Every year, around the start of July, it’s a sports holiday. The start of NBA free agency doesn’t have the same pomp and circumstance that the NFL Draft does, but it has more drama and far-reaching effects on the next season and beyond.
This year is no different, even with an underwhelming group of free agents projected to be available. That is, until Kevin Durant requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. The ripple effects will impact every team in the league, as general managers and team owners will examine their rosters and wait on hold as long as it takes to get through to the Nets to make a trade pitch.
The Pistons might have made an inquiry to see what it would take to get Durant, but it’s unlikely that they’d be able to make a serious offer for Durant themselves.
That’s a dream for another day.
While many teams were clamoring for new players like mall-crazed parents at Christmas time, the Pistons were much calmer, having done their shopping before the frenzy, able to sit and watch the fray from afar.
The Pistons’ one big move on the first day of free agency was re-signing big man Marvin Bagley III to a new deal, worth three years and $37 million, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
It’s not an unwieldy deal for Bagley, who was acquired from the Sacramento Kings at the trade deadline for Trey Lyles and Josh Jackson. The Pistons made a qualifying offer to Bagley this week worth $7.2 million, enabling him to become a restricted free agent. The Pistons didn’t waste much time in agreeing on a new deal, as Bagley’s cap hit was more than $28 million before the new contract.
The Pistons made another deal on Thursday, agreeing with forward Kevin Knox to a reported two-year deal worth $6 million, according to Stadium’s Shams Charania.
Knox, 22, was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 draft, picked by the Knicks. Knox played three-plus seasons in New York and shot 35% from 3-point range. It’s a low-risk deal by the Pistons, who could look to try to get the best from him, similar to the way they did with Lyles and Jackson in previous seasons.
The Knicks traded Knox to the Hawks last season in a deal for Cam Reddish and Solomon Hill
Following the Jerami Grant trade, the Pistons’ highest-paid player was Kelly Olynyk at $12.8 million, followed by Cade Cunningham at $10.6 million. They wouldn’t have the assets for a Durant deal, but they did what they had to do to solidify their young core.
There’s plenty for the Pistons’ fan base to be optimistic about, though. They did their shopping early, bolstering their draft with an additional first-round pick, pairing No. 5 pick Jaden Ivey with Jalen Duren.
They cleaned up the roster a bit in the past couple of days, exercising the team option on Hamidou Diallo for $5.2 million after veteran guard Cory Joseph used his player option to return for $5.8 million. The Pistons also declined the team options for Frank Jackson, Luka Garza and Carsen Edwards.
The Pistons further readied themselves for free agency, planning to buy out the contract of guard Kemba Walker, a league source confirmed to The Detroit News. Walker was acquired last week from the New York Knicks.
Once the buyout agreement is completed, Walker will become an unrestricted free agent, and he could join another team.
Walker, a four-time All-Star, was set to make $9.2 million next season, the final year of his contract. He’ll join his fourth team in the past five seasons, after earning All-Star honors in his final three years in Charlotte and his first season in Boston.
In his one season in New York, Walker fell out of favor with the Knicks and a knee injury kept him out of the last 23 games. His numbers fell to career lows of 11.6 points, three rebounds and 3.5 assists.
While the Pistons looked to be major players last week ahead of the opening of free agency, they’ve used up much of their cap space in the past few days in acquiring Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel from the Knicks in a separate deal.
The Pistons aren’t likely to make any big moves in free agency given their reduced cap space, so they won’t be going after the Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton or the Charlotte Hornets’ Miles Bridges.
The more likely course will be that they’ll fill out the roster with a couple of wings to address their need for improved 3-point shooting. The Pistons have less than $20 million remaining in cap space available, which limits the players they could target.
Maybe general manager Troy Weaver has another unknown plan to make a bigger move in free agency. Maybe not. The Pistons have done enough with what they had to work with. They may not be in position to make the playoffs next season, but they’ll be better than they were last year.
And that’s what rebuilds are about.