Every Detroit Pistons season preview I’ve read over the past four or five months has pretty much had the same conclusion: Joe Dumars took a step forward this summer, but the Pistons are far from a completed project.
I’ve seen predictions that the Pistons will land somewhere between sixth and ninth place in the East with no chance whatsoever of beating the much more powerful Heat, Bulls, or Pacers. New additions Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, as well as soon-to-be-monster Andre Drummond, are locked up for the next few years. Count me in as excited to see what those three will be able to do for the Pistons this year, but I’m too freaking impatient to wait until next year’s free agency market, which promises to be a doozy. Assuming Dumars stands pat at the trade deadline this year, I want to look at what changes could potentially come for Detroit next summer.
Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey are working on contracts that are going to conclude at the end of this season, which will free up more than $17 million in cap space. Greg Monroe’s $4 million is also coming off the books in 2014. This would put the total salary committed for 2014-2015 at about $42 million, leaving about $16 million in cap space. Let’s take a look at a few names that might fit, what role they would play, and what they might command on the market next year:
Greg Monroe: the first and most obvious. Six months ago, the mere suggestion that Dumars should let Monroe walk at the end of his contract would have brought the ire and outrage of Pistons fans everywhere. This was, of course, before Dumars locked up Josh Smith with a four year deal.
Moose led the Pistons in points, rebounds, and steals for the last two seasons for the Pistons. With Jennings and Smith joining the team, and with Drummond set to break out, however, Monroe is now arguably the fourth best player on his team. Despite this, he is still a young, unquestionable starter on just about any team in the league, and is likely to command a lot of attention in a loaded 2014 free agent class.
The Pistons will offer Monroe a qualifying offer worth about $5.5 million, which he will likely decline. He could easily command anywhere between $11-$13 million annually, which the Pistons will easily be able to match with some wiggle room. Whether they will match, however, largely depends on how well the monstrous trio of Drummond, Smith, and Monroe jell. If new head coach Mo Cheeks and Rasheed Wallace can nullify the spacing issues that playing these three together will create, expect Monroe to be wearing a Pistons jersey for the foreseeable future.
Danny Granger: Granger had been the Pacers go-to guy for the past several seasons before he was injured last year and Paul George emerged as a budding superstar. He has three times in his career averaged over 20 points-per-game for a season, and even eclipsed 25 points-per-game in 2008-2009.
Though he is nowhere near as good now as he was then, he could still bounce back from his injury plagued season last year and contribute for the Pacers.
Assuming Monroe is allowed to walk, Granger would step into the starting small forward role, with Smith sliding over into power forward. Granger would probably command about $10 million annually.
Rudy Gay: Gay is a player that Joe Dumars has long been enamored with. Though it seems likely that Rudy would accept his player option at the end of this upcoming season, there is a small chance that sees him decline and test free agency. Should he continue his trend of scoring 18 points-per-game plus with a few rebounds and assists added, he has a better chance of receiving another big payday at the end of this season instead of waiting another year and perhaps seeing his value decline; a move that payed off for another small forward, Andre Iguodala.
Dumars made a play for Gay earlier this year that fell short, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he were to have another go at it. Joe has long expressed his belief that the best way to improve a team is through the trade market, however, if a trade can’t be made and Rudy declines his player option, believe that Dumars will make an offer.
Rudy Gay’s role would be similar to Danny Granger’s: Step into the small forward spot, and shoot like crazy. He would, however, score at a much higher output and therefore command a lot more money, likely in the $13-$15 million a year range.
Carmelo Anthony: Okay, this is admittedly wishful thinking on my part. But hear me out.
Melo has an early termination option for next year, and he’s already said he’s going to exercise it. He wants to test free agency, and as of this writing, he is the unquestioned prize of the 2014 market.
As of now.
Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh all have ETO’s on their contracts for next year as well, which, if exercised, will allow them to become free agents. Let’s assume for a minute that the big three test their worth once more and explore the market: Melo is still going to draw a lot of interest, but he has more competition and may need to take what he can get.
He’s going to command anywhere between $18 and $22 million, which is a bit out of the Pistons price range, but owner Tom Gores has proven that he’s willing to spend by signing Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith to long term deals. What harm could come out of whipping out the checkbook once more for a player that would turn Detroit upside down?
Is Melo likely to sign with a small-market team like Detroit? Probably not. I am, however, literally getting goosebumps about the thought of a Jennings, Melo, Smith, and Drummond starting four.
Anthony Morrow: Morrow has a player option on his contract coming up at the end of this season. Though he has had a rough season last year, he is still a solid two-guard that would provide valuable minutes off the bench. Though his game is one dimensional, he is a pure scorer that would open up the floor for the Detroit bigs, a need that they desperately need filled, especially if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Luigi Datome don’t work out. He may not be as exciting as Melo, Gay, Granger, or Monroe, but he would be a smart signing at about $3 million to come off the bench.
Thabo Sefolosha: Like Morrow, Sefolosha would provide some much needed three-point shooting on a team that desperately needs it. Sefolosha is a three-and-d guy that could step into the starting two-guard role or come off the bench, and will likely command about $4 million a year in the market. Detroit would give him an opportunity to thrive in a scoring role as well, considering the Pistons have nobody that comes close to Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook as far as pure scoring talent.
I’m going to continue to address potential targets on isportsweb as the season progresses and the free agent class continues to round out, but you’ll notice I’ve listed mostly small forwards and shooting guards that can shoot. Shooting, not spacing, is going to be the biggest issue that plagues the Detroit Pistons this season, and it’s not going to go away without a major trade or free agent signing. I know I’m not the only one excited for the next couple years of Pistons basketball, and I gotta tell ya- it feels good to finally be excited again.
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