10 players Detroit Pistons could spend $30 million on in NBA free agency 2023

Detroit Free Press

Now that the NBA draft is in the rearview, we can finally turn our attention to free agency.

The Detroit Pistons will be among the leaders in cap space this summer, with roughly $30 million available. It’s an underwhelming class as a whole, and they could instead look to the trade market to address their needs for perimeter defense and shooting. But there are still several logical options in play.

Here are 10 free agents the Pistons could pursue:

Cameron Johnson, 6 feet 8, F (restricted)

2022-23 stats: 15.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 40.4% from 3 (6.2 attempts).

Of all of the free agents on the market, Johnson is one of the best fits for the Pistons. The 27-year-old is a career 40% shooter on high volume, a capable defender and has the size and length to play either forward position. He also has a close relationship with Monty Williams, who coached him in Phoenix from his rookie season in 2019 until he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in February.

Johnson is high on Detroit’s wish list and they will pursue him in restricted free agency, according to a league source. But it will be difficult for them to pry Johnson away from Brooklyn, which is reportedly ready to offer him a four-year, $84 million contract. The Nets can also match any outside offers to retain him. He’s due for a significant pay raise, and the Pistons can offer most, if not all, of its cap space to make the Nets blink.

Brooklyn has every incentive to bring Johnson back next season, and the Pistons have to consider if it’s worthwhile to pay up to $30 million a year for a player who has had some durability issues, including missing 40 games last season due to a torn meniscus, and would likely profile as a third or fourth option offensively. They’re interested in Johnson, but I don’t expect they will overpay.

Jerami Grant, 6-8, F

2022-23 stats: 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 47.5% overall, 40.1% from 3 (5.7 attempts).

Grant, who played two seasons for the Pistons from 2020-22, had a standout season with the Portland Trail Blazers this past season, thriving as a secondary option alongside Damian Lillard, and is one of the best two-way forwards on the market.

The Pistons are a different team compared to when Grant was traded last offseason, but he’s still a good fit as a big wing with defensive chops. It’s long been thought that Grant’s free agency path will be determined, in part, by Lillard’s future in Portland. And Blazers general manager Joe Cronin clarified earlier this week that the team is committed to building a winner around the superstar.

Whether that involves giving Grant a big extension remains to be seen, but he has a strong incentive to stay put if Lillard does.

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Harrison Barnes, 6-8, F

2022-23 stats: 15 points, 4.5 rebounds, 47.3% overall, 37.4% from 3 (4.3 attempts).

Barnes is one of the older players on this list at 31, but he still has a lot to offer. He’s a career 37.8% outside shooter, is a capable wing defender and also brings playoff experience from his time with Golden State and, most recently, Sacramento. Albeit lower upside, he would bring a lot of the same tools as the two players above.

Draymond Green, 6-6, PF/C

2022-23 stats: 8.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 52.7% overall, 30.5% from 3 (1.8 attempts).

Another player who doesn’t need an introduction for many local basketball fans, Green is an unrestricted free agent after declining his $27.5 million player option for next season. National NBA reporter Marc Stein says Green is likely to sign a multi-year contract to stay with the Warriors, but Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer reports that the Pistons are among the teams expected to pursue the All-Defensive Team stalwart.

Green would unquestionably upgrade Detroit’s defense and give the young roster a powerful voice in the locker room. But he’d be expensive, and it’s difficult to imagine him leaving Golden State for a rebuilding team.

Austin Reaves, 6-5, G/F (restricted)

2022-23 stats: 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 52.9% overall, 39.8% from 3 (3.4 attempts).

The second-year wing is due for a big payday after a standout playoff performance with the Los Angeles Lakers. Reaves averaged 16.9 points and 4.6 assists while splashing 44.3% of his 3-pointers through 16 games, and was the Lakers’ second-best perimeter player after LeBron James. He hit big shots and rose to the moment.

The Lakers are now tasked with retaining him, as Reaves is a restricted free agent. The Pistons could offer a hefty contract to pry him away, but Los Angeles can match any offer. All reports indicate they will do what they can to maximize their contending window with James.

Caris LeVert, 6-6, G/F

2022-23 stats: 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 43.1% overall, 39.2% from 3 (4.4 attempts, career-high).

The Michigan alumnus shot a career-best percentage from behind-the-arc last season while playing off of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s also one of the NBA’s better playmaking wings. He doesn’t quite fill the Pistons’ need for a defensive stopper on the perimeter, however.

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Jalen McDaniels, 6-9, F

2022-23 stats: 9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 45.5% overall, 33.2% from 3 (2.9 attempts).

A late second-round pick in 2019, McDaniels was traded from the Charlotte Hornets to a contending Philadelphia 76ers team last season and was a solid contributor on both teams. His points, rebounds and minutes per game were all career highs. He would give the Pistons some length and athleticism along the perimeter and has upside as a shooter.

Keita Bates-Diop, 6-8, F

2022-23 stats: 9.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 50.8% overall, 39.4% from 3 (2.1 attempts).

A big forward with an even bigger 7-foot-3 wingspan, Bates-Diop is coming off of a career season with the San Antonio Spurs. He started 42 games and knocked down a career-best percentage from 3. Similar to McDaniels, he would give the Pistons additional defensive punch and shotmaking.

Yuta Watanabe, 6-8, F

2022-23 stats: 5.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 49.1% overall, 44.4% from 3 (2.3 attempts).

Watanabe was a lights-out shooter for Brooklyn last season, as his 44.4% clip from 3 was tied for fourth in the league among players with at least 100 attempts. The Pistons could always use more shooting, and Watanabe would provide it.

Darius Bazley, 6-8, F

2022-23 stats: 5.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 45.4% overall, 37.7% from 3 (1.2 attempts).

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver likes taking swings on former highly-recruited prospects who haven’t found their footing in the NBA. Last summer, it was Kevin Knox. In previous seasons, the Pistons have taken chances on Josh Jackson, Jahlil Okafor and Dennis Smith Jr. Bazley, an athletic 6-9 forward who was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder 23rd overall in 2019, checks the usual “second chance” boxes that Weaver covets.

Weaver is already familiar with Bazley, given that he was an assistant GM with the Thunder when he was drafted. But it remains to be seen if the Pistons will have a roster spot available for a developmental player.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

Listen to “The Pistons Pulse” with new episodes each week, wherever you listen to podcasts. Catch all of our podcasts and daily voice briefing at freep.com/podcasts.

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