Detroit Pistons should hunt for bargains in NBA free agency. Here are 5 options

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
 
| Detroit Free Press

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By now, many Detroit Pistons fans are familiar with how well-positioned the franchise is to make big moves this offseason. The Pistons are projected to have around $30 million in cap space, making them one of the few teams with capital to make a run at top free agents. 

Depending on what the Pistons prioritize, that cap space could disappear rapidly. A Fred VanVleet contract could reach $20 million annually or more, based on the deals other mid-to-top-tier starting point guards have signed in recent seasons. Retaining Christian Wood, one of the better young players on the market, could be expensive as well. 

Detroit could look at other options to fill out its depth. One option is utilizing the “room” mid-level exception, which allows the Pistons to exceed the salary cap to sign a player, once the team has used alll of its cap space. Assuming the NBA retains the 2019-20 cap level of roughly $109 million, that would give the Pistons a room exception of $4,767,000, which they can use to sign a player to a two-year deal with a 5% raise the second year. 

This isn’t a strong free agency class, but like most years, there’s value throughout. Here are five value options the Pistons might target with their room exception. 

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Harry Giles, C, Sacramento Kings 

2019-20 stats: 6.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 55.4% overall shooting.

Once considered one of the best high school players in the 2016 class, Giles has yet to reach his potential. Knee injuries cost him his sophomore year of high school, part of his senior year, and the beginning of his freshman year at Duke. After going 20th overall in the 2017 draft, Giles sat out the 2017-18 season to rehab his prior knee injuries.  

The Kings declined to pick up Giles’ fourth-year team option last year, making him an unrestricted free agent. His averages don’t jump off of the page, but Giles has shown he can play when given the opportunity. He’s an above-average passer for a center, and averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds on 59.5% shooting in 17 starts last season. The Pistons need a center, and Giles is an option with the upside to fill that void long-term. 

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D.J. Augustin, G, Orlando Magic

2019-20 stats: 10.5 points, 4.6 assists, 34.8% shooting from 3.

Augustin had a strong stint as a backup for the Pistons during the 2014-15 season, before they traded him to Oklahoma City as a part of the package for Reggie Jackson. He was particularly good after Brandon Jennings tore his Achilles, averaging  20.3 points and 8.2 assists per game on strong shooting percentages in the 10 games leading up to the trade deadline.

Five years later, the Pistons are in the market for a veteran point guard, and he appears to be one of the best available. He came off the bench last season, but started 81 games for the Magic in 2018-19 and shot 47% overall and 42.1% from 3. He checks all the boxes Pistons coach Dwane Casey said he’s looking for in a point guard, as someone who can reliably run the offense and be a good influence in the locker room. 

Isaiah Thomas, G, Washington Wizards

2019-20 stats: 12.2 points, 3.7 assists, 40.3% shooting from 3.

It has only been three seasons since Thomas made his second-consecutive All-Star appearance with the Boston Celtics. He hasn’t been the same since suffering a career-altering hip injury in Game 2 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, settling in as a backup point guard. 

But he recently told ESPN that for the first time since the injury, his hip is pain-free and has regained full range of motion. He’s 31, and Detroit could be an ideal landing spot for him to get his career back on track considering the need for a starting point guard. 

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Brad Wanamaker, G, Boston Celtics 

2019-20 stats: 6.9 points, 2.5 assists, 36.3% shooting from 3.

After spending most of his career overseas after going undrafted in 2011, Wanamaker has carved out a role as a backup point guard for the Celtics during the past two seasons. He’s a restricted free agent, and Boston is facing a roster crunch with nine players under contract, two free agents with team options, two non-guaranteed contracts and three first-round picks. If Wanamaker is forced out, the Pistons are a logical option. 

Justin Holiday, G, Pacers

2019-20 stats: 8.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 40.5% from 3.

A career 36% 3-point shooter, last season was the Holiday’s best as a 3-point marksman. Previously, he never shot better than 37% over the course of an entire season. Was it a fluke? Time will tell, but one can never have enough shooters, and the Pistons could use additional depth behind Luke Kennard and Svi Mykhailiuk.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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