Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise as the summer approaches.
The Pistons’ long climb back to respectability began when the previous regime drafted Andre Drummond with the No. 9 pick in the 2012 draft. Owner Tom Gores labeled Drummond as a “max player” a year ago and, for the most part, Drummond lived up to that billing this past season. He made his first All-Star appearance while leading the league in rebounding and displaying a much-improved low-post game.
Drummond decided not to sign an extension prior to the start of the season, knowing he could get a much bigger contract in restricted free agency this summer. There has been no hint that Drummond will shop his services, considering the Pistons are willing to pay top dollar to retain him.
There were some uneasy moments between Drummond and head coach/president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy as the season wore on, due to Drummond’s woeful free-throw shooting. Drummond’s playing time decreased as Van Gundy often kept him on the bench during crunch time rather than allowing opponents to employ Hack-A-Dre strategies.
However, Drummond has expressed willingness to try different approaches to his biggest flaw instead of allowing it to be a divisive issue.
“We all know it’s an important thing — Andre more than any of us — and he’s pretty open to anything,” Van Gundy said during his postseason press conference. “There’s a lot of ways to attack this problem, and we’ll all have a hand in it.”
It’s likely that a contract agreement will be reached once free agency begins, with Drummond holding off on signing it while the Pistons use their salary-cap space to pursue free agents and trades. Any other outcome would be a major surprise.
Upgrading The Bench
Van Gundy improved his starting unit by acquiring starting forwards Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris in trades and signing point guard Reggie Jackson to a long-term contract last summer. The Pistons led the league with 27 games in which their starters all scored in double figures. The flip side was that they were over-reliant on that group because of an unimposing second unit. That group was weakened by the Harris swap with the Magic, as backup point guard Brandon Jennings headed to Orlando. Aging Steve Blake wound up running the point when Jackson rested.
They were also thin at the forward spots, with journeyman Anthony Tolliver in the rotation most of the season. The Pistons seemingly resolved that problem by dealing for Donatas Motiejunas from the Rockets but days later rescinded the trade because of long-range concerns how his back would hold up after he underwent surgery last spring.
Free Agent Targets
If the Pistons make a splash in free agency, it will come in the form of a tall power forward with an outside stroke. Acquiring that type of player remains a high priority, either as a main reserve or even to supplant Harris or Morris in the lineup. Both of the current starters are undersized by power forward standards.
With approximately $64.5MM in guaranteed salary commitments, the Pistons have the flexibility to make a run at a top-tier free agent, even when adding Drummond’s $8.18MM cap hold to that figure.
A trio of names leap off the page regarding unrestricted big men. Ryan Anderson, a 6’10” power forward and career 37.7% 3-point shooter, would be an ideal fit in Van Gundy’s system. Marvin Williams, who shot 40.2% from long range while starting every game for the Hornets, is another player who would seemingly thrive in that role.
The Pistons could go for an even bigger prize and make a spirited run at Al Horford, who has developed into a respectable 3-point shooter. They were linked to Horford over the winter and value his leadership skills.
There are also plenty of free agent point guards the Pistons could pursue to head their second unit, including two players that Van Gundy traded, Jennings and D.J. Augustin. Jeremy Lin, who has a player option, would also be a consideration along with other proven veterans like Aaron Brooks, Mario Chalmers and Ish Smith.
Van Gundy has overhauled the roster mainly through trades, knowing that Detroit wasn’t a desirable free agent option during the rebuilding process. The Pistons’ situation is much more attractive now with the team on the upswing but Van Gundy isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a deal if free agency doesn’t go his way.
- First-round picks: 18th
- Second-round picks: 49th
The Pistons were willing to give up a non-lottery pick to acquire Motiejunas, and they’ll be willing to deal their pick again to acquire a rotation player. If they retain the pick, they could go the draft-and-stash route. They could also take a point guard if there’s one they believe can run their second unit immediately. Demetrius Jackson and Tyler Ulis would likely head that list if they slide out of the lottery.
Veteran center Joel Anthony has a $2.5MM non-guaranteed contract and the Pistons would like to keep him around as insurance. Van Gundy soured on reserve point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and is unlikely to pick up his non-guaranteed salary. Shooting guard Darrun Hilliard has a partially guaranteed contract and showed enough promise during his rookie season for the club to keep him around. Blake won’t return, and unless Tolliver accepts a reduced role and salary, don’t look for him to be back, either.
The Pistons still have work to do roster-wise to progress from a fringe playoff team to a true contender. Some of the improvements must come from growth by young players already on the roster. The rest will come from Van Gundy’s desire to get another impact player in the frontcourt and a much better option behind Jackson at the point.
- Tobias Harris ($17,200,000)
- Reggie Jackson ($14,956,522)
- Aron Baynes ($6,500,000)
- Jodie Meeks ($6,540,000)
- (Josh Smith $5,331,729) — Salary remaining from release via stretch provision
- Marcus Morris ($4,625,000)
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($3,678,319)
- Stanley Johnson ($2,969,880)
- Reggie Bullock ($2,255,644)
- Darrun Hilliard ($500,000) — Partial guarantee; non-guaranteed portion listed below
- Total: $64,557,094
- Joel Anthony ($2,500,000)
- Lorenzo Brown ($1,015,696)
- Spencer Dinwiddie ($980,431)
- Darrun Hilliard ($374,636) — Partial guarantee; guaranteed portion listed above
- Total: $4,870,763
- Andre Drummond ($4,433,683/$8,180,228)
Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)
Other Cap Holds
- No. 18 pick ($1,420,100)
Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.