Detroit Pistons: Surprise star who could be available this summer

Feb 10, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA;   Detroit Pistons guard Jaden Ivey (23) drives past Los Angeles
Feb 10, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Jaden Ivey (23) drives past Los Angeles / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Another miserable season is winding down for the Detroit Pistons and there is nothing to do but look toward the future.

If we're being honest, the future is as blurry as the present, as the Pistons have a core that doesn't fit, a coach who may not want to be in Detroit and a GM whose seat is too hot to sit upon.

They have at least six roster spots open this offseason, need more star power and guys who have tasted victory in their NBA careers, and may have to trade one of their prized young players to get it.

Unfortunately, as it stands, the stars are missing from the rumor mill and there aren't 1-2 free agents who can save this mess. That could all change of course and one writer thinks it will.

In a recent piece in The Athletic (Subscription), John Hollinger talked about teams like the Suns, Mavericks and Clippers, who are all facing big financial challenges while fielding teams that aren't that good. The Suns and Mavericks have huge money tied up in teams that are currently fighting to stay out of the play-in tournament.

Related Story. Rebuilds and tax teams: Is there a mystery star for the Pistons?. Rebuilds and tax teams: Is there a mystery star for the Pistons?. dark

If they exit the playoffs early, will they be forced to deal some of their stars?

He also mentioned the Clippers, who are the fourth seed but are in a precarious position facing down a first-round matchup with a very good New Orleans team that is humming right now and has beaten them three times already this season.

If the Clippers were to flame out early again, would they blow up their duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George? 

Here's what Hollinger had to say:

"The Clippers are deep in the tax and don’t control their own first-round pick through 2030. Their best players are 32, 33 and 34, and they may have no choice but to pay two of them this summer and keep trying to push this rock up the hill. (Keep an eye on Paul George, by the way. Presumably, if there was a max extension sitting around for him, he would have signed it by now; I think it’s fair to say a couple of cap-room teams in the East are, um, “monitoring” this.)"

The Pistons are an Eastern Conference team! They have cap space! Could they pursue Paul George?

The Detroit Pistons and Paul George

My first reaction to that question is to laugh heartily. George still has a huge player option on his contract next season for $48 million and could elect to just play out his final season in LA before hitting the unrestricted free-agent market.

But that does carry some risk, especially for a guy who has had his share of injuries. A long-term extension now ensures one last big contract for George, but so far the Clippers haven't offered it.

The other reason it's laughable is that if George were to leave the Clippers, he'd almost certainly go to a team that was ready to compete for a title. The Philadelphia 76ers immediately spring to mind, as they could create the cap space and have a team that is ready to win now.

Being that the Detroit Pistons are miles away from being one of those teams, it doesn't seem like they'd even be on George's radar and they very likely aren't in any way.

The only thing the Pistons have going for them is money, as they have plenty of it and could make the type of offer to George that few other teams can.

So if Paul George is just all about the money, Detroit can throw a mountain of it at him, but at this point in his career, I'd have to guess he's more interested in being on a good team than maximizing his dollars, as he's already made plenty.

George would be the perfect fit for Detroit and is still putting up All-Star numbers, but the chances of him playing for the Pistons next season are about as high as me playing for the Pistons next season.

However, the teams Hollinger mentioned (Dallas, Phoenix, Golden State, and the LAs) are ones to monitor, as they could look to shed salary or trade off players to add more veteran talent around their aging stars.