One of the topics at the Detroit Pistons’ season wrap-up media day was the future of forward Jason Maxiell, who has been with the team since they drafted him in 2006. The former Cincinnati Bearcat signed his last deal in 2008 – four years, $20 million – and during the last few seasons, it had been somewhat of an albatross on the Pistons.
The past season saw him average just 6.5 points and 5.1 rebounds – marginal numbers for a $5 million a year player – but after their horrendous 4-20 start to the 2012 season, his insertion into the starting lineup seemed to re-energize the team. His hustle play and defense helped them overcome that beginning and end the season on a much more positive note than in the past two or three years; that effort really seemed to solidify Lawrence Frank’s message with the young roster.
Now, however, he has a decision to make. As an unrestricted free agent, he could opt out of his contract and forgo the $5 million he is owed for next year. He recently hired a new agent, so clearly he has thought about his free agency. The major factor for him would have to be the type of contract he could receive from another team, should he leave Detroit. Can he get more money despite the subpar statistics he put up this season? He has a big choice to make, but surely Joe Dumars has spoken with him in-depth about it.
If Maxiell were to leave, there are a few free agents that I think the Pistons would be smart to pursue. The free agent pool, at least for someone around Maxiell’s price range, is decent – nothing too fancy, but plenty of guys with potential.
- JJ Hickson - After three years in Cleveland, and plenty of tantalizing performances, he was abruptly traded to the Sacramento Kings in June 2011. After playing overseas during the lockout, he returned to Sacramento but was waived in March 2012. Portland picked him up off waivers, and he went on to average 15 points and 8 rebounds in just 19 games with the Trailblazers. That type of production would surely help the Pistons, and his contract last season was much more payroll-friendly than Maxiell’s. Unless he gets a huge offer from another team, I could see Dumars offering him a contract.
- Jason Thompson - Despite averaging 10.5 points and 7.2 rebounds for his career, Thompson could be on the outside looking in once next season starts. In addition to DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings have Donte Greene and Hassan Whiteside as frontcourt players; they could even add another high lottery pick in the NBA draft next month. He could be the athletic, young big man that the Pistons would pair alongside Greg Monroe to form a solid frontcourt.
- Jordan Hill - The enigmatic big man from the LA Lakers has shown signs of being a legitimate talent in the NBA. His career numbers aren’t anything spectacular (5.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 49% shooting, and .6 blocks per game), but he’s only started 19 games in his entire career. He’s also only played 72 games or more in his career just one time – 2010-2011 with Houston. He could just be a marginal player at best, or he could be a young guy just waiting for the opportunity to play major minutes. I’d be interested if the Pistons were to sign him this offseason; he only earned $2.9 million last season, so he could possibly be signed for less.
While these players may not be marquee names or flashy signings, I think they would assist the Pistons in not only infusing youth into the roster, but allowing the team to potentially draft a small forward to be Tayshaun Prince’s heir apparent. It’ll be interesting to see what they do once free agency begins.