After epic draft haul, here’s what Detroit Pistons must do in NBA free agency

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
 
| Detroit Free Press

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This story was filed Thursday evening. By the time you read it Friday, it’s possible the Detroit Pistons will have pulled off another trade within that stretch of time. 

Troy Weaver has been extraordinarily active this week — his first trade period with the Pistons since being hired as general manager in June. Weaver traded Bruce Brown to the Nets on Monday, swung three separate trades Wednesday to acquire three additional draft picks and reached a deal with the Hawks on Thursday for Dewayne Dedmon

In aggressively remaking the roster, Weaver’s vision for what the future of Pistons basketball should look like is slowly coming together: He wants a team of long-armed, physical, competitive athletes with defensive versatility. Any combination of those attributes can be used to describe Detroit’s haul of drafted players, and the same could hold true for free agency, which begins Friday. 

The Pistons have less than $10 million in cap space to work with as of Thursday night, a major decrease from the $30 million they had available earlier this week. They took on additional salary to acquire draft picks Wednesday.

There are additional moves they can make to free up cap space, which, according to sources, they plan to do, which would enable them to be more of a player in the free agency market. 

The Pistons appear to have two priorities in free agency: signing several veteran players, and re-signing Christian Wood. Let’s dive into both. 

Grading Pistons’ 2020 NBA draft haul: Two A’s and a whole lot of hope ]

Re-signing Christian Wood — for the right price

It has been a long time since the Pistons have been in the position of attempting to retain an unrestricted free agent as talented as Wood, who showcased one of the most efficient and versatile offensive skill sets of any big man last season. He’s a great athlete and ball-handler for his size, excels when rolling to the basket and can shoot.

He’s the type of player you don’t let slip away if you can help it. Weaver has a number in his head on what Wood’s annual value is. If the Pistons have the cap space to sign him, and the market doesn’t exceed the number in Weaver’s head, the likelihood is Wood will be back — assuming he wants to be in Detroit. After all, he’s an unrestricted free agent and controls his destiny. 

But what is Wood’s value? The Pistons would be thrilled to get him for a contract starting at less than $10 million annually, which would allow them to re-sign him using the early bird exception. Doing so would allow Wood’s salary to only count $1.7 million, Wood’s cap hold, and potentially enable them to make additional offseason signings, then re-sign him as their final move.

But in a weaker free agency class, Wood stands out as one of its most intriguing players. It’s not hard to imagine him signing an annual contract exceeding $10 million a year. 

Why Pistons chose Killian Hayes to lead rebuild ]

Finding veterans

The Pistons received an influx of youth Wednesday, as they added four rookies in Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee, who will be a two-way player. Hayes and Stewart are both 19, and Bey and Lee are 21. Last year’s first round draft pick, Sekou Doumbouya, is 20. 

Considering the Pistons have two players returning from last season older than 30, and that two veterans they acquired this week, Trevor Ariza and Dedmon, could be moved again soon, it’s clear the Pistons need more experience in the locker room. They’ll look to address that, as the market has numerous vets who might be had for cheap. 

Pistons’ stunning NBA draft haul revealed something huge about their future ]

What else could the Pistons accomplish in free agency?

It seems plausible Weaver could continue leveraging whatever cap space the Pistons have to bring in additional assets. As teams look to get deals done, some may offload contracts to other teams to make space. Detroit is a potential dumping ground. That would depend on what is being offered, and where the Pistons’ priorities are relative to accomplishing the two goals above. 

Two weeks ago, Weaver said the Pistons would consider everything. So far, that has proven to be true. 

“We’re going to attack the draft, we’re going to attack free agency, we’re going to attack everything,” Weaver said after the draft. “I said coming in, this was going to be a restoring of two interactions of the great Pistons teams. That was their mentality. They were aggressive, they were on the attack and we want to follow suit. That’s the mantra and we’ll hopefully continue to be aggressive.”

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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