The draft’s fun begins tonight, but the Detroit Pistons only have the 38th overall pick so they’ve been focusing the majority of their attention on other pressing matters.
Let me get you up to speed with what’s going on. Some interesting trade rumors surfaced on the web yesterday that has Pistons’ fans wondering. Meanwhile, coach Stan Van Gundy continues to express the value of Greg Monroe to the media. All the while, free agency looms a short five days away and the Pistons have roster holes that need filling.
Pistons-Kings trade talks
ESPN’s Marc Stein took to Twitter on Tuesday to dispatch the latest NBA rumors, this time concerning Detroit. Here’s what he tweeted:
Nothing, and I mean nothing, would make Pistons fans happier than losing Josh Smith after his subpar season last year. In this scenario, Detroit would dump Smith’s contract, happily be able to bring back Greg Monroe with more playing time available, and save a few bucks for this offseason if only two of the three Sacramento players mentioned were sent to the Pistons. Van Gundy has assured the fan base that the team is weighing all possible options, and trading Smith’s contract away happens to be a popular option among Detroit fans.
However, let’s analyze this a little closer instead of getting swept up in the initial euphoria of possibly getting rid of Smith. Here’s a look at the contracts and cap hits of the three aforementioned Sacramento players and Josh Smith (via Spotrac.com):
- Jason Thompson, PF/C – 2014-2015: $6.037 million, 2015-2016: $6.431 million, 2016-2017: guaranteed for $2.65 million, $6.825 million if he isn’t waived by June 6, 2016
- Derrick Williams, SF/PF – 2014-2015: $6.331 million, 2015-2016: either a qualifying offer of $8.262 million or he becomes a restricted free agent
- Jason Terry, SG – 2014-2015: $5.45 million
- Josh Smith, SF/PF – 2014-2015: $13.5 million, 2015-2016: $13.5 million, 2016-2017: $13.5 million
If any two of these players were sent over for Smith, the Pistons would save somewhere between $1.132 and $2.013 million for the offseason. Not all that much money, and when you take into the consideration the talent levels of the players the Kings are offering, this trade starts to make little sense for Detroit. Terry is far beyond his prime and is set to make way more than he is worth, but has always been able to knock down 3-pointers. Thompson plays similar to Greg Monroe; a big man who plays below the rim and struggles at midrange shooting. However, his contract pays him like a starter when he is, at best, a quality backup. And Williams, who has yet to find his place in the NBA after being taken with the 2nd overall pick in 2011, is similar to Smith as he is a high-flying “tweener” forward who struggles with his outside shot. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d much rather have Smith for the next three years than any combination of these Kings. Apparently, the Pistons felt similar to me, as Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com tweeted later Tuesday that Detroit had stopped the talks on the same morning that Stein initially tweeted the rumors:
Sacramento reportedly was shying away from involving Williams, while not even allowing their No. 8 draft pick to be brought into the discussion. It seems Detroit will have to look elsewhere if they hope to trade Smith.
More Van Gundy praise for Monroe
When Van Gundy met with the media on Tuesday he continued to preach the importance of the Greg Monroe situation, calling it the team’s first priority. For those who don’t know, Monroe is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, and can field offers from other teams. The Pistons will have three days to match any such contract offer sheets to bring him back, but will lose him if they choose not to.
Of course, Monroe can also choose to sign a one-year qualifying offer for $5.5 million this season and become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, but that path is unlikely.
SVG has praised Monroe ever since taking the Pistons’ job last month, and with the emerging news of Detroit actively shopping Smith, it’s becoming more and more likely that the Pistons plan on having Monroe back next year.
Does this make it less likely that Detroit won’t be looking for a big man in the draft? Not exactly; the Pistons are still looking for frontcourt help as backup center Josh Harrellson is not officially back for next year yet. I doubt this situation affects what the Pistons do tonight.
5 days until free agency begins
The NBA’s frenzied free agency period begins next Tuesday, July 1, and the Pistons have some holes to fill with an estimated $13 million to work with. Van Gundy listed who he considers to be the Pistons’ core on Tuesday: Andre Drummond, Smith, Monroe, Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler.
We’ve already talked about the restriced free agency of Monroe, so let’s cover everyone else from last year’s team. Alongside the core, Jonas Jerebko, Will Bynum, Luigi Datome and Tony Mitchell are under contract for at least next year. Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva are set to become unrestricted free agents, and the futures of Peyton Siva, Harrellson and Chauncey Billups have yet to be determined for next year.
The Pistons will have a choice on whether or not to uphold the contracts of those three. If they choose not to bring any or all of these three back, Detroit will still owe them some compensation. Van Gundy said to not expect the Pistons to hit any home runs in free agency, but look for a few splashes as Detroit fills the rest of the roster. Because the most obvious needs are shooting from the wing positions and a backup big man, what Detriot does with the 38th pick tonight will factor into any free agency decisions.
Tune in to the 2014 NBA Draft tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN to see what the Pistons do.