Pistons in search of point guard, though stars will be out of reach
After the dust settled on this season, the Pistons front office immediately began to look at ways to improve the roster.
The first-round playoff exit showed where many of the roster holes are from a talent perspective, but with several expiring contracts, they have some holes to fill as well.
Point guard and wing are the two biggest areas of need, but they’ll also have to find a backup center — and they won’t have significant financial flexibility to get elite-level players. The Pistons are over the salary cap of $109 million but will have the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (about $9.2 million), plus the biannual exception (about $3.6 million). Either can be divided among multiple players, which likely would be the Piston’s direction.
The Pistons’ long-term plan is building around Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond and barring something unforeseen, both of them will remain. Reggie Jackson is entering the final year of his contract and with a price tag of $18.1 million, and indications are that they’ll look at opportunities to trade him for an upgrade. Optimally, they’d find a younger, pass-first option on a smaller contract.
More than likely, the elite point guards such as Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker wouldn’t be in consideration — especially without a blockbuster trade to free up significant cap space — so the likely targets are second- or third-tier options.
With their first-round pick, 15th overall, in the June draft, the Pistons can look to find the best wing prospect and likely would pursue a veteran point guard. Ish Smith and Jose Calderon are unrestricted free agents and Smith could be an option, though they’ll shop around.
Here’s a look at some potential options at point guard in free agency, which begins July 1:
Patrick Beverley, 30
He’ll be a hot commodity in free agency, but Beverley brings a toughness and defensive doggedness that the Pistons would crave. His numbers understandably were down — 7.6 points, five rebounds and 3.8 assists — as he tried to find his footing with the Clippers but his 40-percent shooting on 3-pointers will draw the Pistons’ interest.
He’s smaller, at 6-foot-1, but with his physicality, he’s shown that he can defend even Kevin Durant effectively in short stints.
► 2018-19 salary: $5 million
Seth Curry, 28
After having his best season with the Mavericks in 2016-17, with a career-best 12.8 points and shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers, Curry missed the next season with a fractured left tibia. He had another solid season with 7.9 points and 45 percent this season with the Trail Blazers.
Curry is more of a combo guard than a pure point guard, but many teams will covet his skill set. He’s developed into a savvy shooter and scorer and fits well with what the Pistons are trying to achieve with their bench. His contract will be more at a price point where they can be in the running, but they will be cautious not to overpay.
► 2018-19 salary: $2.8 million
Cory Joseph, 27
In his eight seasons, he’s been a career backup and played for coach Dwane Casey two seasons in Toronto. He’s durable, having missed just seven games total in the past five seasons, with 66 starts. Joseph is a solid reserve who would fit, but he’s not an exceptional 3-point shooter (32 percent last season), though he shot 35 percent and 36 percent the previous two seasons.
Familiarity with Casey’s system could make Joseph a hidden gem, but his elevated salary and competition in the market could put him out of the Pistons’ range.
► 2018-19 salary: $7.9 million
Derrick Rose, 30
He’s not close to what he was as the 2011 league MVP, but Rose has bounced back since the devastating ACL injury in 2012-13. He could be a serviceable option as a veteran combo scorer, with a desirable contract. He turned back the clock, posting 18 points and 4.3 assists and shot 37 percent on 3-pointers with the Timberwolves.
His assist numbers have been down since his MVP season, but he’s found a balance as a scorer and distributor and showed that he still has something left in the tank.
► 2018-19 salary: $2.2 million
Ricky Rubio, age 28
At 6-4, Rubio brings size and is more of a pass-first point guard and his defensive mindset is a plus, as he finished in the top 20 in steals in his first six seasons. He was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft and the Pistons were interested in him a few years ago. Like Jackson, Rubio has had some injuries and his production has dropped off since his trade to the Jazz. His larger salary would necessitate trading Jackson.
► 2018-19 salary: $14.3 million