Carmelo Anthony trade could allow Pistons to spend $6.5 million in free agency, then re-sign Rodney Stuckey, Tracy McGrady and Jonas Jerebko

Thanks to Herm in the comments for pointing out the first-round draft pick’s cap hold, which I initially forgot to include. The post, including the title, has been updated to reflect it.

As I researched this post on the Pistons-Nets-Nuggets Carmelo Anthony trade, I became a firmer believer in a conclusion I had already reached: the Pistons must complete this deal. Their outlook would change greatly for the better.

Patrick covered the on-court ramifications, and I explained how it would affect Karen Davidson’s bottom line.

That leaves the most relevant aspect of the trade: how it affects the Pistons’ salary structure as it relates to building a competitive basketball team.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going with the most recently and commonly reported version of the trade from the Pistons’ perspective – Richard Hamilton and DaJuan Summers for Troy Murphy and Johan Petro.

Salaries committed

Austin Daye has a $1,929,600 team option for next season, and the Pistons will definitely pick that up, so I’m counting that as committed salary for this entire post.

With their current roster, the Pistons have $47,073,920 committed to next season.* After the trade, that total would drop to $37,823,920 – a savings of $9,250,000. The savings comes from replacing Hamilton’s $12.5 million salary with Petro’s $3.25 million salary. (Murphy’s contract expires.)

*Pistons under fully guaranteed contractions next season: Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell, Will Bynum, Greg Monroe and Ben Wallace.

The Pistons also must pay their first-round pick. The Pistons hold the the league’s sixth-worst record, and although I think they would climb the standings after this trade, I’ll stick with the scale salary for the No. 6 pick – $2,634,000. That raises the Pistons total to $49,707,920.

Cap room

The above section is fact. The rest of this post relies on speculation.

At this point in the year, the following season’s salary cap can’t be known. Considering the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires this summer, the uncertainty is even greater. The cap could increase. It could decrease. It could become hard. It could remain soft. Larry Coon covers the issues, which are too complex to deal with here.

I really don’t know where the salary cap will be set next year, but I’m going to make a prediction: it will be similar to this year’s $58,044,000 mark. So, without any better projection, that’s the number I’ll use for this post.

If that’s the case, the Pistons would have $8,336,080 to spend if they don’t make the trade and $17,581,080 if they do make the trade. Keep in mind, re-signing free agents Troy Murphy, Tayshaun Prince, Chris Wilcox, Rodney Stuckey, Tracy McGrady and Jonas Jerebko would cut into that cap room.

Here’s my estimated first-year salary for each of those players next season:

  • Stuckey – $9 million
  • Prince – $9 million
  • Murphy – $7 million
  • McGrady – $5 million
  • Jerebko – $4 million
  • Wilcox – $3 million

My guess is the Pistons will re-sign Stuckey, McGrady and Jerebko.

I can’t imagine the Pistons will have much interest in re-signing Wilcox, especially considering they’d be adding Petro. Murphy is a little redundant with – although, arguably better than – Villanueva. Considering the difficulties assimilating the old and new guards this season, Prince probably doesn’t fit in Detroit.

But I have another reason for my prediction (as long as this part of the CBA doesn’t change).

Every free agent counts against the cap at a number specified by the CBA until he signs a contract or his team renounces him. Here are the cap holds for each Pistons free agent:

  • Stuckey – $8,301,378
  • Prince – greater of $11 million or 30 percent of the salary cap
  • Murphy – greater of $14 million or 35 percent of the salary cap
  • McGrady – $1,622,617
  • Jerebko – $1,059,293
  • Wilcox – $3,900,000

So, Detroit could re-sign Stuckey, McGrady and Jerebko for the combined $18 million I projected above, and as long as the Pistons sign those three last – keeping the lower cap-hold figure in place until signing other free agents – and renounced everyone else, they’d have about $6.5 million in cap room.

What could the Pistons do with $6.5 million in cap room? The 2011 free agent class might be light on superstars relocating, but it’s full of second-tier big men – which is exactly what the Pistons need.

Nene (my preference), Zach Randolph (my prediction), Marc Gasol (restricted), Samuel Dalembert, Kendrick Perkins, Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan (restricted), Nenad Krstic, Greg Oden (restricted), David West, Kenyon Martin or Andrei Kirilenko could be options.

If the $6.5 million isn’t enough under the new CBA to lure any of these players, Detroit could always try to trade a current player or pass on any of Stuckey, McGrady or Jerebko. Feel free to mix and match.

Cap holds and restricted free agency

Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko will be restricted free agents, and for the Pistons to maintain their right to match offers, they must leave enough cap room for each player’s cap hold. Stuckey’s cap hold will be $8,301,378, and Jerebko’s will be $1,059,293 if the that portion of the CBA remains constant.

This might not become relevant this summer, but it might. It’s important Detroit recognizes the situation.

Mid-level exception competition

The Pistons, the team that has used the mid-level exception better than any other in NBA history, might end up rooting against its inclusion in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If the Pistons make this trade and the MLE no longer exists, it would eliminate some competition for free agents. If the Pistons don’t make the trade, the MLE might be their only way to sign free agents for more than a minimum or near-minimum contract.

2012 and beyond

As a result of this trade, the Pistons’ 2012-13 payroll would fall by $9 million* to $41,217,357 assuming Austin Daye’s and Greg Monroe’s options are picked up, Jason Maxiell exercises his player option. Of course, any signings or trades would affect that total.

*Hamilton’s contract is guaranteed for just $9 million, but I’m counting the full $12.5 million because he’ll almost certainly be worth more as an expiring contract than $3 million in savings.

The further into the future, the projections get murkier. But this much is clear: if the Pistons make this trade, their future becomes rosier.

Tags: Chris Wilcox DaJuan Summers Richard Hamilton Rodney Stuckey Tayshaun Prince Tracy McGrady