Beard: Cap issues, roster decisions loom for Pistons
The Pistons’ season has been over for five weeks, and almost every day there has been an email or a Twitter post or a random comment about the team. They’ve all run the gamut: Trade Andre Drummond. Trade Reggie Jackson. Trade everybody.
As the focus has shifted to the NBA draft in the past couple weeks, the priority has been to strengthen the roster through getting a young player to add to the mix. The choices there are several, as well.
But before there’s any talk of what the Pistons’ summer plans can be and how to proceed in the long term, there are a few more questions to resolve. Their financial problems are just as big an issue, with their current roster pushing them against the salary cap — and if they choose to keep Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and match a potential max offer in free agency, it could get more dire.
If Caldwell-Pope gets what’s expected to be a max offer sheet from another team this summer, the Pistons could be pushed into the luxury tax if they opt to match the offer.
More money, more problems.
Even that wouldn’t solve everything. Even for a team that made the playoffs last season and finished 37-45 this season, the problems are more complex.
Was Reggie Jackson’s tendinitis issue the major reason that the Pistons underachieved this season? Will Andre Drummond go back to his 2016 All-Star form? What happens with Aron Baynes and his player option?
We’ll have to wait and see.
The Monday Drive takes a look at three issues facing the Pistons and any potential turnaround this summer:
Start over or Stan pat?
Pistons president Stan Van Gundy put this roster together and has to take all the credit or blame for its results. So if this roster gets completely revamped, it likely means that Van Gundy will be gone, too. This was year three in a five-year deal for Van Gundy — and it would be difficult to envision Pistons owner Tom Gores asking Van Gundy to reset the roster without more time to see it through.
So, it makes little sense to talk about blowing up the roster with Van Gundy still wearing the president’s hat. And for those who suggest that Van Gundy should give up coaching job and keep the title of president, that’s not likely either. At his core, Van Gundy is a coach. If either job is dispensable, it’s the one in the front office — and if anyone thinks he’d give that up to focus more on coaching, there’s not much that can be said to convince you otherwise.
There have been no indications from Gores or anyone in the organization that Van Gundy’s job is in jeopardy. It’s a presumption, based off missing the playoffs and the salary situation, but there’s no smoke — at least not yet.
Interest in Porzingis
The ongoing saga between the New York Knicks and uber-talented forward Kristaps Porzingis continues to turn, with many reports having him unhappy with the team and skipping his exit interviews after the season.
How does that involve the Pistons? There have been some suggestions that the Pistons could offer Drummond and the No. 12 pick in the draft for Porzingis. There aren’t any indications that the Knicks would have any interest in that deal, but if the Pistons considered trading Drummond at the deadline last season, they could be interested in a deal at this point.
But dealing Drummond would signal a sharp turn in the Pistons’ long-term plan, and if Drummond is dealt, who’s the center? If that proposed deal has any substance, that would also take away the 12th pick in a draft with plenty of center options, including a potential target, 7-footer Zach Collins, who has a versatile skill set in the paint and beyond the 3-point arc.
The Pistons will begin bringing in potential draft prospects Tuesday, in preparation for the draft on June 22. They don’t have a second-round pick, but that doesn’t preclude them from bringing in some prospects who potentially could fall to the second round.
In my mock draft, I have the Pistons selecting Duke’s Luke Kennard, for his 3-point shooting and ability to create his own shot off the dribble. Although he might be a reach at No. 12, he could be the player they covet, so trading down would be risky, but possible.
Donovan Mitchell is another popular name in mock drafts, but it seems their bigger need is a finisher and scorer, not a creator. Mitchell’s size (6-foot-1, with a 6-foot-10 wingspan) could be a red flag, unless the Pistons are looking to move on from Jackson.
Collins could be the solution with a varied skill set, but teams drafting ahead of the Pistons also covet him in the top 10.