Offseason Outlook: Detroit Pistons

Guaranteed Contracts


  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (8th overall)
  • 2nd Round (37th overall)
  • 2nd Round (56th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $28,756,686
  • Options: $0
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $6,288,872
  • Cap Holds: $55,731,6395
  • Total: $90,777,197

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.

Cap footnotes:

  1. Villanueva exercised his player option for 2013/14 on May 13th.
  2. Stuckey's deal becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before June 30th.
  3. Kravtsov's deal becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before June 29th.
  4. English's deal becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before July 12th.
  5. Calderon's cap hold will be worth the maximum salary for a player with his experience (7-9 years). That amount is not yet known — the number listed was 2012/13's max salary, so it figures to be a little higher than that.

Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.

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