2012 NBA Free Agency: Pistons would be wise to wait


With the albatross that was Ben Gordon’s contract now off the books for the Pistons, many of the team’s followers were wondering if GM Joe Dumars would once again jump into the frenzy that is NBA free agency.

I may or may not be the majority when I say this, but I sincerely hope he stays away from it all.

If the nightmare that was the summer of 2009 – when the team signed Gordon and Charlie Villanueva right away – isn’t a good enough deterrent for Dumars, the fact that the team’s roster is nearly full should be plenty for him.

As it stands, the team has 10 players on contract, with Jason Maxiell picking up the final year of his contract last week, but will have to also account for the rookie contracts of 2012 draft picks Andre Drummond, Kim English, and Khris Middleton. 2011 second rounder Kyle Singler, fresh off a year playing in Spain with Real Madrid.

Needless to say, they just haven’t got much room to work with in terms of salaries, unless they decide the midlevel exception is a contract they feel will help the squad this upcoming season. They would put them perilously close to the luxury tax, however, so I doubt owner Tom Gores  and Dumars make that move.

After this season, however, they will have an extreme amount of room to work with. With last week’s trade of Ben Gordon and a protected first rounder for Charlotte’s Corey Maggette, Detroit will have four expiring contracts to work with: Will Bynum, Maggette, Maxiell, and Villanueva. Those four come to nearly $22 million, and the final year of Rip Hamilton’s buyout deal ($5.5 million) will also be off the books. Austin Daye is also a restricted free agent, but with the sudden influx of youth at the small forward position, his time in Detroit could very well be over.

While Villanueva’s final year has a player option of $8.6 million, I highly doubt Dumars would let him exercise that, considering the rapid decline in Charlie V’s worth to the team since coming to Detroit. I could easily see him using the team’s amnesty provision on the former UConn forward.

If the team doesn’t pursue any players this offseason, they will have just five contracts (Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Jonas Jerebko, Andre Drummond, and Villanueva) for 2013-14. Obviously they’ll pick up the team options of franchise cornerstones Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, but even then, they’ll still have just about $35 million of salaries next offseason. With a maximum luxury tax of $70 million, the Pistons would have plenty of free agent money to work with.

Yes, the team will likely have to just sit back and hold off on going cash-crazy this summer. Yes, they will have to just play out next season with the team that they have, and hope for all of their young pieces to learn on the fly. I’m 100% behind that approach, though. Go with a youth movement and see what you have; the worst that could happen is you have to pick in the lottery again, and if the last two drafts are any indicator, that seems to be okay.

While they likely won’t be able to land the premier free agents of 2013 (Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Chris Paul, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, etc.), they could very well find more depth and skill to add to their roster. The team’s fans may not want to hear that another “down” year is awaiting them in 2013, but it might just be the best move for the franchise.