jalen Duren
- Killian Hayes
- Hamidou Diallo
- Kelly Olynyk
- Cory Joseph
- Saben Lee
- Isaiah Livers
And in case any of you were wondering, Marvin Bagley III might be on the outside looking in after taking Duren, Luka Garza was only signed for one year, and Carsen Edwards has a team option I have ZERO idea if the team will pick up, so for the purposes of this exercise, I am not including them. That is 11 guys and an NBA roster is capped off at 15, so we are looking for four more guys.
Like many of you have said, shooting is the biggest hole in this roster and especially after picking up Ivey and Duren in the draft this team NEEDS more guys who can give the young guns more room to operate. So with that in mind, I did look for players who are good floor-spacers with a few exceptions.
Most on the list are going to be wing players as well because I do not think the team wants to add another player who is restricted to a guard spot or who only plays the center spot because of Ivey and Duren with incumbents Joseph, Hayes and Stewart. Both rookies will and SHOULD get every opportunity to play in year one. There will be a few exceptions here and there with this as well, but with a loaded guard rotation of Cade, Ivey, Killian, Cory Joseph, and Saben Lee and a clear three man big man unit of Beef Stew, Duren, and Olynyk if the Pistons added another guy at each spot they would have to be exceptional at something the team is currently missing.
Let’s get started.
Don’t Break the Bank
The Pistons are certainly familiar with what the ultra-efficient Snell can do as he played for the franchise during the 2019-20 season. A career 39.4% shooter from three and a career 84.6% from the free-throw line, Snell does not miss many shots. He actually has not missed a free throw since the 2018-19 season (although he’s only taken 51 in that time). Snell also provides solid defense and at 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds, he is welcome in any rotation as far as I’m concerned.
The former seventh overall pick in the 2013 Draft may not have lived up to his draft position, but he has carved out a good career for himself as a floor spacer and scorer. Shooting 36.3% from three across his nine years in the Association seems average, but looking at his three-point attempt rate since the 2019-20 season you will see McLemore has leveled up as a shooter. Averaging a 79.3% three-point attempt rate while shooting 37.3% from downtown these past three seasons, McLemore is as LEGIT of a shooter as they come. His defense is just okay and at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds he is not the biggest guy, but he might just be the best shooter on the open market.
Sparty fans rejoice! Similar to McLemore, Forbes is a fantastic shooter posting 41.3% from long range for his six-year career. His 3-point attempt rate is lower than McLemore’s as his 56.4% career average tells the story. He also has been limited by being point guard size at 6-foot-2 without point guard skills as he has never once posting an assist percentage over 11.7%. But, that should tell you how fantastic of a shooter he really is that teams want him around. Forbes is what we had hoped Frank Jackson could turn into, so why not just outright sign him instead even if he is a little more limited position-wise than someone like McLemore?
Derrick Jones Jr.
Seeing that the draft brought in great athletes in Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, why not continue that trend in free agency with the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner? At 6-foot-5 and weighing 210 pounds, Jones Jr. offers wing size with power forward power coated in explosiveness. He’s one of the few guys on the list who most likely will not provide spacing with his 29.8% from three for his career. He has seen his three-point percentages increase the past two seasons and his free throw percentage was 80.0% last season. At just 25 years old, it is not unrealistic to think he could be an average shooter in the right system. Couple that with his athleticism and that is a great package…but he might also just be a lesser version of Hamidou Diallo so if you don’t buy the shot then I could see the argument signing him is redundant.
I tried to find one player off of last season’s Motor City Cruise roster that could get the full time call-up and I think the 6-foot-5, 190-pound Stanley fits the bill. While I considered Jamorko Pickett due to his 6-foot-9 frame, I think Stanley is better due to his actual NBA game experience, age, and athleticism. Stanley is just 22 years old and has played in 33 NBA games. His jump shot has been his biggest area in need of improvement and last season across 24 games with the Cruise, he took 120 three-point attempts and shot 38.3% so he did show improvement. Deividas Sirvydis was actually drafted by the Pistons so that may get him the nod, but he is the same 22 years of age, and I give the nod to Stanley because he can do this:
A pure shooter, Thomas has shown he will knock down threes every time he is given the opportunity in an NBA game. Shooting 40.4% from three in his three years in the NBA, Thomas is only in need of a full-time opportunity to come off someone’s bench as a rainmaker. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 190 pounds is not helping him, however, and he is far and away the worst defender on this list. If the Pistons did want an ultra-cheap option for a shooting specialist only, then Thomas is tough to beat.
