Free Agency Rumors: Pistons interested in Nerlens Noel, Kelly Olynyk as big man options

Detroit Bad Boys

The Detroit Pistons opened up salary cap space with the trade of Mason Plumlee and by waiving Cory Joseph and Tyler Cook, and presuming they also waive Rodney McGruder and his $5 million salary before Aug. 15.

Attention is now turning to who the team might turn to as a free agent target, and the first names to emerge from the rumor mill are a pair of centers who could serve as backups to Isaiah Stewart.

One, Nerlens Noel, is one of the top defensive big men in the NBA and is an effective roll man who could play off of Killian Hayes and rookie Cade Cunningham in the pick-and-roll. The interest was first reported by Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype.

The other, Kelly Olynyk, is a pick-and-pop threat. He career true shooting percentage is just a shade under 60% including better than 36% career from 3. He’ll never be mistaken for a great defender, but he has an offensive game that can stretch defenses.

Shooting 3s has been his calling card throughout his career, especially after signing his first big free agent deal in Miami. But his career stagnated and his play regressed. He shot 3s well enough but didn’t do much of anything else. Eventually, he was traded to the Houston Rockets where he had much more freedom and experienced the best play of his career.

He was utilized as a point center, averaging 19 points, 8.6 rebounds and more than 4 assists per game. He also shot 55% from the floor and his 3-point attempt rate plummeted from 64% in his final half season in Miami to just 38% with Houston. His free-throw rate was also a career-high 42%.

Of course, this is for a shambolic Houston Rockets team who was getting crushed every single night. It could be a classic good stats, bad team run that leads someone to pay him in free agency and almost instantly regret it.

Considering Troy Weaver’s focus on 3-point shooting in the draft, though, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising he’d look for 3-point shooting in a big man option.

Noel, however, doesn’t have range beyond the restricted area (68% of his shots last season came within three feet). But his calling card is his defense, where he is athletic enough to keep up on switches, and has the length and bounce to lockdown the paint. Noel held opponents to 45% at the rim last season and 2.2 blocks and 6.4 rebounds in just 24 minutes per night.

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