Potential 2013 Free Agent Targets for the Detroit Pistons
When NBA free agency starts on July 1, the Detroit Pistons will have over $20 million to sign free agents, more than enough to sign a maximum-contract player. They will be looking for talented players to add to their young core of Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
This summer will mark the first time since June 2009 that the Pistons will have significant cap space. That was the infamous free-agency period when Joe Dumars signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to contracts worth more than $90 million.
The Pistons will be looking for better results this time around. They have a record of 109-195 (a winning percentage of .301) since offering those two ill-conceived contract. They gave the Charlotte Bobcats a future first-round pick last summer to take Gordon's contract, and Villanueva is averaging just 16.5 minutes per game this season with the team.
The two biggest prizes in the upcoming free agency are Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, but it is unlikely that they would leave playoff contenders (and California weather) for Detroit. Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson and Josh Smith are all available as well, but the Pistons appear to have their frontcourt of the future in place.
Where the Pistons should look to improve is on the wing, where Kyle Singler has managed to start 63 games already this season despite a PER of 10 (15 is league average). Assuming that Knight's future position will be point guard, the starting shooting guard and small forward spots are open.
The Pistons need to add defensive toughness and shooting on the wing if they want to compete for a playoff spot in the East. They are in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency and three-point field goal percentage allowed this season, according to ESPN.
These five players would help the Pistons in at least one of those areas and allow them to continue to build for the future.
Trevor Ariza can become a free agent this summer if he declines his $7.7 million dollar player option with Washington for next season. He probably wouldn't make more than that on the open market, but he may be willing to take a minor pay cut in exchange for long-term security.
If he does become available, Ariza would be a an immediate upgrade over Kyle Singler at small forward for the Pistons. Ariza has played fewer minutes per game than Singler, yet he averages more points, rebounds, assists and steals per game. He is a better athlete and a better passer than Singler, and his PER is more than four points higher than Singler's this season.
Ariza would add immediate defensive help to the Pistons as well. The Pistons have given up roughly 110 points per 100 possessions with Singler on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com. The Washington Wizards have given up just 101 with Ariza on the court. While the Wizards are a much better defensive team as a whole than the Pistons, Ariza has only had a defensive rating above 104 once since the 2006-07 season.
While acquiring Ariza would not, by itself, make the Pistons a playoff team, it would undoubtedly improve the roster. And if he could be signed to a contract in the $5-7 million range, the Pistons would still have plenty of room to make another significant move either this summer or next.
One of the most intriguing players available this summer will be Tyreke Evans. He will be a restricted free agent and the Sacramento Kings will have the ability to match any contract offer from another team, but it is possible that he could be signed away for the right price.
Any team looking at Evans will be taking a significant risk. He was the Rookie of the Year in 2010 when he averaged 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game as a 20-year-old. He has struggled to duplicate that success since, however. He has a history of injury problems, and there is the question of whether he can lead a winning team; the Kings finished 14th in the West in each of his first three seasons.
Even with the uncertainty, Evans brings a lot to the table. He is a high-volume scorer who has shown improved shot selection in his fourth season. He is shooting 47.7 percent from the field this season because he finishes exceptionally well in the paint. He has also improved his three-point percentage to a respectable 34.6 percent this season. Evans gets to the line at a high rate as well, never averaging fewer than four attempts per game during his career.
Evans is a superb athlete and, at 6'6" and 220 pounds, has excellent size for a shooting guard, allowing him to play small forward in a small-ball lineup. He is definitely not a point guard, but he can be a team's secondary ball-handler in a pinch.
At just 23 years old, Evans could be another young, athletic piece for the Pistons to add to their core. As a restricted free agent he would be expensive, however, and the Pistons may not want to use their cap space on a player with so many question marks.
He is a slightly below-average defender and is not an elite shooter. Still, he has more upside than almost any other player available.
One player who could help Detroit's outside shooting and defense would be Gerald Henderson, who will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Henderson has been one of the few bright spots on the lowly Bobcats. He is second on the team in scoring and has shot 36.5 percent from behind the arc and 82.7 percent from the line this season. He also rebounds well for a shooting guard, averaging 3.6 boards per game.
He is a solid defender with good strength and athleticism. He plays for the worst defensive team in the league, but he has the tools to become a very good defender with the right coaching.
Adding Henderson to the roster would improve the Pistons, but it would not be enough to make them a playoff team. Also, as a restricted free agent the Pistons might have to overpay him to keep the Bobcats from matching their offer.
Henderson would be a solid pickup at the $4-6 million range, although he may be able to find a team to pay him more. At 25, he would fit nicely with the rest of the Pistons core, but the Pistons can't afford to overpay a role player.
If the Pistons are looking to improve their outside shooting, J.J. Redick, an unrestricted free agent this summer, would be their best available player to do so.
Redick is shooting a combined 38.1 percent from behind the arc this season with Milwaukee and Orlando and has shot 39.5 percent from three over the course of his career. He does much of his shooting coming off of screens, which can give a team a great second or third scoring option while he is on the floor.
Redick has shown a solid ability to draw fouls over the past four seasons, and he is a career 88 percent free-throw shooter. He is also a very good ball-handler and passer, evident by a better than 2-to-1 career assist-to-turnover ratio.
The biggest knock on Redick is that he is a below-average defender. His 113 and 112 defensive ratings with Orlando and Milwaukee, respectively, are the worst on each team this season. He has never had a defensive rating better than 106 in his career. That being said, his offensive talent more than makes up for his defensive deficiencies.
Redick will turn 29 before free agency begins and will be past his prime when his next contract ends. Fortunately for the team that signs him, his game isn't reliant on athleticism.
Signing Redick would immediately boost the Pistons offense by spacing the floor for their young big men. He would also bring valuable experience and leadership to their locker room.
The Pistons should take a long look at bringing him to Detroit but only if they leave room to sign a max-contract player.
O.J. Mayo took a one-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks last summer hoping to improve his value after back-to-back lackluster seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies. Early this season it looked like he could be headed for a major payday. He averaged 20.9 points per game in November, shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 50.7 percent from behind the arc.
Mayo has regressed from that unsustainable level since then, and his numbers haven't been helped by the return of Dirk Nowitzki. He is down to 16.6 points per game for the season and has only averaged 13.1 points in March.
Even after the regression, Mayo is still a top-ten shooting guard and is still just 25 years old. This season he has looked like an elite shooter—46 percent from the field, 42 percent from three and 82 percent from the line. He also averages nearly four rebounds per game and has a 1.71-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season.
There would still be risks with Mayo for Detroit. First, he is just 6'4" and would form a very small backcourt with Knight. Also, he is not an elite player. He looked like an All-Star early this season, but if he's the best player on your team, your team is not a championship contender.
Mayo is the best available player for the Pistons. He would drastically improve the team's outside shooting and could take some of the ball-distribution duties from Brandon Knight.
He is not, however, a perfect fit for the Pistons. There is no guarantee that he could coexist with Knight, and Mayo would not help a defense that ranks 25th this season in defensive efficiency, according to ESPN.
Mayo is making $4 million this season, but is certainly worth more. The Pistons should look to sign him if he's willing to come to Detroit, but they can't overpay him. More than one-third of the league could have at least $10 million in cap space, and someone may be willing to break the bank for Mayo.
The Pistons can't handcuff themselves financially for someone that may be no more than a second or third scoring option on a contender.