Another season of Detroit Pistons basketball, another year without a playoff win. That’s 13 consecutive seasons, but who’s counting?
And yet, it was a good year for the Pistons, despite the second-worst record in the league in 2020-21. They finally got off the treadmill of mediocrity, and chose the
rebuild restoring path. The franchise is surfacing again, and there is hope for the future in a city where all four major professional teams are among the worst in their respective leagues.
Forward Jerami Grant said in late April he expects the Pistons to do “something big next year.” In order to do that, they’ll need more talent added to the pipeline to compete in the competitive Eastern Conference.
Here’s a cheat sheet to a crucial offseason for the Pistons, as they continue their long march back to relevancy in the East.
*Salary cap based on NBA projections
2021 NBA draft
Dates to know: NBA draft lottery is June 22 (ESPN); NBA draft is July 29 (ESPN).
Pistons 2021 draft picks: First round: Guaranteed to be no worse than sixth. Second round: No. 37 (from Toronto; Bruce Brown three-team trade with Brooklyn), No. 42 (from Charlotte; Derrick Rose trade with New York), No. 51 (from L.A. Lakers; Delon Wright trade with Sacramento). Pistons owe their second-rounder to New York at No. 32 overall (from Khyri Thomas draft pick in 2018).
Lottery odds: Own No. 2 slot heading into June 22 lottery. They have a 52.1% chance to get in the top 4. Here are their odds to land at each pick.
No. 1: 14%
No. 2: 13.4%
No. 3: 12.7%
No. 4: 11.9%
No. 5: 27.8%
No. 6: 20.1%
Top 5 draft prospects: PG/SF Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State); C Evan Mobley (USC); G Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga); SG Jalen Green (G League); F Jonathan Kuminga (G League). Read about how each player would fit with Pistons in the second half of this article.
Free agency, salary cap outlook
Dates to know: Free agency negotiation period opens Aug. 2 at 6 p.m.; free agents can begin signing Aug. 6 at 12:01 p.m.
Pistons free agents: SG Wayne Ellington, PG Dennis Smith Jr. (restricted, $7.7 million qualifying offer); SG Hamidou Diallo (restricted, $2.1 million qualifying offer), SG Frank Jackson (restricted, $1.8 million qualifying offer), PG Saben Lee (restricted, two-way contract).
Pistons team options: PG Cory Joseph ($2.4 million guaranteed of $12.6 million), SG Rodney McGruder ($5 million non-guaranteed); PF Tyler Cook ($1.7 million non-guaranteed).
Pistons 2022 expiring contracts: PF Blake Griffin ($29.8 million from buyout), F Josh Jackson ($5 million), C Jahlil Okafor ($2.1 million).
NBA salary cap, luxury tax: The salary cap is expected to be $112.4 million, an increase of over $3 million from 2020-21. The luxury tax threshold will be around $136.6 million.
Pistons 2021-22 salary cap situation: $88.2 million in guaranteed salary with nine players under contract; excluding draft picks. (If they stay at No. 2, that pick is slotted for about $9 million in Year 1.)
Waived players affecting salary cap: Dewayne Dedmon (stretched) counting $2.9 million against cap for four more seasons; Zhaire Smith (stretched) counting $1.1 million against cap for two more seasons; Blake Griffin (buyout) counting $29.8 million against cap for one year.
Mid-level exception (Non-taxpayer): They should operate as an over-the-cap team, after re-signing a few of their own free agents, possibly a mid-tier free agent and including their top-6 lottery pick, so they’ll have the larger standard mid-level worth about $9.5 million in 2021-22 season, according to HoopsRumors.com. It may be split among multiple players. Can offer up to a 4-year, $41 million deal.
Bi-annual exception: Pistons used it in 2019-20 on Markieff Morris, so it was unavailable to them in 2020-21. Worth $3.7 million in 2021-22, according to HoopsRumors.com. Can offer a 2-year, $7.6 million deal.
Trade exception: $2 million, expiring around midseason, exact date based on start of 2021-22. From Derrick Rose trade with New York.
Needs and fits
Entering the offseason, the Pistons’ biggest need appears to be shooting. They were 21st in the NBA in attempts per game (32.9) in 2020-21, and 22nd in 3-point percentage (35.1%). Here are three free agents who could address that need, and potentially be had with part or all of the mid-level exception.
Doug McDermott: 13.6 points per game, 53.2% overall shooting, 38.8% from 3 in 2020-21.
Bryn Forbes (player option): 10 PPG, 45.2% from 3.
Kent Bazemore: 7.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 40.8% from 3.
Contracts to watch
Joseph and McGruder both have contracts with non-guarantees, meaning the Pistons could use them to salary match and the receiving team could waive them with little or no money tied up. Joseph is only guaranteed for $2.4 million, but for salary matching purposes, his contract counts for $12.6 million; McGruder has no money guaranteed on his $5 million deal. The guarantee date for Joseph’s contract is Aug. 1, per BasketballInsiders.com; McGruder’s is Aug. 16.
Future draft picks
Outgoing: 2022 first-rounder to Houston (protected 1-16 in 2022, 1-18 in 2023-24, 1-13 in 2025, 1-11 in 2026 and 1-9 in 2027 — if not conveyed by 2027, Detroit instead sends its 2027 second-round pick to Houston); 2022 second-rounder to Sacramento, Chicago or Washington; 2023 second-rounder to New York; 2024 second-rounder to L.A. Clippers; 2025 second-rounder to L.A. Clippers; 2026 second-rounder to L.A. Clippers.
Incoming: 2023 second-rounder from Cleveland or Golden State (less favorable); 2024 second-rounder from Sacramento.
Free Press sports writer Omari Sankofa II contributed to this report.