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Auburn Hills – It was a decision that everyone saw coming, but the more time that passed, there was some thought that it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

But in the end, things went the way everyone though.

Pistons backup center Aron Baynes declined his player option for next season, making him an unrestricted free agent, team president Stan Van Gundy confirmed Tuesday. The news was first reported by The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

Baynes signed with the Pistons in July 2015 for three years, $19.5 million, with a player option for the third year. In declining the player option, Baynes is turning down the $6.5 million in the third year, hoping for a bigger payday elsewhere.

Van Gundy said that Baynes worked out at the Pistons practice facility on Tuesday and the two spoke about the situation. He didn’t close the door on possibly getting the reserve center back, including using Baynes early Bird rights to increase the offer to around $11.3 million.

“There are a lot of scenarios where we can bring Aron back so that’s not a done deal, but we knew the opt-out was coming,” Van Gundy said. “Right now on our salary structure, if you look at where our roster is, we can’t pay him that right now and be under the tax.

“Things change as the summer goes on, but there are scenarios where he could be back. But right now, some things would have to happen.”

As a free agent, Baynes could get an offer in the neighborhood of $12 million or more per season, given the market for reserve centers, amid the rising salaries following last summer. General manager Jeff Bower said in April the Pistons were preparing for the likelihood of Baynes’ departure, with the signing of Boban Marjanovic.

“He has the option to opt out and he’ll have to make that decision. We have the ability to work with that up to a certain point if he does opt out,” Bower said. “All indications that that could be a challenge for us.

“We’ll have to see when Aron makes the decision. There’s every reason to think that he’s very challenged with being here, but the economic side could kick in very reasonably.”

Baynes departure leaves the door open for more minutes for Marjanovic, who was the third center last season, but showed flashes during his limited minutes. Now, it appears that he will become the backup center, as the Pistons planned when they signed him to for three years and $21 million.

“That’s what’s been anticipated and we talked to Boban about it,” Van Gundy said. “We said that (last summer) when we made the decision to sign him.”

Baynes, 6-foot-10, was a defensive stalwart for the Pistons and was the stopgap in the closing minutes of games, when Andre Drummond was benched because of his poor free-throw shooting. In his two seasons with the Pistons, Baynes played 156 games and averaged 5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, in about 15.4 minutes. In three previous years with the Spurs, Baynes posted 4.8 points and 3.6 rebounds as the backup for Tim Duncan.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter @detnewsRodBeard

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