When looking at Detroit Pistons salary cap, you see many ‘dead’ people

Blake Griffin (2) is defended by Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant (9). Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Blake Griffin (2) is defended by Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant (9). Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons brought back a lot of players from a 20-win team. It might seem puzzling, but mainly it is due to being hamstrung by their salary cap. They are so many ‘dead’ people on the payroll, there was no real room for new, live players.

There is a saying that societies are judge by how they treat their elderly. Well, the Pistons do not have any really elderly players, their oldest is Kelly Olynyk at 31, but they’re really super good to their ‘dead’ players.

Now, these players did not really pass away. It is a financial term for players getting paid by a team they do not play for. Basically, these are players who are ‘dead’ to the Pistons team, but owner Tom Gores still cuts them a check.

(all salary information courtesy of Spotrac.com)

One odd case is Deividas Sirvydis. The 6-foot-8 Lithuanian has a guaranteed contract worth $1.5 million for this season but he was released in July by Detroit, making it a ‘dead’ contract.. However, he is playing with the Motor City Cruise G-League team and was even back with the Pistons briefly on a 10-day hardship contract.

Sirvydis got paid $$85,578 on his hardship contract, and Detroit is still on the hook for his full 2021 salary. So, get this, Sirvydis actually makes more money this year being cut by the Pistons, than if he had been kept on their roster.

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Since Sirvydis would get the $1.5 million whether he played or sat home and ate potato chips, we will count his 2021-2022 contract as ‘dead’ money.

Another oddity is Cory Joseph. He signed a new two-year-deal with Detroit this past off-season. However, he still gets $2.4 million additionally from Detroit for not picking up the $10 million option on his old contract.

In a way, Joseph is both living and dead to Detroit.

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While there are six ‘dead’ players on the Pistons payroll, one eats up a much larger section of the cap than the rest: Blake Griffin.

When he was traded to Detroit back in January, 2018, Griffin was mere months from having signed a monster Max contract with the Clippers. Then-Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy realized this when he pulled the trigger on the trade.

As leg injuries curtailed Griffin’s game, the contract became more like a weight on Detroit’s hope to maneuver for the future. In March, 2021, Griffin accepted a buyout with Detroit, giving up $13 million off his contract. But there is still plenty remaining.

Almost 24-percent of the Pistons total salary cap for this season is taken up by the final year of Griffin’s deal.

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When you throw in the others: Sirvydis, Joseph, Zhaire Smith, DeWayne Dedmon (a center who the Pistons really could have used this year) and DeAndre Jordan (a center the Pistons do not need), the total is really eye-opening:

Total percentage of Pistons salary cap going to ‘dead’ money: 36.34%

Total money going to ‘dead’ contracts: $45,492,507

You can not trade ‘dead’ money. All it does is limit the amount of cap space general manager Troy Weaver can deal with. While most teams at the bottom of the standings, like Oklahoma City, have tons of cap room, the Pistons are only eighth in cap space, and they only have that much because they signed a lot of el-cheapo contracts.

Only Jerami Grant, Cade Cunningham and Olynyk make more than $10 million this year.

Being squeezed by the dead money can really hurt the Pistons potential moves. Because they are over the cap (by $11 million), they can’t, for an example, trade for Ben Simmons in return for some young players (like Saddiq Bey and Killian Hayes). They could not do it because they have to match SImmons’ large salary since they have no cap room.

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Now, next season, the stench of death will pretty much be gone from the Pistons salary cap. Griffin’s contact, as well as several others, will be removed. Dead contracts will only account for 11-percent of Detroit’s cap in 2022-23.

So, if you wonder why the Pistons, despite their woeful record, are not that active making major moves before the trade deadline, the Grim (Contract) Reaper is a big reason.