For years, Detroit Pistons fans have been looking forward to the windfall that free agency might bring.
Never mind that the last time Detroit had a sizeable amount of cash to spend, they unwisely dropped contracts on Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, and said cash came from sending Chauncey Billups to Denver for the now infamous Allen Iverson. All of that is in the rear-view mirror.
Finally, Detroit is in the driver's seat financially again following this season, and they actually have a young and talented team with which to court suitors.
Gone are the bulk of the bloated contracts and the malcontents. Instead, this is a team built around young and humble players that are dedicated to making this squad a winner.
The Available Assets
As of today, the Pistons will have roughly $22 million to spend next summer. They will be losing the contracts of Corey Maggette, Austin Daye and Rip Hamilton. Furthermore, Jason Maxiell's deal comes off the books as does Will Bynum's.
This also doesn't include the contract of Villanueva, which is sure to be either amnestied or traded before the season is over. You just can't afford to give Charlie "don't call me hustle" over $8 million to ride the pine.
So imagine for argument's sake that the Pistons will be heading into next offseason with close to $20 million in cap space.
The Biggest Holes
The Pistons have a solid young core of players, but they are far from a finished product. They will need a backup point guard, another body up front and another scorer in the mix.
Tayshaun Prince is likely going to be relegated in the next couple years to a backup role, which clears the way for the Pistons to finally get themselves a slashing small forward.
The shooting guard position is solid, and so too are the starting forward spots, but depth up front is never a frowned-upon option.
The Best Options
The player that the Pistons should be circling on their wish list is Josh Smith. Smith is the exact type of player that Pistons' fans will favor. He is athletic yet gritty, offensively sound yet defensive-minded. He could be just the type of player that could bring this roster together.
Additionally, this team will need a solid backup point guard, and there are quite a few of them. Devin Harris, Donald Sloan, Ty Lawson, D.J. Augustin and Chauncey Billups are just a few of the available lead guards on the market.
Of the above mentioned, the obvious favorite is Billups. The nostalgia pick could step in and show Brandon Knight how to run the show. Ideally, this would work great.
But there are reasons to believe that Billups might not have a ton left in the tank. Do you really want to bring back the hometown hero if he can't play anymore?
Harris would probably be too expensive, as too would Lawson. Augustin looked good at times in Charlotte, but it would be wise to watch him for awhile in Indiana before committing to a deal with the enigmatic signal-caller.
Sloan is the type of player that Pistons' fans would love. He is gritty, hasn't had the best of roads thus far and has shown the ability to set up his teammates. He also would come cheap.
Whichever direction the Pistons choose to go with their backup point guard, they will need to get someone that can not only act as a mentor for Knight, but someone that can take some of the pressure off of the young guard.
Up front, there will be a lot of options. Elton Brand, David West, Samuel Dalembert and J.J. Hickson are just some of the available names.
The Pistons think that they have their frontcourt of the future in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, so they won't be looking to get in on the bidding for the big-name free agents up front. Instead, they will want someone that can come off of the bench and provide toughness and leadership from the veteran perspective.
Ideally, West would be our man. He knows how to throw his body around and has one of the best back-to-the-hoop games in all of basketball. That being said, he probably will still command too large of a salary.
Brand is probably too far over the hill to provide any real relief, so let's scratch him off of our list.
Dalembert is a defensive stopper that provides very little on the offensive side of things, but those types of players can often be valuable to a young team like Detroit.
However, Hickson is the ideal bench player for Detroit. He is physical, knows how to rebound and can score when asked to. He didn't show a ton as an over-hyped young player so he has a ton to prove. As a result, he came through like gangbusters last year with Portland, nearly averaging a double-double in his last 12-and-a-half games.
The Pistons are lucky to be in the position they find themselves in. They are young, talented and have a committed front office. The world truly is their oyster.
They need to supplement their roster with valuable veteran presences. They need physical players that also happen to be professionals.
Pardon the cross-sports reference, but they need a Crash Davis or two. This is a team that hasn't fully developed its veteran character, and will need to remedy that if they want to get to the next level.