How cap space has Detroit Pistons in driver’s seat of 2020 NBA free agency

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
 
| Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons’ 2019-20 season tipped off a year ago this week. On Oct. 23, 2019, the Pistons traveled to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and brought home a 119-110 victory.

It may feel like a lifetime ago.

A year later, we’re still several months away from 2021 tipoff thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been eight months since the season ended March 11 for the Pistons, and finally the end of the offseason is near. The draft is less than a month away, and free agency will follow soon after. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the Pistons as they prepare for the draft, free agency, and the eventual start of next season. 

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When is the 2020 NBA draft? What should we expect from Pistons? 

The draft is scheduled for Nov. 18(ESPN). The NBA finalized the date in September, following several months of planning. While the league has left itself some flexibility of the date potentially being moved again, it appears unlikely to change. 

The Pistons have the seventh overall pick in the draft. Team officials have made it clear they intend to select the best player in the draft, regardless of position. There are several players the Pistons could target with the pick, including a trio of point guards in Tyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes and RJ Hampton. 

2020 NBA mock draft: Pistons look for changing of the guard ]

When is free agency?

It’s still unknown. The NBA has several tasks to accomplish before it can allow teams to sign players. The suspension of the 2019-20 season in March, along with resuming the season in a bubble without fans, has taken a toll on the league’s finances. The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are working to modify the existing collective bargaining agreement for next season, accounting for a new salary cap and luxury tax numbers based on updated financial projections. 

Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters in September a January start for the 2021 season appears likely. That would peg free agency for late November or early December, giving teams an adequate window to assemble their rosters. 

How much cap space do Pistons have?

The Pistons are projected to have around $30 million in cap space, depending on the new salary cap. They are among six teams in the league that will have cap space, positioning them to be a major player in the free agency and trade market. 

What are Pistons prioritizing in free agency?

Since general manager Troy Weaver took over in June, the organization has avoided using the term “rebuild.” Despite finishing 20-46 and moving on from Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, the franchise is eyeing a return to playoff relevancy. 

It’s tough to project exactly what the Pistons will prioritize. But there are two obvious positional needs on the roster — point guard, and center. Pistons coach Dwane Casey told reporters in June that for the roster to continue to develop, the team needs a starting point guard. Derrick Rose is the only natural point guard on the roster with experience. Considering he has a year left on his deal, it seems likely the Pistons will look to acquire a point guard either through the draft or free agency. 

The roster also only has one true center under contract next season in recently signed Justin Patton. There are other players on the roster capable of playing the position, but the Pistons lack depth there. Casey experimented with playing Sekou Doumbouya as a small center during group workouts in September, but said having a traditional center is a necessity. 

“I think as long as the basket is 10 foot, you’re still going to need a big man, you’re still going to need that size in the middle,” he said. 

Pistons have money to spend on free agents. Here are their top targets ]

Who are some players the Pistons could target in free agency?

The two best non-Anthony Davis unrestricted free agents on the market, Fred VanVleet and Montrezl Harrell, play positions of need for the Pistons. VanVleet, the Toronto Raptors’ starting point guard last season, averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 assist per game. Harrell, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year for the L.A. Clippers, averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds last season as a power forward and small-ball center. 

One of Detroit’s biggest free agency signings could be of one of their own players — Christian Wood. He’s coming off of a breakout season that saw him average 21.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, a steal and nearly a block in the final 16 games before the season’s suspension. He’s an unrestricted free agent, but the Pistons should have the cap space to outbid any outside offer.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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