At 6-foot-9 and weighing in at 215 pounds, Watanabe brings great size along with underrated shot blocking ability and an improving jump shot. Finally catching on in Toronto the past two years, he has shot 37.3% from three as a part of their regular rotation. He’s also a good defender with shot-blocking instincts that use his size and length to their utmost. He would be a fantastic Swiss-army knife to add to Detroit’s rotation, but he does fit GM Masai Ujiri’s ideal in terms of size and game so they might just offer him more than a deal at five million annually just to keep him. Toronto prioritizes its own guys and although Watanabe is further down the pecking order, they like him and he is a perfect fit there.
A fantastic point-of-attack defender and three-point shooter, Carter was a late-season addition to the Bucks this past season where he caught fire the minute he arrived and shot 55.8% from three in the 20 games he played for Milwaukee. And his three-point shooting is incredibly underrated as he has shot 38.3% for his four-year career thus far. Carter would be awesome to see in the second unit with a three-headed monster of Carter, Killian, and Hamidou perfectly complementing each other’s skills. The problem is, I think he found a perfect fit in a Milwaukee team that NEEDS his shooting and defense as George Hill will turn 37 this upcoming season. With the Bucks having their big 3 locked in and not prioritizing free agency, Carter will be one of their top priorities so tough to know what kind of offer would pry him loose.
Restricted free agents are hard to pry away from their incumbent team, but Cody and his twin-brother Caleb (who is the next entrant) are in an end of the line scenario that I think offering each Mid-Level Money could be too much for Charlotte and Miami to match. While Miami might just match an offer for Caleb and pay the luxury tax trying to keep their team intact since they were so close to a Finals appearance, I highly doubt Charlotte will even be paying much attention to Cody.
For starters, the Hornets have to deal with what to do about Miles Bridges first and foremost. Even if they don’t just max him, they will be negotiating sign-and-trades so they don’t just outright lose Bridges for nothing. James Bouknight also waits in the wings at shooting guard where Cody plays mostly and is a major priority over Cody. Then factor in LaMelo, Terry Rozier, and Kelly Oubre still getting major minutes there and Cody is the odd man out.
Why he might be worth tossing something like eight million per year at is that he can shoot the three, is a good playmaker, and is only 26. Cody’s 38.4% from three this past season is a career high as is his 37.6% three-point attempt rate so it is a good sign both his percentages and attempts went up. He has also been a solid playmaker dishing out 179 assist to just 61 turnovers. In a market devoid of great wing depth, Cody Martin is a worthy investment in this tier as someone who provides a lot of positive value to the Pistons rotation.
Like I said, Miami is going to be more willing to pay the luxury tax…but would they do it for Caleb Martin? Highly unlikely. And yes, if they had to match a mid-level contract they would have to pay the luxury tax as they are just $ 1,083,539 under the luxury tax threshold. And I am sure the Heat are also going to start off free agency feeling out if there are any big names that want to come to South Beach. To put it bluntly, I doubt they view Caleb Martin as integral to getting them into the Finals.
Caleb shot it better from deep than his brother last season, but he is not the same level of playmaker. Not only did Caleb shoot it on a better percentage at 41.3%, but he also had slightly better volume as he posted a 37.8% three-point attempt rate. His assists were less with just a 7.0% assist rate—and Caleb has yet to post an assist rater over 11.5% in the NBA so his playmaking is noticeably less. But as both he and his brother share identical measurables of 6-foot-5 and weighing 205 pounds, Caleb also offers good size on the wings for Detroit.
Getting lost in the shuffle after Brooklyn paid him $25 million for two years and then getting banished to Cleveland, Prince has quietly been a good three-point shooter from the forward spots. A career 37.1% from distance, over half of Prince’s shots come from downtown as he posts a 51.0% three-point attempt rate for his career. At 6-foot-7 and 218 pounds, Prince would also add good size and length to the Pistons alongside Saddiq. He is also a solid defender who will stay home and not do stupid things on defense.
He is a tough one to gauge both in terms of what to pay him and what his incumbent team will do with him. The Timberwolves might just be in a feel-good state with this team that fought its way into the playoffs and throw the mid-level exception at Prince to keep him. But, he also was their 9th man last year in terms of minutes—which is right on the edge of being a bench player. I definitely would give his representation a call to see what the deal is regardless. But if I am being honest, I would put Otto Porter and Gary Harris (and the next guy on the list) over him just because these guys have all done it as a starter for longer than Prince.
