Thursday, April 3, 2014

Looking Ahead to Next Year: Possible Backcourt FA Targets

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Free agency has gotten to be one of the scarier parts of being a Pistons fan over the past five or six years.  It's through that avenue that the Pistons have crippled any signs of progress brought on by the development of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.  This offseason, before any deal for Greg Monroe is factored in, the Pistons figure to have roughly $20.5 million dollars to spend in free agency.  For the sake of this exercise, we'll assume that one of Monroe or Smith is gone, and that their roughly $14M in salary has been turned into $10M in players coming back to the Pistons.  That would leave the Pistons with about $15M to spend going into free agency, assuming Jonas Jerebko doesn't exercise his $4.5M player option.  While Jerebko probably won't find a deal worth that much yearly on the open market, I think he has tired of playing in Detroit.  This is mostly based on his recent comments about how Detroit's coaching search will affect his decision.

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That amount of cap space would give the Pistons plenty of options to fix the holes at either starting SG or SF (whichever one they don't fill in the draft) and add depth in both the frontcourt and the backcourt.  For starters, the Pistons desperately need to upgrade the backup PG spot, and will need depth at both PF and C.  They could also use some scoring off the bench at SG if they decide to draft a SF with their first round pick.  If it seems like there are a lot of holes there, you're right!  Here's a look at what the Pistons' depth chart might look like heading into free agency:

Position Starter Bench Bench
PG Brandon Jennings Will Bynum Peyton Siva
SG KCP/Draft Pick KCP ???
SF Kyle Singler/Draft Pick Kyle Singler/Luigi Datome Luigi Datome
PF Josh Smith/Greg Monroe Tony Mitchell Draft Pick?
C Andre Drummond Draft Pick? ???

The first hole that seems to jump out is the one that will exist at either SG or SF, depending on what they use their draft pick on.  Kyle Singler would make for a really good 6th man if the Pistons can find starter quality players at both wing positions.  If the Pistons are forced to start Singler and play him for 28 minutes per game every night next season, it very well may be another long year.  For that reason, starter options at SG will be listed.

If Monroe or Smith is gone, that also eliminates either their backup PF or C, depending on which one goes. Tony Mitchell has a high ceiling for a 2nd round pick, but he isn't ready for major minutes.  The Pistons own a team option on Josh Harrellson, but he hasn't been relevant for months, and I doubt he'll be back.  Thus, backup bigs will be listed as well (in a separate article). After that, if there's still money left, the Pistons could do well to replace Will Bynum.  I would be in favor of trading Bynum and the one year left on his deal for an additional 2nd round pick.  For that reason, backup PG options will also be given.  If the Pistons can unload Brandon Jennings, a starter at PG would also be an option.  Without further ado, here are the free agent options that the Pistons could have some interest in this offseason:

Possible Contract: 4 years, $52-56M
Chances he'll be a Piston: 5%

Bledsoe had himself an exceptional start to the year in his first season as a lead man in Phoenix.  However, injuries will end up costing him about half of the year, and possibly his shot at a max contract.  Injury or no injury, Bledsoe's play at both ends of the floor would make him a massive upgrade over Brandon Jennings.  He isn't a great three point shooter, but is absolutely lethal at the rim, where he converts on 65.6% of his attempts.  He also has a reputation for being a lockdown defender, and his 8.0 TRB% ranks him fourth in the league among PGs.  Unfortunately, Phoenix will probably match any offer he accepts.

Possible Contract: 4 years, $44-48M
Chances he'll be a Piston: 5%

Lowry has flourished in his second season in Toronto, setting career highs in PER, TS%, AST% and 3P%.  His development has been a major factor in the Raptors' push for the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.  Lowry, much like Bledsoe, is an accomplished finisher in the paint despite his stature.  If he can sustain his success from this season, Lowry would provide the Pistons with a productive leader that they haven't had at the PG position since Chauncey Billups.

Possible Contract: 3 years, $12-15M
Chances he'll be a Piston: 10%

Livingston is enjoying the finest season of his NBA career in his first year in Brooklyn.  Once a highly touted PG who went straight from high school to the Association, Livingston has earned his keep on defense this year.  He would be a welcomed asset for a Pistons team that has started swiss cheese in the backcourt this season.  On offense, he isn't much of a scorer or passer, but he gets to the line frequently to make up for it, where he shoots 80.5% for his career.  Another plus for Livingston would be his ability to play both guard spots.

Possible Contract: 2 years, $7-9M
Chances he'll be a Piston: 10%

Bayless is really starting to look like he's going to bounce around the league for the entirety of his career.  Bayless was dealt from Memphis to Boston this season after some abysmal shooting in the first half of the season.  He's picked his play up a bit as a Celtic, but he's still just a shooter.  Bayless would figure to be the cheap option on the market, capable of making a GM look like a genius if he brings his jumper with him.  I'd prefer to pass on Bayless, but regardless, he would be an upgrade over Bynum.  

Possible Contract: 2 years, $4-6M
Chances he'll be a Piston: 10%

Brooks has been one of the more inconsistent, puzzling players in the league over the course of his career.  His inability to find a home after breaking out to the tune of nearly 19 PPG and 5 APG in his third season in the league is troubling.  Still, he's a career 36.8% three point shooter, and he has a tendency to break out for huge games from time to time.  You can do worse for a cheap backup, but he's also a fairly big risk.

Possible Contract: 4 years, $48-52M
Chances he'll be a Piston: 20%

Stephenson broke out last year in the playoffs and has carried that play into this season.  His career high PER (15.0) comes along with significant upticks in his Rebounding and Assist Rates; he's also scoring the ball at an efficiency level well beyond what he did last season.  He's also a legitimate lockdown defender, thriving in Frank Vogel's defense-first system.  The question is, can he do it outside of Indiana?  I'm not sold on him, but I have a feeling that he is about to get PAID.  If he comes cheaper than expected, I wouldn't be opposed, however.

Possible Contract: 3 years, $30-36M
Chances he'll be a Piston: 25%

I'll get this out of the way so there's no hidden bias: I think Evan Turner is incredibly overrated.  I don't understand how there isn't more talk about him being a huge bust.  He's never managed a TS% in the 50s, isn't a standout rebounder, has poor passing numbers and can't shoot.  However, traditionalists see something in his game, so he's probably going to get a shot somewhere.  It will probably be in Detroit, because I'm not allowed to have nice things.

Possible Contract: 2 years, $5-7M
Chances he'll be a Piston: 30%

Meeks has had himself a pretty good year in the wasteland that is the Lakers backcourt.  Meeks is known mostly as a shooter, but for what he is, isn't a horrible scorer inside the arc too.  His 59.7 TS% would make him a very attractive option to split time with KCP when the flow of a game calls for offense/shooting.

Possible Contract: 2 years, $2-3M
Chances he'll be a Piston: 30%

Fredette is a 40.4% three point shooter for his career, but hitting 49.4% on 1.7 attempts per game this year. He doesn't know what defense is, but with as bereft of shooting as the Pistons have been, I really wouldn't mind giving him a chance.  How bad is his defense?  Fredette boasts a 58.1 TS% this season but still managed to get cut.  There are worse guys you could spend 2 or 3 million dollars on.

Possible Contract: 2 years, $6-8M
Chances he'll be a Piston: 40%

It would almost make too much sense for the Pistons to sign a guy like Anthony Morrow if they don't draft a SG.  A career 42.8 3P% shooter, Morrow is much more likely than Fredette to be able to keep himself on the floor.  Not particularly good at anything else, but you don't have to be when you hit 49.2% of your corner threes.


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