The Pistons, Heat, Lakers, Mavs and Suns have all expressed interest, with the Pistons showing the most interest to date and numbers starting in the three-year, $24 million range. Talks with teams in playoff contention have started in the $6-7 million per-year range.
Beyond the name connection with Pistons legend Isiah Thomas, Isaiah Thomas would be excellent. The 5-foot-9 point guard is a top-end pick-and-roll player – hello Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe – and pesky defender.
He’s better than Brandon Jennings, which is why the Pistons would pay so much for him. I think he’s worth $24 million over three years, but because he’s a restricted free agent, the Kings might think so too and match.
Any starting salary over $6,074,466 would push Sacramento’s projected payroll over the projected luxury tax, but they could make other moves to get under. The tax is assessed to teams’ salaries at the end of the regular season, so there’d be plenty of time for the Kings trade someone else.
There’d be little harm in signing Thomas to an offer sheet other than the risk you leave your cap tied up for three days as the Kings wait before matching. In that time, you could miss out on other free agents.
The only way to guarantee the Kings wouldn’t match is with a sign-and-trade. I’d love to believe these discussions are tied to the Josh Smith discussions, but I’m always doubtful a team can pull off a trade simply because the other is stupid. However, if possible – and again I doubt it – I’d happily take Carl Landry, Jason Thompson or Jason Terry as a tax for also getting Thomas. The salaries would match.
More likely, the Pistons would have to offer more than $24 million over three years and/or a sign-and-trade package more appealing to Sacramento. How does $40 million over four years sound for Thomas? What if the Pistons had to trade Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to guarantee the Kings wouldn’t match?
I’d love to get Thomas, but if the offer sounds to good to be true – especially when the Kings have so much leverage – it probably is.