For the first time in years, the Detroit Pistons have salary cap space to spend in free agency. Blake Griffin’s buyout is officially off the books, freeing up nearly $30 million. Heading into the offseason, the Pistons will have nearly enough cap room for a max contract.
With this newfound cap room has come the expectation for the Pistons’ front office to spend. There are not a lot of big names in this year’s free agency pool, but the Pistons have been linked to having an interest in signing most of them.
However, this free agency class is not exactly known for being deep with talent. Zach Lavine, Deandre Ayton, Collin Sexton and Jalen Brunson headline this year’s group. Behind them, there is not much.
With little depth available in free agency, players are likely to garner bloated contracts. Teams are likely to overpay for the available talent. Those overpays could bleed all the way to the top players. Becoming locked into a long-term bloated contract could be detrimental to a rebuilding team like the Pistons.
With cap space, Detroit has options. Options they have not had in a while. While many expect the team to spend in free agency, there is no rush to do so. Spending for the sake of spending is not conducive to building a future contender. If the Pistons sign players to bloated contracts this offseason, the team’s options will be limited in future offseasons where the free agency class could be stronger.
This is not to say the Pistons should not spend at all this offseason, but the team should avoid bloated long-term contracts at all costs. Unfortunately, the names Detroit is linked to are all likely to command lucrative contracts this summer.
Potential Pistons overpays
Jalen Brunson’s playoff performance earned the point guard a handsome payday this summer. The Dallas Mavericks needed someone to step up with Luka Dončić missing the first three games of the team’s first-round matchup with the Utah Jazz. Enter Brunson. The 25-year-old stepped up for the Mavericks, leading the team to a 2-1 series lead during Dončić’s absence.
It was around this time that the rumblings of the Pistons’ interest in Brunson began to heat up. Brunson is a great fit for the Pistons. He would make a great backcourt partner for Cade Cunningham. By virtue of playing with Dončić, Brunson developed a very good off-ball game. When Dončić had the ball in his hands, Brunson knocked down spot-ups from beyond the arc. He sank 37.3 percent of his three-pointers this past season. With Dončić off the court, Brunson thrived. He showed an ability to create for himself and facilitate for others.
Brunson is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and he is expected to get paid. Reports indicate his contract could be upwards of $85 million over four years, in the Fred Van Vleet pay range. Brunson is an ideal fit next to Cunningham, but for that price, oof.
The Villanova product has consistently improved in each of his four NBA seasons. However, there may not be much more room for development. If the Pistons were ready to take a step towards contention, sure, this contract makes sense. The issue is that the team is not there yet.
Besides, there is no way Dallas does not do everything to hold on to Brunson. Coming off a Western Conference Finals run, he has every reason to stay too.
Deandre Ayton’s time with the Phoenix Suns may be coming to a close. Ayton enters restricted free agency this summer after not reaching an agreement with the Suns last offseason. Ayton sought a five-year max extension, but Phoenix was only willing to offer four years.
The 23-year-old center only played in 17 minutes during the Suns’ Game Seven loss to the Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs. Since then, rumors have swirled of a possible rift between Ayton and the Suns organization. How much truth there is to those rumors is yet to be seen, but Detroit is certain to have its eyes set on making a run for Ayton.
Ayton is an immediate upgrade at the center position. Isaiah Stewart is a solid big man. He is a versatile defender who has flashed floor spacing potential, but Ayton is something else. Ayton is a better post scorer, and he is a pretty good defender in his own right. He has better size than Stewart as well.
The Pistons likely throw a max offer Ayton’s way. Why not? He is the best free agent available in the class. Is the max an overpay for Ayton? No. The big man has All-Star potential and certainly has room to grow beyond that. But, Phoenix can match any offer that Ayton accepts, and they are unlikely to let him go for nothing. Ultimately, bringing Ayton in will likely require a sign-and-trade with the Suns. That is where the overpay comes in.
The Suns are going to want decent compensation for the 23-year-old big man. There will be other suitors willing to offer a hefty package to complete a sign-and-trade for Ayton, and the Pistons could get caught up in a bidding war. Ayton would be a great upgrade for Detroit, but the team would likely have to sacrifice a lot if Phoenix decides on a sign-and-trade. It might not be the best move in the long run.
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