The NBA has two limits on a team’s ability to improve itself that draw frequent discussion: the salary cap and the luxury tax. But a third limit exists, and that’s the roster limit of 15 players.
For the rebuilding Pistons, that means they get just 15 chances to find a future contributor. Every player they acquire means another they can’t.
Thankfully, Kyle Singler has decided to play next season in Spain, and that means the Pistons can hold the rights of one additional player. Singler won’t count against the roster limit, but because the Pistons drafted him, they’ll retain the first right to sign him whenever he joins the NBA.
I have no idea whether the Pistons wanted Singler to play in Spain this year. There’s certainly an argument to be made that, in addition to Detroit getting an extra roster spot, Singler will benefit more from playing in Europe than sitting on the Pistons’ bench. But given how rarely the Pistons used the D-League to give young players game experience, my guess is they’d prefer Singler spent every day practicing with the Pistons and learning their routine.
To me, though, that’s inconsequential. Every player is different, and it’s futile to project which system would help Singler more in the year.
I’m concerned about that last roster spot.
Despite reports of Singler’s improvement, I doubt he’d push the Pistons into the playoffs this season. If he’s really becoming a valuable player, he’ll help more in future years – but he’ll certainly need help, and his absence will help the Pistons find it.
With that extra roster spot, the Pistons can try out one more player – regardless of his age – to see whether he can help them compete for a title. For that, I say to Singler, gracias.
Vernon Macklin and Rodney Stuckey corollaries
The same logic explains why I didn’t like the Pistons drafting Vernon Macklin (unless he agreed, as previous Pistons second rounders like Trent Plaisted and Deron Washington have, to play overseas for a year). Maybe he’ll emerge as a rotation-caliber player in a few years, but I don’t think that slim chance justifies using a precious roster spot on him in the interim. Drafting a foreign player not set on joining the NBA immediately, even if his odds of becoming a rotation player are slightly lower, comes with less opportunity cost.
This logic also explains why I was hoping Rodney Stuckey would sign in China. The Pistons wouldn’t have lost the right to match his NBA contract offers, and they could have used the upcoming rebuilding year to assess their team without him.