Update: Cap-room numbers corrected from initial post.
But the sign-and-trade that brought Jennings to Detroit likely won’t change the Pistons’ spending flexibility this season. Either way, they have the room exception to spend on free agents.
The real question is how the Jennings deal affects Detroit’s cap space in 2014.
A few underlying scenarios for either estimate:
- The salary cap will be $62.1 million, as the NBA estimates
- Jennings received the maximum allowable salary
- The Pistons pick up team options for Chauncey Billups and Andre Drummond
- Jonas Jerebko opts into the final year of his contract
- Peyton Siva does not count against the cap (due to having a one-year contract, a contract that guarantees no money before he’s waived or a team option that isn’t picked up)
- The Pistons renounce every free agent but Greg Monroe (He would count against the cap at $10,216,135 until he signs. If he signs with the Pistons, his first-year salary would become his new cap number. If he signs elsewhere, he would come off Detroit’s cap.)
- The Pistons would not have waived Khris Middleton, whose 2014-15 contract is unguaranteed
Before the trade, the Pistons projected to have $15,001,475 in cap room. After the trade, the Pistons project to have $10,891,460 in cap room.
That’s a difference of $4,110,015.
Is Jennings worth that? Given the Pistons’ clear goal of making the playoffs this season, probably. Jennings upgrades the point-guard position immediately, so that long-term hit probably takes a back seat.
With $10,891,460 to spend next summer, the Pistons still have the flexibility to upgrade their roster, but Jennings comes at a real cost in the future. Even though my goals for the the Pistons don’t perfectly align with their apparent goals, I’d still say getting Jennings so cheaply this season outweighs the future cost.
However, if the Pistons had amnestied Charlie Villanueva like I wished they would have, they possibly could have signed Jennings outright without giving up Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov. Perhaps, the Bucks would have matched the offer Jennings ultimately received if it meant losing him for nothing, but the Pistons would have had the upper hand in sign-and-trade talks. Likely, the Pistons wouldn’t have had to give up so much – or nothing at all if they signed Jennings outright and Milwaukee didn’t match.
Accounting for the conditions at the time of the sign-and-trade, I love the deal. But it’s very possible the Pistons chose Villanueva over Knight, Middleton and Kravtsov. Obviously, Jennings would have made Knight more expendable, but Knight could have brought back additional assets – same with Middleton and maybe Kravtsov, too. (Kravtsov’s value may be zero, but the Pistons let his partially guaranteed contract become guaranteed, so they clearly thought he presented some value).
Anyway, with the choices the Pistons made, they don’t project to have enough cap room next summer to sign a player to a max contract. But they still have enough cap room to keep improving – and they have Jennings.