A few more notes on the upcoming NBA draft.
Despite talk in recent weeks that teams have been having doubts about Sergey Karasev, it appears that the tide has turned sharply in the other direction. Interest in the Russian swingman has elevated so much from seven teams between the Nos. 9 and 22 picks in the NBA draft, that he will have those organizations fly out to meet him in Europe, league sources told Shams Charania of RealGM. The 19-year-old remains unlikely to leave Russia for any workouts or interviews, but teams have insisted they come sit down with him in Russia, even though he won't work out. Here's the latest draft news..
Bob Finnan of The News-Herald rounds up the latest NBA rumors in his weekly column, and though he usually focuses on the Cavs, his latest dispatch is heavy on Pistons news. We'll hit the highlights here:
Mark Deeks of ShamSports.com doesn't think the Hawks will have much trouble if they want to trade Lou Williams to free up more cap space in the pursuit of two max free agents this summer. He also believes the team wouldn't hesitate to pull off other moves necessary to clear room (Twitter links). If the Hawks renounce all their cap holds and keep their pair of first-round picks, they'd be about $1.9MM shy of the cap space necessary to sign Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, providing next season's salary cap checks in at the projected $58.5MM. The Hawks might not be at the top of likely destinations for the rumored D12-CP3 pairing, but it appears that won't stop them from trying. With half a month to go until teams and free agents can start lining up agreements, here's more from around the Association:
With the 2013 draft less than two weeks away, the majority of the NBA's teams are continuing to bring in prospects to get a closer look at them. Here are the latest updates on draft workouts:
Andre Iguodala has decided to opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. According to Wojnarowski, agent Rob Pelinka informed Nuggets CEO Josh Kroenke of the decision on Thursday.
"We are fully aware of Andre's intentions and he's well aware of how much we want him back," Kroenke said. "Andre us a huge priority for our organization."
While there appears to be mutual interest between Nuggets and Iguodala in a new deal, Denver is currently without a GM or coach, which makes the situation a little murkier. There will also be plenty of clubs vying for the 29-year-old's services. Wojnarowski names the Hawks, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Rockets, Pistons, and Pelicans as likely suitors.
An official decision from Iguodala is due by June 25th, but assuming he opts out, he'll be eligible for a new five-year contract from the Nuggets or a four-year deal from another team. He'll pass up a 2013/14 salary that Wojnarowski cites as $15.9MM, though various salary databases have it at $16.15MM -- that salary included $250K in likely incentives, so perhaps those incentives are now listed as unlikely.
In any case, although I'm skeptical that Iguodala will land an annual salary that exceeds the approximate $16MM he would have earned on his current contract, he'll certainly be able to secure a significantly larger guarantee in a new long-term deal.
When Pistons general manager Joe Dumars traded Chauncey Billups to the Nuggets for Allen Iverson's expiring contract in 2008, the cap space it later created was ultimately used on the free agent signings of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon during the summer of 2009. At the time, Villanueva agreed to an offer worth $35MM over five seasons, while Gordon signed on for $55MM over five seasons. Unfortunately, Villanueva's scoring averages and minutes dipped every season since then, whereas Gordon struggled to consistently regain the form that had made him an enticing commodity in Chicago and was later traded to Charlotte. Now set to be equipped with significant cap room this offseason, Dumars implied that he'll be very conscientious about what he'll do with the flexibility:
"What we don’t want to do is use all of it for the sake of it. You want to use it wisely" (Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News relayed the quote via tweet).
Here's more from around the Association:
Echoing what we've heard out of Indiana for weeks, team president Donnie Walsh told reporters, including Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, that re-signing David West this summer is "priority number one" for the Pacers.
"We want him back as much as you can want anyone back," Walsh said. "We think he’s one of the anchors of the team."
Here's more from around the Eastern Conference:
An NBA-record 12 coaching jobs are changing hands this offseason, with almost half the jobs still open. Five teams are still searching for a coach, though David Joerger appears the strong front-runner for the Grizzlies. It looks like Jason Kidd has the edge for the Nets job, but Brian Shaw remains in the mix. It's more unsettled for the Nuggets, Clippers and Sixers, and as we await more clarity on those vacancies, here's the latest coaching news:
Free Agents / Cap Holds
The last time Pistons president Joe Dumars had this much cap flexibility, he flubbed it, signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to lucrative long-term deals. Gordon is off the books, at the cost of a future first-round pick sent to Charlotte via trade, while Villanueva remains, with one year left on his deal. There were rumors toward the end of this past season that Dumars might not have another crack at remaking the roster over the summer, and executives had been keeping an eye on the team's coaching search to gauge Dumars' standing with owner Tom Gores, who retained Phil Jackson as a pro-bono adviser.
