In what has become an annual tradition, the Detroit Pistons didn’t land an impact player in NBA free agency.
Some fans are upset by this, as we’ve been talking about the possibilities for months and it quickly became clear that none of them were realistic options for Detroit.
Instead, the Pistons took on the two expiring contracts of Joe Harris and Monte Morris, using up all of their cap space on trades rather than free agents.
Free agency has been largely underwhelming in recent history, as most of the star players who end up on new teams do so via trade. It’s admittedly good for business if you are a content creator, and it is always fun to speculate, as that has become a big part of the NBA landscape and a reason fans are so engaged all year.
But the truth is that landing a star player via free agency is becoming increasingly more difficult, especially for the Detroit Pistons.
Detroit Pistons: The unfortunate truth about NBA free agency
The reason for this is that the best players rarely reach free agency at all. Teams are reluctant to let players walk for nothing, so if they sense they are not going to be able to re-sign a guy, it’s time for a trade.
And players have every motivation to sign with their current team even if they have no intention of staying. They can get more money and years and just demand a trade anyway, so signing a long-term deal is not a risk for stars who can pretty much choose when they want to leave.
Detroit is not a free-agent destination, so even if one of the top players did hit the market, they would have myriad choices on coasts, places that are warm or in states that don’t have a state income tax.
Detroit is far more likely to get a star via trade or the draft, which is what they have always done. None of their championship teams were built around free agency, the Pistons drafted well and then supplemented the guys they had with the right trades.
So we can look ahead to next year’s star free agents, knowing that most of them will never reach free agency and will either be extended or traded.
And when it comes to role players, free agency is even worse in some ways, as teams like the Detroit Pistons have to overpay to get guys, which is exactly what would have happened if they had outbid the Nets for Cameron Johnson or the Trail Blazers (yikes) for Jerami Grant.
There is still value to be found in the lower tiers of free agency, but the top names almost always stay or sign contracts that many teams end up regretting.
The best players rarely reach free agency and role players tend to get overpaid by desperate teams looking to do something with their cap space. It’s not an efficient use of money and if the Detroit Pistons are going to find another star to complement their core, it will likely be by trade, not in free agency.