The Pistons, according to experts, will be one of seven teams with at least $20 million in space, though the Los Angeles Lakers could theoretically join the fray by stripping their roster to create nearly $30 million in space.
Here’s a look at the Pistons and six other teams competing to be major players on the open market as franchises rearrange rosters ahead of the 2023-24 season this fall:
10 free agents to watch
- PG James Harden
- PG Kyrie Irving
- SF Khris Middleton
- PF Jerami Grant
- PF Draymond Green
- PG Fred VanVleet
- F Cameron Johnson (restricted)
- SG Austin Reaves (restricted)
- PF Kyle Kuzma
- C Brook Lopez
*Cap space numbers are rough estimates.
Houston Rockets: $63 million
Roster building blocks: PG Amen Thompson, SG Jalen Green, SF Cam Whitmore, PF Jabari Smith Jr., C Alperen Şengün
The buzz: The Rockets are coming off what many believe was a successful draft, taking Thompson at No. 4 and then Whitmore at No. 20. Houston has by far the most ammo in free agency and has been linked to a handful of proven veterans that would help its youngsters take the next step. They’re more likely to split their money between three players or more than splurge on a “star.”
San Antonio Spurs: $34 million
Roster building blocks: SG Devin Vassell, SF Keldon Johnson, PF Jeremy Sochan, PF/C Victor Wembanyama.
The buzz: They are the offseason winners no matter what happens in the new league year this summer, after getting the chance to add the generational 7-foot-5 French prospect Wembanyama with the top pick. He should pay immediate dividends on defense, warping the court to the Spurs’ advantage with his truly absurd height, length and mobility. San Antonio has useful youth talent on the wing, and could be one good free agent move away from taking a big leap forward in the tough Western Conference.
Sacramento Kings: $34 million
Roster building blocks: PG De’Aaron Fox, SG Kevin Huerter, PF Keegan Murray, C Domantas Sabonis.
The buzz: The surprise feel-good story of last season looks to solidify itself as a Western Conference contender. They traded their first-round pick at No. 24 with the $12 million contract of Richaun Holmes to open up more space, and are a serious threat to acquire a near All-Star caliber player. Who that might be is anyone’s guess, though they have been linked to Draymond Green — who is still expected to re-sign with Golden State. Harrison Barnes is a free agent, so an upgrade on the wing should ostensibly be the target.
Indiana Pacers: $32 million
Roster building blocks: PG Tyrese Haliburton, SG Bennedict Mathurin, PF Jarace Walker, C Myles Turner.
The buzz: The Pacers have arguably the most exciting young backcourt in the NBA, and a frontcourt that looks complementary after drafting Walker at No. 8 overall last week. They were a play-in team last year until Haliburton got banged up, have multiple solid options on the wing, and a respected veteran coach in Rick Carlisle. They’re one move away at forward from being a rock-solid top-10 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Pistons: $30 million
Roster building blocks: PG Cade Cunningham, SG Jaden Ivey, SF Ausar Thompson, C Jalen Duren.
The buzz: The big question general manager Troy Weaver and the Pistons must answer: Will they strike now with an expensive long-term commitment to a veteran despite having a plethora of young and unproven talent that needs playing time? Or will they stay patient, shop on the margins and see what they have this season before looking to make a significant financial investment? Cam Johnson might be their No. 1 target because of his 3-point shooting and defensive length, and his previous playing experience under coach Monty Williams in Phoenix could help his case. But Brooklyn can match any offer, so prying Johnson will be tough. The Pistons have too many bigs already, so expect a deal to slim the roster somewhere.
Utah Jazz: $25 million
Roster building blocks: PG Keyonte George, SG Ochai Agbaji, PF Lauri Markkanen, PF Taylor Hendricks, C Walker Kessler.
The buzz: The teardown is well ahead of schedule under CEO Danny Ainge, who added three first-round picks last week in Hendricks (No. 9), George (No. 16) and Brice Sensabaugh (No. 28). They have a glutton of talented bigs after acquiring John Collins from Atlanta in a salary dump and will likely target wings and/or continue to take on unwanted money for assets.
Orlando Magic: $24 million
Roster building blocks: PG Anthony Black, SG Jett Howard, SF Franz Wagner, PF Paolo Banchero, C Wendell Carter Jr.
The buzz: The Magic added two more lottery picks to the roster last week with a surprise at both No. 6 (Black) and No. 11 (Howard). Black, another lanky athlete with poor 3-point shooting numbers, joins a crowded backcourt of Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony. The Magic made a nice leap out of the NBA cellar last season, improving from 22 to 34 wins and playing .500 ball after a 5-20 start. They could add a 3-point shooter on the wing, but either way should contend for a play-in tournament berth this season.