Offseason In Review: Detroit Pistons

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Extensions

  • None

Trades

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Detroit entered this past offseason fresh off of their second consecutive 29-win campaign and with a roster still filled with a number of ill-fitting parts, but there is reason for hope in the Motor City with the arrival of new team president and head coach Stan Van Gundy. Both Van Gundy and the organization realize that any turnaround will take some time, but after seven consecutive seasons of under .500 basketball, any positive development is cause for celebration.

NBA: New York Knicks at Detroit PistonsIt’s been over 16 months since Josh Smith inked his four-year, $54MM contract, and the franchise is still trying to figure out how to best utilize him. I’m sure that in theory, forming a frontcourt that featured a trio of talented big men seemed like an intriguing premise, but the results have been quite disappointing thus far. Smith’s field goal percentage has plummeted and it might be time for both the 28-year-old and the team to acknowledge that he isn’t suited to play small forward, nor is it in the best interests of either for him to keep firing away with ill-advised three-pointers.

The Pistons were supposedly shopping Smith during the offseason, and there was talk that the Kings were interested in acquiring the 28-year-old forward, but no deal came to fruition. Unloading Smith would present a challenge, as there aren’t many teams eager to shell out $13.5MM per year for a limited offensive player on the downswing of his career. Smith even at his best is not a true No. 1 option on a contending club, but rather a talented complementary piece.

While Smith is arguably the biggest name on the roster, the storyline that dominated Detroit’s sports pages all offseason were the talks between the team and Greg Monroe. Monroe showed little interest in signing a long-term deal with the Pistons, and he and agent David Falk reportedly sought sign-and-trade deals rather than offer sheets with the fear that the Pistons would match, keeping him in Detroit for the long-term. Instead, Monroe took an unusual and riskier path, signing his qualifying offer, worth only about $5.48MM for one season, setting himself up to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

By signing the team’s qualifying offer Monroe all but assured two things: He’ll be on the Pistons roster for the entire season, and he’ll be wearing a different team’s jersey the next one. Theoretically Monroe can still be dealt during the season, but because he signed the qualifying offer, he can veto any trade, and unless things truly become untenable for him in Detroit, he would most likely do just that, since any team that traded for him wouldn’t have his Bird rights. The Pistons would also only get pennies on the dollar for him at this point, since other teams wouldn’t give up the farm for a player who would essentially be a rental, so there would be little incentive at this point to try and deal Monroe.

Monroe hasn’t completely ruled out re-signing in Motown, but if he truly wanted to stay, the ink from his signature would have dried on a new deal already. Of course, things can always change, and if the franchise has a strong season, or if Van Gundy can convince Monroe during the year that the Pistons are truly the right team for him, then it’s possible Monroe could have a change of heart.

The 24-year-old will likely seek max money in his new deal, something I quite frankly don’t feel that he is worth. He’s a young, productive big man whose best seasons are still likely to come, but with the league moving further and further away from being a post-up league, Monroe’s limited offensive game and less-than-stellar defense do not warrant that large of a financial commitment. The Pistons could just look to Roy Hibbert‘s deal with the Pacers as a cautionary tale in this regard. For his part, Monroe is playing like he’s in a walk-year thus far, logging 17.3 points and 11.0 rebounds a night.

Van Gundy was quite busy this offseason in the free agent market, and he made a number of moves to address the team’s lack of outside shooting. I’m a big fan of signing Caron Butler, whose professionalism and work-ethic are fantastic, and just what a younger team like Detroit needs. The lack of a guarantee on the second year also mitigates the franchise’s financial liability greatly, which was a shrewd move. I also like the deal that Van Gundy gave to D.J. Augustin, a solid backup at the point whose two-year pact is quite reasonable.

The move I have an issue with is signing Jodie Meeks to a three-year, $18.81MM contract. This is one that I believe will stain Detroit’s balance sheet for its duration. As I mentioned, the Pistons desperately needed outside shooters to spread the floor so that Monroe, Smith, and Andre Drummond could have more room to operate down low. But Meeks is a complementary rotation piece at best, and his career-high 15.7 PPG last season was grossly inflated by playing for the Lakers, who needed someone to take those shots in the absence of Kobe Bryant. Plus, with the rise of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Meeks should prove to be even more of an unnecessary acquisition. I firmly believe that Meeks is more likely to be the player who had a career 7.4 PPG average heading into the 2013/14 campaign than a true game-changer when he returns from the back injury that has kept him out of action thus far.

The Pistons were also limited in what they would be able to garner on draft night, thanks to the first-round pick they had to surrender to the Hornets when the lottery slotted them just one spot shy of the protected range on the selection they owed from the Corey Maggette/Ben Gordon deal. But Van Gundy did very well to maximize the value of his lone second-rounder when he chose Spencer Dinwiddie, a player who would have been a likely mid-to-late first rounder if he had not been injured during his final season at Colorado. It will take him some time to regain his form, but for the long-term, he was a steal.

Detroit has a number of roster issues to address as it moves onto its next chapter. With only $39,479,553 in guaranteed money committed for 2015/16, Van Gundy will have a great opportunity to reshape the roster. But by next season, Monroe will likely be playing elsewhere, Smith will probably still be taking up a large chunk of cap space, and Brandon Jennings, who continues to try to prove that he can be a successful floor general, will still likely be on the books for $8,344,497. Thankfully, the Pistons have Drummond, who is one of the most intriguing big men in the league, to build around. But with the rise of the Cavs and the continued excellence of the Bulls in the Central Division, the franchise is still a ways from being a contender.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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