Gary Payton II
Someone who is right on the edge of mid-level money and instant starter, GP2 would continue the trend of adding athleticism to the team while also giving them a MAJOR upgrade on defense. It is really tough to know what Golden State is going to do to keep their repeat hopes in tact, but my gut says everything starts with what to do about Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins. While neither guy is a free agent this offseason, both are entering the final year of their contracts and the team will be either working an extension or working out a trade.
But, of the guys outside of Steph, Klay, and Draymond I do feel like GP2 is the most important because of how great of a defender he is on opposing guards. He made is presence felt most in the playoffs where he hounded the opposition’s point guards at the point of attack and made life so much easier on the perimeter for his teammates on defense. A good athlete that puts down some impact dunks and a much improved jump shot, GP2 has made it publicly known that he feels like he has found his home in Golden State.
What he hasn’t found ever in the NBA is money, however, which is the big reason a team like the Pistons might be able to pry him away. This past season saw GP2 earn his biggest contract at $1,939,350. This is a man in severe need of a contract of at least $10,000,000 per season. That may seem like a lot of money for someone who is just starting to catch on at age 29, but he does everything the team could want out of its guards. GP2 shot 35.8% from three, shot 76.7% on shots at the rim, all while being one of the best point of attack defenders in the NBA.
This one is less likely, however, as it does require the Pistons to move on from Cory Joseph and push Saben Lee out of the way. Jaden Ivey, also, needs to start right away so scratch GP2 from being able to start alongside Cade (although I think GP2 would pair perfectly with him). The scenario of moving on from Joseph and Lee, however, is also not impossible to see as the team is not handcuffed or deeply invested in either. Gary Payton II would also continue the theme of this offseason of getting more athletic and be a huge upgrade from Cory Joseph in my opinion.
The team COULD roll out there with GP2, Ivey, and Cade also. And I want Ivey and GP2 to be doing this every game:
I begrudgingly put Harris on this list. Not because I don’t like him, but because I have seen countless Piston fans talk about signing him this offseason so I would no longer call him underrated to us in Pistons fandom—and in Michigan basketball fandom too! But, to the general NBA fan, Harris is definitely a player who is overlooked.
While Harris got injured in Denver and never quite regained his form, this past season in Orlando saw him show veteran skill and savvy scoring 11.1 points per game on shooting splits of 49.4% from two, 38.4% from three, and 87.4% from the free-throw line. Harris is and has always been a tenacious defender as well and at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds with solid quickness, he has been able to guard the 1 through the 3 in the NBA.
The only issue with signing Harris is really understanding what HE wants. He would be a great rotation player for a title contender like say Brooklyn, Utah, Atlanta, or Miami who NEED his defense and efficiency while being a role player that makes life easier for their superstars. But, these types of teams can only offer him mid-level exception money which will top out in the 10 million dollar range for teams not paying the luxury tax. I understand if some of you would be out on Harris here and spend that money elsewhere, but he does fit just about everything the team needs.
Does that mean the Pistons should outbid others with a starting point of $12 million as a starting point for Harris? Honestly, if he stays where he is as a player then that is money well spent, in my opinion. The Nuggets are paying Will Barton just over 16 million next season as Harris’s is replacement. The Mavs are paying Tim Hardaway Jr. just over $19 million. And, Reggie Bullock got $10 million annually from the Mavs for one good season on the Knicks. None of these guys is the level of defender Harris is and none of them was as efficient as Harris’s 57.1% true shooting last season—and on a terrible team with limited three-point shooting no less. Harris also CAN fit in between Cade and Ivey now to give both guys space and take on the toughest guard assignments.
Everything will come down to whether or not Harris wants money or to be part of a contender, but I am with many of you in believing Harris would be one of the best additions the Pistons could make this off season.
Otto Porter Jr.
While I am not going to argue that Otto Porter Jr. will cost a lot, he still would be an instant starter at small forward for a Piston team that absolutely NEEDS his shooting abilities. A career 39.8% shooter from downtown while standing 6-foot-8, Porter has always been a mismatch problem with this combination of height and top-notch floor-spacing. He also helped the Golden State Warriors capture the title this offseason shooting 40.4% from three in the playoffs. Wherever he has gone, Porter has been a perfect complement to his superstar teammates.