Maurice Cheeks got the coaching job, and presumed Jackson favorite Brian Shaw apparently never received an interview, so it looks like Dumars still wields the hammer in Detroit. Whether the Hall of Fame guard continues his nearly 30-year association with the team for much longer may rest on the outcome of this offseason. Now that the team's nearly two-month coaching search is over, Dumars' attention must shift to a series of decisions he has to make before free agency begins in July.
The Pistons have a draft pick in the middle of the lottery for the fourth straight year, and they've chosen wisely so far, nabbing Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The jury's still out on Brandon Knight, but there's still a chance he could develop into another steal. Rodney Stuckey, a find from the middle of the first round in 2007, faces an uncertain future. The Pistons can either keep him for the final season of his contract or save $4.5MM of his $8.5MM salary and part ways with him by June 30th. That's one day after Dumars has to make a $1MM call on whether to fully guarantee the contract of backup center Slava Kravtsov, who saw action in only 25 games as a rookie this past season.
Dumars and the Pistons will have to continue to move swiftly once the July Moratorium is over on July 10th. Eight-year veteran Jose Calderon has a cap hold equivalent to the maximum salary for a player of his experience, and that will likely tie up more than $16MM on the team's books. Dumars wants to re-sign him, but probably not for the max. Most high-priority players and teams come to agreements during the moratorium and wait to make their deals official once the date passes, but if the former Raptors point guard hesitates to make his decision, the Pistons must give serious consideration to renouncing his rights to make room for other free agents. The same goes for Corey Maggette, whom the Pistons also reportedly want to re-sign. His cap hold is for more than $16MM, too, and if Maggette holds out for more than the minimum-salary deal the Pistons would likely offer, the team will almost assuredly renounce his rights, too. Dumars also must decide by July 12th whether to guarantee Kim English's contract.
Renouncing a player's rights doesn't mean the team can't re-sign the player. It just means the team loses whatever non-Bird, Early Bird or full Bird rights it had to go over the salary cap to do so. At most, the Pistons will have around $30MM worth of cap space, but if they don't renounce the rights to at least a few of their players, they'll never officially go below the cap. Still, it would be surprising if they didn't wind up with cap room, especially since they appear ready to move on from Jason Maxiell and Will Bynum, whom they talked about trading at the deadline.
Another way to create cap space would be to amnesty Villanueva. His is the only contract remaining from before the lockout, aside from the rookie-scale deal of Monroe, who most assuredly won't be amnestied. Villanueva is entering the final year of his pact, so if any Piston winds up on amnesty waivers, it would be Villanueva and it would be this summer. The 28-year-old returned to Detroit's rotation this past year after appearing in only 13 games in 2011/12, but his contributions hardly merit a salary in excess of $8.5MM next season. The only reason Dumars might not amnesty Villanueva is if the team simply doesn't want to spend extra money on a player who wouldn't be on the roster next year, but I don't think owner Tom Gores wants to pinch pennies like that. Villanueva seems like a goner.
If the Pistons ink Calderon for a starting salary somewhere between $6MM and $8MM a year, as many scribes predict, they'd have enough flexibility to sign a marquee, max-money free agent, regardless of whether Villanueva is still on the books. Of course, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul don't seem likely to wind up in Detroit until their respective teams make road trips there next season. There have been few, if any, rumblings suggesting anyone from the next tier of free agents, like Andrew Bynum, Josh Smith and Al Jefferson, would consider Detroit, either. Some of those names could surface come July, once free agents begin to speak with teams, but I still wouldn't be surprised if Dumars decides to give Calderon the only long-term deal and hands out a bunch of smaller, one-year contracts, a la the Mavericks last summer. It seemed Dumars felt compelled to use his cap space on long-term deals in 2010, when Gordon and Villanueva came aboard, and I don't think he'll make that mistake again. Rolling over the cap space until 2014 would give the Pistons flexibility in what's shaping up as a much deeper free agent market, and competition in a crowded pool could drive a star to Detroit.
A conservative approach this summer would also give the team breathing room as it approaches negotiations with Monroe. That won't be as pressing a matter as so many of the team's offseason decisions will be, since the deadline to lock him up before he hits restricted free agency isn't until October 31st. Still, Monroe figures to warrant a four-year deal for somewhere between $45MM and $50MM based on the rookie-scale extensions handed out around the league last season. The Pistons probably don't want to become a taxpaying team when Monroe's next deal kicks in come 2014/15, so whatever they do this summer will likely be done with a hefty raise for Monroe in mind.