Most Intriguing Free Agents for Detroit Pistons to Sign with Mid-Level Exception
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
With over $32 million in expiring contracts coming off their books, the Detroit Pistons will have a great deal of salary cap flexibility this summer.
Depending on what they do with their own free agents, the Pistons can have more than $20 million to fill out their roster. And if they do manage to spend all that money they still have access to the full mid-level exception (MLE).
As a team below the luxury tax threshold, the Pistons would have an additional $5.15 million to spend. They can use it to sign multiple players, and to contracts up to four years.
If they do not spend all of their cap space, the Pistons could still use a 'room' mid-level exception. That could be used much like the standard MLE, but it would be for $2.65 million.
Either way, the Pistons will be looking to add young and talented players who can develop with their core of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight.
The Pistons will want to improve on the wing, where Kyle Singler managed to start 74 games last season. And while they have their starting backcourt of the future in place, they do need to find another backup big man, ideally one who can defend stretch 4s.
Marreese Speights, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers
2012-13 statistics: 79 games played, 16.5 minutes, 8.3 points, 44.5 percent from the field, 4.9 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, 17.35 PER
2012-13 salary: $4,200,000
If he opts out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Pistons should look to sign Marreese Speights to be their primary backup big man.
The 25-year-old played some of the best basketball of his five-year career after being traded to the Cavs, averaging 10.2 points in 18.5 minutes during his 39 games with the team.
He has the size and mobility to play either frontcourt position, and he was an above-average mid-range shooter this season, which would open up the paint for Monroe and Drummond to operate.
After earning $4.2 million this past season and with a player option of $4.5 million for 2013-14, Speights will command most, if not all, of the MLE. But he is capable of providing scoring the Pistons desperately need off the bench, and he is the right age to grow with their current core of players.
Marco Belinelli, SG, Chicago Bulls
2012-13 statistics: 73 games played, 25.8 minutes, 9.6 points, 39.5 percent from the field, 35.7 percent from three, 1.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.1 turnovers, 10.43 PER
2012-13 salary: $1,957,000
Marco Belinelli played himself into a big payday during the Chicago Bulls' first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets.
The 27-year-old shooting guard averaged 23 points, 4.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds in the final two games of the series, helping the Bulls move on to the second round.
For the Pistons, Belinelli would be able to play significant minutes off the bench as a high-volume scorer. His threat as a three-point shooter would help to spread the court for Monroe and Drummond to operate in the low post.
He also proved this season under coach Tom Thibodeau that he can be a valuable defender. According to 82games.com, opposing shooting guards posted a PER of just 12.3 against Belinelli last season.
His playoff performance and value on both ends of the court will mean that Belinelli will sign for close to the full MLE this summer. Unless the Pistons sign a a top-tier shooting guard with their cap space, he can provide very good value with their MLE.
Brandan Wright, PF/C, Dallas Mavericks
2012-13 statistics: 64 games played, 18 minutes, 8.5 points, 59.7 percent from the field, 4.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.4 steals, 0.5 turnovers, 21.03 PER
2012-13 salary: $992,580
Brandan Wright has been one of the most efficient offensive players in the NBA over the past two seasons, posting a PER above 21 each year.
He achieved those numbers by finishing incredibly well near the rim; he shot over 65 percent from within five feet this season.
At just 210 pounds, he gets out-muscled by nearly all low-post scorers, but in Detroit he could always play alongside Monroe or Drummond. That would allow him to float from the weak side defensively to block shots, which he did at a rate of 2.4 per 36 minutes last season.
Who should the Pistons sign with their MLE?
He may not stretch the floor himself, but Wright does have the athleticism to cover stretch-4s on the perimeter—something the Pistons struggled with in 2012-13.
Wright would not only provide bench scoring and defensive flexibility off the bench, but at 25 years old he would fit in well with the Pistons' youth movement.
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