What to expect from the Pistons in free agency

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 30: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 30: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope /

As we kick off the initial hours of NBA free agency, we break down what to expect from the Detroit Pistons in the early stages.

The Detroit Pistons are a team up against the cap with limited flexibility, and restrictions on how much money they can spend to retain at least one of their primary contributors from last season. While there is virtually no way the Pistons can get far enough below the cap in order to have an amount with which to lure premiere free agents, they’ll want to be cautious about their salary totals in order to avoid entering the luxury tax or going over the tax apron.

The salary cap was reduced the night before the draft from a projected $101 million to just $99 million. This drags the luxury tax down to $119 million from a projected $121 million, and the tax apron down to $125 million from a projected $127 million. Not counting the cap holds of pending free agents Aron Baynes, Reggie Bullock, Beno Udrih or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Pistons are currently just $445,000 under the salary cap.

They could gain another $812,611 if they were to waive Michael Gbinije before July 15th, which is the date his contract becomes fully guaranteed, but this would leave them with just 10 players on the books and less than $1.5 million with which to fill out the roster.

Related Story: The salary cap drops to $99 million

With this salary dilemma and concerns about the luxury tax looming, the Pistons look to have a clear path forward in free agency, both regarding what to do with their pending free agents and how to restock their roster.

First off, the Pistons are likely to renounce the rights to Baynes, Bullock and Udrih. While Baynes was better than most fans think last year, the Pistons won’t want to pay him the kind of money he can likely demand on the open market. The organization can go over the cap to sign him (up to $11.375 million, or 175% of last year’s salary, because they do not have his full Bird rights), but they’re more likely to go cheap to find a third-string center and let Boban Marjanovic take his rightful place as Andre Drummond‘s backup.

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If the Pistons renounce him, they will no longer have his partial Bird rights and his $8.45 million cap hold will come off the books. The Pistons could then only sign him (if they were so inclined) with the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (which is up to $8.4 million) or the bi-annual exception, which is $3.29 million (more on that shortly). Of course, they can always sign players to veteran minimum contracts, but Baynes is likely to fetch a higher number by far.

Back to the bi-annual exception, if the Pistons use that they are required to stay below the luxury apron of $125 million for the rest of the season. If they use the BIE and go over the apron, they become hard-capped and cannot add more salary for any reason, regardless of owner Tom Gores’ willingness to spend on the team. So the BIE will be an option of last resort for the Pistons.

As for Reggie Bullock, it’s very likely the Pistons will renounced his $5.6 million cap hold and he’ll become an unrestricted free agent. At this point the Pistons have yet to make him a qualifying offer, and it’s unlikely they intend to. They’ll probably simply cut ties and move on.

Beno Udrih has a small cap hold, just $1.471 million, but he’ll turn 35 on July 5th. The Pistons can probably find equally capable cheap help for the third point guard spot, but get younger doing so.

As for the man of the hour, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is about to get paid. Most likely by the Detroit Pistons, but the Brooklyn Nets are probably going to help that cause.

The Pistons have already extended KCP his qualifying offer, meaning he’ll become a restricted free agent at the stroke of midnight.

Next: Pistons committed to keeping KCP

The early stages of free agency should be quiet for the Pistons, barring unforeseen blockbuster trades or signings that allow them to make opportunistic moves, but the most likely outcome is the renouncing of Baynes, Bullock and Udrih, and the re-signing of KCP by whatever means necessary.