Realistic Free-Agency Targets for the Detroit Pistons
With upward of $20 million in cap space this summer, the Detroit Pistons will have plenty of flexibility during the NBA's free-agency period. And after their fourth-straight season without making the playoffs, they will have plenty of pressure to sign a player (or players) that will immediately improve their roster.
The Pistons have their frontcourt of the future set, with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond forming one of the best young big man duos in the NBA. Where they need to improve is on the wing, where Kyle Singler, Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey were miscast in starting roles throughout last season.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, the best players available this summer, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, play point guard and center, respectively. Al Jefferson and Nikola Pekovic are both very talented, but they play center as well.
There are still talented wing players available, but they all have their weaknesses. That being said, here are seven players that the Pistons could realistically target come July 1.
The Pistons ranked 22nd in the NBA in 3-pointers made during the 2012-13 season, and may lose their best shooter to free agency. Kyle Korver ranked second in the league in 3-point percentage (only to Jose Calderon, that guy who may leave Detroit). The two parties could be an excellent fit.
Not only is Korver an elite shooter, but he also plays very solid team defense. According to 82games.com, opposing shooting guards and small forwards posted Player Efficiency Ratings (PER) of 11.4 and 11.7, respectively, against him last season. Team stats support that evidence, as Korver's 101.3 Defensive Rating ranked fifth on the Atlanta Hawks, per NBA.com.
From a skills standpoint, Korver is an excellent fit for the Pistons. However, he turned 32 in March and may not want to play for a team that is a long way from competing for a championship.
If the Pistons do take a look at Korver, he would be a relatively cheap offensive upgrade on the wing. He made $5 million per season over his current three-year contract, a deal he signed after the best shooting season of his career.
Like Korver, J.J. Redick has proven himself to be one of the best pure shooters in the NBA. With the Pistons lacking 3-point shooters on their roster, Redick presents a very realistic option on the wing.
While Korver has shot a better percentage from behind the arc throughout his career, Redick is four years younger and would fit better into the Pistons' long-term plans.
Redick is coming off the highest-scoring season of his career, and will earn more than the $6 million per season he got in his last contract.
While Redick may be an excellent fit for the Pistons, they would likely have to overpay to bring him to Detroit. There are not many shooters of his caliber in the NBA, and Redick would likely prefer to play for a contender. Nonetheless, he should be high on the Pistons' wish list.
O.J. Mayo may have struggled down the stretch this season, but his services should still be in high demand this summer. He is a former third overall pick, plays the weakest position in the NBA and is only 25 years old.
Mayo began the season playing at the highest level of his career. He averaged 20.9 points per game in December, shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 50.7 percent from the arc. It looked like he had finally become a top-five shooting guard.
Throughout the season, however, his output steadily decreased. Over the last three months Mayo averaged 14.9, 11.8 and 8.6 points per game. In April he shot just 38.5 percent from the field.
Mayo's poor finish to the season likely dropped his value on the open market, making him a much more attainable free-agent option for the Pistons. Assuming he declines his $4.2 million player option for 2013-14, signing Mayo would be a clear upgrade at shooting guard for Detroit.
Mayo plays a position of need for the Pistons and is young enough to fit into their long-term rebuilding plan. They should consider signing him, but only if the price is right.
J.R. Smith is one of the riskiest players available this summer, but he also has more upside than nearly any other free agent.
For his first eight seasons, Smith failed to play up to his enormous potential. With elite athleticism and a smooth shooting stroke, he had the tools to be an All-Star level shooting guard. Instead, poor shot selection and a lack of defensive effort made people wonder if he would ever put it all together.
This season with the New York Knicks Smith has done just that. He has averaged career highs in scoring and rebounding, and has shown more consistent effort on the defensive end. He has been the second scoring option for a Knicks team that finished second in the Eastern Conference, averaging 22 points per game in March and April.
In terms of pure talent, there isn't a better available shooting guard this summer for the Pistons than Smith. His ability to stretch the floor and to create his own shot off the dribble are two skills that they lack desperately.
However, there has to be concern that Smith could return to his old habits if he signs a big contract. Also, he hasn't shown for more than two months the consistency you want in one of your highest paid players. After their experience with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva from 2009, the Pistons may want to play it safer this time around.
With plenty of cap space, many Pistons fans will expect the team to make a splash in free agency this summer. Forward Josh Smith is the best available player who could realistically end up in Detroit.
Smith is a player who can contribute in a variety of ways on the basketball court. He led the Hawks in scoring and blocks this season, and was second in rebounding, assists and steals. He is an elite athlete, and has the ability to be a difference-maker on both ends of the court.
Despite his obvious talents, there are a few issues with the Pistons potentially signing Smith. First, he believes that he is worth a max contract. And with nearly a third of NBA teams expected to have large amounts of cap space this summer, he may get it. The problem is, he is a borderline All-Star, not the kind of superstar you want to pay $16 million or more per season.
Secondly, there is the question of fit with the Pistons' roster. Drummond and Monroe are expected to be the frontcourt of the future for Detroit. Smith has played small forward in small doses for the Hawks, but his natural position is at the four. A lineup featuring the three of them would struggle mightily to space the floor.
The Pistons could use them in a three-man frontcourt rotation, but it is hard to win when you can only play two of your best three players at a time.
If the Pistons want to improve their roster immediately, bidding for Smith's services may be their best option. He would be their best overall player, and they would see an increase in wins immediately.
However, there is not much proof to suggest that Smith can be the best player on a championship contender. He played with Joe Johnson and Al Horford for years, and the trio never made it out of the second round.
Martell Webster may not be atop the wish lists of many Pistons fans, but he could be an excellent fit for Detroit's roster.
The 26-year-old small forward played the best basketball of his eight-year career this season. He had career highs in scoring (11.4), rebounding (3.9), assists (1.9) and 3-point percentage (42.2). Although he is mostly used as a spot-up shooter, he has become one of the best in the league.
Defensively, Webster has been excellent for a Washington Wizards team that was eighth in the league in Defensive Efficiency, per NBA.com. At small forward, opponents posted a PER of 11.9 against Webster, per 82games.com. He was even better against shooting guards, who managed a PER of just 8.7 against him.
Webster's outside shooting and defensive ability make him an excellent fit for the Pistons, a team that needs help at both ends of the court. He isn't an All-Star, but he would be an enormous upgrade over Singler, who started 72 games for the Pistons last season.
Webster is one of the more sensible players available for the Pistons from a financial standpoint. While he will clearly earn more than the $1.6 million he made this season, his next contract will be closer to the midlevel exception than to the eight-figure contracts that some of the previously-mentioned players will get.
If the Pistons want to add athleticism and versatility to the wing, they should take a long look at Corey Brewer. While he has played a large part in the Denver Nuggets' success this season, their depth on the wing could allow them to let him leave in free agency.
After an underwhelming start to his career, Brewer has emerged in Denver as a player who can play either wing position, and even in brief stints as a small-ball power forward. His length and athleticism allow him to defend all but the quickest wings.
Offensively, Brewer does have some limitations. He doesn't shoot well from behind the arc, where he has shot less than 30 percent for his career. He is most effective in transition, which may not be a perfect fit for the Pistons as currently assembled. However, Brewer would be a clear upgrade over Singler at small forward, and the Pistons could benefit from getting out in transition more often.
Like Webster, Brewer will see a pay increase this summer from his current contract (he made $3.24 million this season), but it should be in the $5 million-$8 million range. Signing either player would be an upgrade at their biggest need position, but would also allow them to maintain future salary cap flexibility.