Like I said earlier, I actually think GP2 would be priority number 2 behind the Poole and Wiggins extensions so Porter would be more obtainable. The Pistons could also throw a big-money, one-year deal at Porter if they wanted. I highly doubt anyone would even match a one-year $10 million for Porter. And, honestly, if it did come down to a bidding war for Porter, one-year at $15 million would not be completely bananas for me because of how much Porter helps the development of the young guys while also not killing your cap space for next off-season.
Slot Porter in at the starting small forward spot; keep Cade and Ivey at the guard spots; move Saddiq over to the four; then platoon Beef Stew, Duren, and Olynyk at center and reserve power forward, and that is a lineup the provides much better spacing and shot creation.
The oddest potential fit, Slo Mo is an incredibly unique basketball player. Running as UCLA’s point guard in college, the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Anderson walked into the perfect situation in San Antonio as a rookie to develop his mismatch potential to the max. Spending his last four seasons in Memphis, Anderson settled in at power forward while still maintaining the court vision of a point guard and steadily improving his three-point shot. The past two seasons saw Anderson significantly increase his three-point attempts to 370 and he was able to sink 35.1% of those.
But, as previously stated, Anderson is an odd fit. He is NOT going to be a primary floor-spacer, but instead a tertiary ball handler and good help defender who will knock down open threes. Anderson operates primarily out of the power forward spot as a help defender and someone who stays with a surprising amount of opposing players in man-to-man defense despite his nickname. He will help out whatever team he is on get lined up and be the mortar on the defensive brick wall to fill in the gaps. He will also discombobulate the opposition in transition and out of the pick-and-roll due to his speed and find a way to finish himself or dish out an assist to his teammate.
Anderson is going to be very obtainable as well with the Grizzlies drafting two players into his spot in Jake LaRavia and David Roddy so he is all but gone. Memphis will not pay you if you are not a superstar and utilizes the draft to refill their role players. If the Pistons wanted a great all-around forward and they want to slow it down a little, then Anderson would be a fine way to spend their free agent cash.
Flying almost completely under the radar due to DeAndre Ayton and Miles Bridges being the biggest names at both positions Portis plays, he is an unrestricted free agent who I think has been underrated for far too long. An integral piece of the Milwaukee Bucks Championship 2020-21 season, Portis continues to impress and expand his game.
Of the many things underrated about Portis’s game his 38.3% from three-point range might be No. 1. He seems to improve every year as a shooter—as evidenced by last season where he shot 39.3% on a career-high 338 attempts from distance. He also had to fill in for an injured Brook Lopez for the majority of the regular season and posted a career-high 51 blocks as a result.
I imagine Jalen Duren is going to struggle in year one because nearly every big man struggles in year one, especially on the defensive end. Adding Portis would ensure that Duren would always be protected by one of Olynyk or Portis’s shooting and defensive IQ on the court. Portis’s presence also lessens the need for Beef Stew to have a jump shot right this second, and it also helps to ease out of Kelly Olynyk as he is only signed for this season and next. The Pistons signed Olynyk because of his ability to space the floor and since Portis possesses the same type of skills with more athleticism and ability, the team will have more of that in the immediate and in the future.
The Pistons can also pay Portis more than just about anyone, which I would think is enticing to a guy who has only had one year in the NBA where he’s made over $4,347,600. I think offering him $20 million per year for three years is something worth doing. You would have to offer him something greater than what the Bucks WANT to pay him, and make it clear he is a starter that will make starter money. And seeing as how the team will still have a RIDICULOUS amount of cap space next off-season, paying 20 million per year for a starter is good value.
And I definitely think Bobby Portis is worth $20 million more than I believe either of DeAndre Ayton or Miles Bridges are worth the max. Although I like both players, you have to max any restricted free agent to pry them loose, and in both cases you will most likely have to send something back to Phoenix or Charlotte too. Portis fills in a need with shooting, plays solid defense, and immediately weakens a divisional opponent. What’s not to like?
Thank you for taking time out of your day to read all of our content here at Detroit Bad Boys as we couldn’t keep doing this with out you. Let us know who your favorite underrated free agents are this offseason in the comments and how they would fit onto your NEW 2022-23 Detroit Pistons. And as always, remember #InTroyWeTrust