Pistons add free agents Jahlil Okafor, Mason Plumlee as busy offseason continues

Detroit News

Rod Beard
| The Detroit News

Like they did during the NBA Draft on Wednesday, the Pistons made an early splash in free agency, but not the one that many expected.

The Pistons agreed to terms with center Mason Plumlee, a league source confirmed to The Detroit News on Friday night, in the opening hour of free agency. The agreement is for three years and $25 million but can’t be signed until Sunday afternoon at the earliest.

The Pistons also agreed to two-year deals with guard Josh Jackson and center Jahlil Okafor, a league source confirmed.

It’s been a busy week for new general manager Troy Weaver, who has remade the roster through the draft and four trades, but the initial part of free agency has been surprising because top priority appeared to be re-signing big man Christian Wood, who is an unrestricted free agent.

A league source indicated that the signings don’t preclude the Pistons from still pursuing Wood, but they would need to make some other deals to clear cap space to make that happen.

Entering the draft on Wednesday, the Pistons had just one center on the roster, Justin Patton. They selected Washington center Isaiah Stewart with the 16th pick in the first round and traded with the Hawks to get Dewayne Dedmon and also added Tony Bradley in a draft-night deal with the Utah Jazz. Patton was later traded to the Trail Blazers.

Plumlee, 30, has played seven seasons in the NBA with the Nets, Trail Blazers the last three-plus seasons with the Denver Nuggets. Last season, he averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in about 17 minutes per game in a reserve role in 61 games.

Jackson, 23, a Detroit native, played his first two seasons with the Phoenix Suns and had a resurgent year with the Memphis Grizzlies last season with 9 points and 3 rebounds and shot 32 percent on 3-pointers in 22 games.

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The bigger question is the plan ahead for Wood, 25, who is regarded as one of the top unrestricted free agents on the market. He had an outstanding second half of the season, after the Pistons traded Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers at the trade deadline.

In his last 13 games, Wood posted 22.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc. He finished the season with career highs of 29, 30 and 32 points in three of the last four games.

Because Wood, 6-foot-11, is an unrestricted free agent, he can sign with any team and the Pistons could lose one of their best players and get nothing in return. There are other options available, including trading some of the players they’ve acquired this week in various trades or through the draft.

Before last season, Wood signed as a free agent and in training camp, he was the final player to make the roster, in a final-day decision between him and Joe Johnson. Wood won the job and as he earned playing time, his production increased.

After a slew of injuries and trades near the end of the season, Wood became their most productive player and became a priority to bring back after the season. The correct salary number seems to be the big question mark surrounding his potential return.

The Pistons entered the week with about $30 million in available cap space but through the flurry of trades and adding players with bigger contracts while also gaining draft assets, they reduced that number to about $9.5 million entering the start of free agency on Friday.

With the additions of Plumlee and Okafor — whose contract will count as $1.6 million against the cap — consumes that space they had.

The Pistons still could sign Wood for about $10 million per season using his Early Bird Rights but if there are other teams with cap space that want to go above that amount, the Pistons wouldn’t be able to match without other trades or creating room under the cap.

Okafor is 6-10, 270 and was the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft. Like Plumlee, he played collegiately at Duke. After a good rookie season with 17.5 points and 7 rebounds with the Philadelphia 76ers, Okafor has bounced around with the Nets and Pelicans in his five NBA seasons. He played in 30 games with the Pelicans last season and posted 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 30 games in a reserve role.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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