The Detroit Pistons will have over $20 million in cap space this summer, but instead of using it on a big-name free agent, they should consider using it to take on the salary of Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion.
One rumored deal for the Cavs would be to send three of their draft picks to Dallas (Nos. 19, 31 and 33) for veteran small forward Shawn Marion ($9.3 million next season) and the Mavericks' No. 12 overall choice . . . The Cavs are expected to decline, even though having the 12th pick would be attractive.
Like the Cavaliers, the Pistons have more than enough cap room to take on Marion's $9.3 million salary for next season. They don't have the bevy of draft picks that the Cavaliers do, but the most important thing for the Mavericks is clearing cap space. They could offer the Pistons Marion and the No. 13 pick for the No. 37 pick or a future second-round pick.
That deal would be less than what the Mavericks reportedly asked for from the Cavaliers, but it would be more in line with what it would take for a team to absorb Marion's contract.
In 2010, the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls made a similar deal, with Kirk Hinrich and the No. 17 pick going to Washington for a future second-round pick. The deal gave the Bulls enough cap space to sign two max-contract free agents.
Why the Mavericks Make the Trade
With Marion, the Mavericks can get down to roughly $38 million in salary heading into free agency (they would have to renounce the rights to Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois, and O.J. Mayo would have to decline his $4.2 million player option), according to Hoopsworld.com. Based on this season's $58.044 salary cap, that would leave them with approximately $20 million to spend.
That would be enough to sign Paul or Howard but definitely not both. By moving Marion, they would have nearly $30 million to spend. Trading Vince Carter as well would leave them with salaries totaling less than $25 million and $33 million in cap space.
A four-year contract starting at $16 million would be a pay cut from what Howard and Paul could earn with the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, respectively, but it would be close to a max contract. The Mavericks could take a chance that the two would take less money to play for a championship contender.
Why the Pistons Make the Trade
This free-agent class is filled with not-quite All-Stars that Pistons GM Joe Dumars should be wary of signing. And with over half the league having significant cap space, there's a good chance that many free agents will be overpaid.
Instead of using their cap space to overpay a player like Brandon Jennings or J.R. Smith, the Pistons could acquire a starter-quality forward with an expiring contract as well as a lottery pick.
Marion would be an improvement for the Pistons at small forward. He averaged more points, rebounds and assists than incumbent Kyle Singler, and his 18.02 PER was exactly eight points higher than Singler's.
He also has the size to play power forward in small-ball lineups next to either Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond. With teams using just one traditional big man at a time more and more, Marion would be a big improvement over Jonas Jerebko matching up with stretch-4s.
And while Marion would make the Pistons a better team in 2013-14, his expiring contract will give them continued cap flexibility. Next summer, the Pistons can have over $40 million in cap space with the contracts of Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva expiring as well.
The biggest draw of the trade for the Pistons would be the acquisition of a second lottery pick. Even in a weak draft, the Pistons would like to add another piece to their young core.
At No. 13, the Pistons can still find a useful player. ESPN's Chad Ford (insider subscription required) projected that point guard Shane Larkin would still be on the board at that point as well as wing players like Shabazz Muhammad and Allen Crabbe. With two lottery picks, they would have the flexibility to take the best available player at No. 8, then fill a need at No. 13.
A trade for Marion and the No. 13 pick would improve the Pistons in the short term, but more importantly, it would give them additional assets and cap flexibility going forward. It isn't a move that instantly turns them into championship contenders, but it does set them up better for a big-time future move.