At 6-foot-6, Andre Iguodala is considered more of a natural small forward. (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
NBA’s free-agent derby is under way, and the Pistons appeared to be active from the onset, making visits with Atlanta’s Josh Smith and Denver’s Andre Iguodala.
News: The Pistons spent five hours with Smith but didn’t make him an offer, and did the same with Iguodala later in the day Monday.
Views: There are questions about how either fits. Iguodala is a more natural small forward than Smith, more of a veteran leader, but Smith is more talented.
With Smith, though, the Pistons could buck a trend of sorts and go big up front, like the Lakers when they had Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom up front. All were over 6-feet-10 and helped dominate the glass, alternating forward positions.
Smith doesn’t help the Pistons with their shooting, as his former coaches in Atlanta would attest to when he camped out beyond the long line, much to the delight of the Hawks opponents. The Pistons ranked 22nd and 24th in three-point attempts and makes, respectively.
But he’s an underrated shot creator for others, and just because the Pistons wouldn’t conceivably have ideal three-point shooting in the starting lineup doesn’t mean they couldn’t bring it on their second unit.
News: Indiana’s David West re-signed with the Pacers for $12 million per year. San Antonio center Tiago Splitter (10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) re-signed to make $9 million per year. Fiscal responsibility?
Views: It’s one of the reasons the Pistons didn’t make initial offers. They, along with the players, preferred to see how the market played itself out, especially after all the talk of contracts being out of control.
If Smith wants a maximum contract from the Pistons, which is what he’s seeking given the market, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them pass. Not because he’s not immensely talented, nor because they’re gun-shy following the big swings and misses on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, but because they’re intent on keeping financial flexibility for the long term.
Since Smith and Iguodala are being recruited by a number of teams, with Smith reportedly being Houston’s backup plan in the event it doesn’t land Dwight Howard, and Iguodala visiting with as many as six teams, it would behoove the Pistons not to get in a bidding war over either.
News: The Pistons have touched base with Mark Bartlestein, the agent for both Will Bynum and Jose Calderon.
Views: They’ll explore keeping both, as it seems more likely they’ll keep Bynum as a backup. The Knicks have reached out to Bynum, as well as having met with forward Jason Maxiell on Monday. Both are fans of Knicks head coach Mike Woodson and assistant Darrell Walker.
Some prominent players from the Chicago Bulls have told Bynum they wanted him to join their team this season, while the Sacramento Kings had a meeting with Calderon early Tuesday.
News: Pistons president Joe Dumars has long said the trade market is the best way to improve this team, with a new restrictive collective bargaining agreement, but he’s the first face in front of prominent free agents.
Views: The trade market still is the best way, and there’s something to be said about the Pistons getting the first crack at prominent players. Perhaps it was because they were off the radar for a couple of years and wanted to, at the very least, re-establish some cachet around the league because word does filter out among the players that the Pistons, at least, have a plan.
When Chris Webber was at the apex of his career, reaching free agency in the summer of 2001, the Pistons’ front office and their new coach made a big pitch for the hometown forward, who was coming off a top-five MVP campaign in Sacramento.
Webber declined and signed a max deal to stay in Sacramento, and the Pistons proceeded to make moves through the trade market and on the back end of free agency to build a 50-win team the next season.
If the Pistons are that determined to both land Smith and keep their flexibility, a sign-and-trade could be the best tool. They still have Rodney Stuckey to use as an expiring contract and trade chip, among others, and the Atlanta Hawks would prefer not to lose Smith for nothing.
All the excitement surrounding the Pistons getting out front of the free agents notwithstanding, the trade market is still the best avenue.