One of the main benefits resulting from the Detroit Pistons trading for Jose Calderon's $10.5 million expiring contract on Jan. 30 is that they suddenly find themselves with an abundance of salary cap room. This gives the Pistons a chance to quickly build a contender if they approach it the right way.
After the Calderon trade, Pistons GM Joe Dumars spoke to the media and John Niyo of the Detroit News about some of the possibilities on how the Pistons can use this cap room. "What cap space does now is more than just allow you to target free agents," Dumars said. "It allows you to be creative in acquiring guys."
Dumars understands this situation well, since the Pistons were in a similar situation during the 2009 offseason. Dumars had traded star point guard Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson's expiring contract, hoping to sign some prominent free agents and retool the Pistons.
The Pistons then used their salary cap space to sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in 2009, believing they could become a younger team and remain a contender by adding two players in their 20s. From ESPN.com:
"Happy to add both of these young guys," Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "We think both guys are just reaching their prime."
The Gordon and Villanueva signings didn't work out quite like the Pistons had hoped. Now with this latest trade, Dumars has a do-over and the rare chance to fix his mistakes that began when he traded Billups.
Niyo believes that the Pistons are in a unique position to capitalize on their cap room:
That's because the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement added some teeth to penalties for exceeding the salary cap. Starting next season, teams over the tax threshold will pay a much steeper rate, and repeat offenders will pay dearly. Already, we're starting to see the fallout from that.
Niyo then mentions a few teams that could be looking to the Pistons for help:
Teams such as Miami, Boston, Chicago, Brooklyn, New York and Golden State might face similar decisions soon. Meanwhile, teams like Detroit and Cleveland — a LeBron James reunion is possible, if you can believe it — stand to benefit.
The teams Niyo mentions won't have the types of players available that would offer an immediate solution.
Yes, there may be some good players available this summer. But just because a player has talent, it doesn't mean that they would necessarily fit well within the Pistons' system.
One of the few exceptions would be if the Golden State Warriors were interested in trading Stephen Curry this summer, but I doubt that would happen after his improvement this season.
An even better long-term fit for the Pistons would be Calderon, if they were to use some of the cap space by re-signing him. He is the type of point guard who can help facilitate the offense and make it more balanced.
Calderon is uncanny at operating the pick-and-roll. This will allow the Pistons to take advantage of Andre Drummond's athletic ability, and at the same time, improve their outside shooting.
As for the rest of the Pistons' cap space, Dumars shouldn't feel pressured to use it this summer. He can hold on to it for use during the 2013-14 season or even the 2014 offseason.
The Pistons have a solid foundation that can help the team grow together. In 2009, Dumars thought he had a solid foundation and believed that he was helping the Pistons by signing Gordon and Villanueva. His decision proved costly and caused the Pistons to decline.
I hope that through Dumars' previous mistakes, he's learned that the best move this offseason will be to listen, wait and spend wisely.