What happens if KCP gets a max offer?

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Joe Harris
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Joe Harris /

The Brooklyn Nets have kicked off their free agency activity, sending Otto Porter a max offer sheet. Will Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of the Detroit Pistons be their next target?

It’s long been rumored to begin, but the Brooklyn Nets have finally jumped into the free agency waters. They offered Otto Porter of the Washington Wizards a max contract worth $106.5 million over four years. It’s a deal laden with obnoxious incentives and add-ons, the likes of which have made teams dread having to deal with them.

Porter’s offer sheet features the maximum 15 percent trade kicker, a trade veto for the first year (and can’t be traded to Brooklyn if the Wizards match) and the odd addition of a clause requiring half of his annual salary paid to him by October 1st of each year. It’s quite the document. The Wizards will match, and the Nets will have $106.5 million burning a hole in their pockets.

That’s money that can’t really be used to lure the few remaining fish of note in free agency, but it can certainly be used to exploit the restricted free agency structure. Unfortunately for the Detroit Pistons, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is likely next on the list for Brooklyn’s grim attention.

Related Story: Analyzing newly acquired Langston Galloway

This will drag out the process of finally locking KCP up, as the Wizards have opted to treat the Nets as harshly as possible. They’re going to wait until the deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, and then they intend to drag out the process of conducting Porter’s physicals, which will extend this process to next Wednesday night, just shy of midnight. This will lock up the Nets’ cap space and they won’t be able to offer anybody max money until the process is resolved.

Thanks to the method with which the Pistons signed Langston Galloway, matching a potential max offer sheet for KCP won’t be as easy as previously thought. Because the Pistons are about to be in the luxury tax, they could only use up to $5.2 million of the $8.4 million mid-level exception. Using more than that would turn the tax apron (which is $125.3 million this year) into a hard cap, which becomes a number the Pistons could not go over for any reason.

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This is bad because if the Detroit Pistons had to match a max offer for KCP, they would be $7 million over the hard cap. This means the Pistons would have to dump salary just to be able to match the offer, and that means hard choices will need to be made about which pieces to ship out into the cap space of other teams.

Most likely no core pieces will be moved in order to clear space for Caldwell-Pope’s contract. That means the easiest salary (from a practical standpoint) to jettison would be Jon Leuer‘s, simply because his $10.5 million salary for this season would mean that only his salary would need to be shipped out. Theoretically they could receive a player with a salary under $3 million in return.

If they moved Boban Marjanovich’s $7 million salary, that would clear the space but leave no margin for error. It would also leave them with only Andre Drummond and newly-signed Eric Moreland as true centers on the roster and extend Jon Leuer into a reserve five role. Trading Ish Smith would necessitate moving another player as well, because his $6 million salary falls short of clearing the necessary space.

Any move involving Ish Smith would also cause the Pistons to lose one of their most important bench players from a season ago. That would also likely bump Galloway into the backup point guard spot. This might not be a bad situation for the Pistons as he’d be a significant shooting upgrade over Smith, but it might not have been what the team was planning on when they paid him such a big chunk of the MLE that they hard-capped themselves.

Next: Pistons sign Eric Moreland to multi-year deal

The Pistons have backed themselves into a corner, and whether that’s of concern to the front office or not is a mystery to everybody outside of ownership and management. One way or another, either the Pistons are going to get KCP back under contract at a bargain price (under the $17 million that would hard cap them) or they’re going to lose at least one major contributor from last season’s team.