A Preview of What the Pistons Offseason Looks Like

I’ve seen a lot of people asking about what the Pistons options are going to be this offseason as far as improving the team, some of them even asking me directly. So I decided to just write a quick piece detailing more or less how it is going to go.

The Cap Space:

The Pistons have none. This off-seasons cap is projected to be ~$109 million and the tax at ~$132 million. Assuming the Pistons turn down Glenn Robinson’s second year, a team option worth just over $4 million, they will have ~$113 million already put forth for next season and that is before they make their draft picks. The exact numbers will depend on where the cap ends up and where the Pistons end up drafting, but as long as they don’t trade or stash either of their picks overseas, they should have ~$116 million committed when they enter free agency. Which puts them well over the cap and they will have ~$16 million to spend under the tax.

So what tools to they have since they are over the cap?

The Pistons will have access to the full mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception.

Explain the mid-level exception.

It is worth just about $10 million per year, up to 4 years. They used part of it (as much as they could while staying under the tax) on Glenn Robinson last off-season, so this is still assuming they don’t pick up his option. This is their biggest and best way to add a significant free-agent this off-season.

Explain the bi-annual exception.

Worth a little less than $4 million, can only be used once every other year, hence the “bi-annual” and the Pistons did not use it last Summer so it will be available this Summer if they want it. Other than these two exceptions they would have to use the veterans minimum on any free agent they sign. They also, once again, will have a pair of draft picks.

What about Bird rights?

Bird rights allow teams to go over the cap to sign their own players, in order to qualify a player must have spent at least 3 seasons with a team without changing teams via free-agency. As such Ish Smith is the only free agent who qualifies. Had the Pistons kept Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson they both would’ve qualified as well, but since they traded them its just Ish.

So what holes will they have to fill?

Their free agents are: Ish Smith, Wayne Ellington, Zaza Pachulia, Jose Calderon and Glenn Robinson (assuming they don’t pick up his option). Two of those guys are major rotation pieces (Smith and Ellington) and even though he has fallen out at the end, Zaza had been in all season as well. This means that in a vacuum, the Pistons will need: A backup point-guard, a backup big, and a major-minutes wing-player.

So how do they use the tools they have to fill the holes?

My guess is that they will use the full mid-level exception to sign a proven wing player. Their wing rotation is comically bad, and even if Luke improves enough to be a solid-starter/6th man who plays starter minutes next season, who’s starting/playing big minutes next to him? It’s imperative that they improve on the wing, and even if guys already on the roster (Luke, Bruce, Khyri, Svi) were to improve enough to make a strong rotation, you still need more size there. So whoever they add on the wing is very likely to get major minutes.

As such, just thinking logically, you don’t want to count on a mid-first-round or second rounder to be that guy, and you don’t want to count on some cheapo free-agent to do it. So my guess is they don’t screw around, and use the full mid-level on a proven wing player since it’s the biggest hole to fill.

After that, they use the bi-annual exception and the draft picks for the other spots. In an ideal world you probably draft a big, since having a unproven rookie be Andre’s backup is something that’s easier to cover up for if they are very bad since Andre is incredibly durable and capable of playing huge minutes. They could use the full bi-annual and still have space to fill out the last roster spot with a minimum guy. That said, I am a big believer in drafting the best guy available so maybe they don’t get a chance to get a big, maybe they just draft a wing. Simply, ideally you draft a point-guard or a big who you are comfortable slotting right in and then use the bi-annual on the other spot.

What’s likely to be available in their price range?

In this new world of cap-money its hard to judge, people way over spent when the cap first went up so that basically no one had space the last couple of Summers so suddenly deals got cheaper, teams are now starting to even out so I’m not sure. If you want to look at free agents for yourself go right here. For all of the names I’m about to list, once again, take it with a big grain of salt because who knows what the market will end up being.

My guess is that if they used the full mid-level exception on a wing player they could probably sniff guys like Terrence Ross, Danny Green, or Jeremy Lamb but those guys might get a little bit too expensive. They could end up looking at guys like Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler, or CJ Miles. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could be a sneaky-interesting option here too.

If they use the bi-annual on a point-guard you are probably looking at someone like Tim Frazier, Shelvin Mack, or Trey Burke. If things break right they could maybe sniff around Darren Colison or Corey Joseph but it’s unlikely. As such it may be best for them to just keep Ish Smith since they will be allowed to give him more with his bird rights. The only issue is that would put them close enough to the tax that they maybe couldn’t use the full mid-level exception.

Break this down without weird cap-speak.

The Pistons have 3 major holes to fill, they will be able to sign one real proven player. After that it’s draft-picks and cheapo contracts. If they are smart they can make it work and have this team come back stronger next season, but if they miss one or more they could have a huge hole in the rotation.

What if they wanted to actually have cap-space? Could they make a move?

It’d be tricky but definitely possible. Their 3 big and bad contracts of Jon Leuer, Langston Galloway, and Reggie Jackson, are all expiring deals after this season. And in the case of Jackson and Langston, even if overpaid they have both rehabbed their value enough that they are not totally useless. Between the three of them they are owed about $35 million next season, so if they could get off of them they would have real cap-space to play with. They’d only need to get off of one of them to get under the cap.

To get out from them, unless they got lucky with how some things broke this off-season, it would be painful but it would at least be doable. They would almost certainly give up some combination of one of their young guys (Luke, Bruce, Svi, Khyri) and/or draft picks.

What do you mean “if they get lucky with how things break”

Leuer appears to be totally dead weight at this point, but if things broke right the Pistons could maybe get out from under Galloway or Jackson’s last season pretty easily. Some teams with cap-space might strike out in free agency and figure that they don’t mind overpaying someone for one season. Take for instance the Suns, they’ve been trying to get a point guard for a couple of years and want to start winning. If they don’t draft one and can’t get anyone in free agency, then they might not mind taking a year of Reggie Jackson for nothing, bonus for the fact that Jeff Bower is now the GM there. Jackson may be overpaid but he would mark the best point-guard they’ve had since they traded away/shut down Eric Bledsoe and is competent enough to take some offensive load off of Devin Booker and toss lobs to DeAndre Ayton. Similar principle for Galloway who is not as good as Jackson but also not as expensive. Some team (say, Dallas) may get to the end of free agency with cap space but still need a shooter off the bench, at that point overpaying Galloway for a season might not seem like such a terrible idea. Once again, the Pistons would get nothing of value in return, but they might be able to not give up anything for them.

Most likely though, they would need to attach something, and whether or not this is a good idea depends on how much they need to give up. Would the rebuilding Hawks be willing to eat Leuer’s last season if they got a shot at Khyri Thomas and the Pistons second-round pick? Maybe. Given that this draft is widely seen as pretty thin it might not be that painful to part with draft-picks if that’s what is needed.

The only way I’d be interested in parting with Luke and/or a 1st round pick to clear space is if the Pistons were very confident they could get someone. Like if Bojan Bogdonovic got set on coming to Detroit for some reason and Luke was the price to clear that space then you might just have to deal with it.

Obviously they could also just do a normal trade of some sort but I’m not going to speculate about that here.

So there you go, that’s a very basic overview of what the Pistons off-season will look like.