Previously, the Detroit Pistons' front office looked forward to summer 2020 as a roster renaissance. Some of their big contracts were set to come off the books — including Josh Smith’s $5.3 million for each of the past few years — and they would have space in the salary cap to reshape the roster.
Because of the suspended season due to COVID-19, that time still hasn’t arrived officially, but it’s on the horizon. The Pistons are projected to have more than $30 million in cap space but likely won’t go on a spending spree, choosing instead to target bigger names in the 2021 class of free agents.
They’ll have some decisions to make about their own pending free agents, including John Henson, Brandon Knight, Thon Maker, Jordan McRae, Jordan Bone and Louis King. Tony Snell has a player option for $12.2 million for next season, which he almost assuredly will take, and the Pistons very likely will pick up Svi Mykhailiuk’s team option for $1.5 million. Thon Maker could be a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of about $4.9 million but that doesn’t seem likely.
Center and point guard seem to be the biggest areas of need. There are no centers under contract for next season and Derrick Rose, in the last year of his deal, could be on the move before the trade deadline.
Before free agency hits, there are plenty of variables that will have to be figured out, such as what the actual salary cap will be, and after the financial impact of the pandemic will be determined.
Here’s a look at some of the free agents the Pistons could pursue:
►Christian Wood, forward: After a breakout season, Wood is due for a huge raise from the $1.6 million he got this year after posting 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds. Wood, 25, will be the Pistons’ top priority in free agency and likely will command in the range of $11 million.
►Langston Galloway, guard: Galloway is having one of the best seasons of his career, with 10.3 points and shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers. He’s an excellent teammate and mentor for young players, which is what the Pistons will need moving forward.
►Willie Cauley-Stein, center: At 7-foot, Cauley-Stein would be a good addition. He’s only 27 and has a player option for $2.3 million with the Mavericks, and he could decline it in looking for a bigger payday.
►Aron Baynes, center: The former Piston is posting career highs of 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds with the Suns this season. Baynes, 33, is an unrestricted free agent and made $5.2 million and is tough inside and can shoot from the perimeter.
►Jacob Poeltl, forward: He played under coach Dwane Casey with the Raptors for two seasons and has shown some promise. He’s a restricted free agent and made $3.8 million this season, but he’d be worth looking at if the Spurs don’t retain him.
►Harry Giles, forward: The Kings declined his option for next season and at $2.6 million, he’s a bargain this year, posting 7.0 points and 4.2 rebounds. He’s only 22 and there’s plenty of upside to be explored, but other teams will be interested.
►D.J. Augustin, guard: He’s bounced around the league, including a stint with the Pistons in 2014-15. Augustin, 32, could be a good veteran presence to help a young point guard. He had a solid season with 10.4 points and 4.6 assists and made $7.3 million.
►Shabazz Napier, guard: He’s taken a while to find footing, but with the Wizards, he’s having his best year: 10.3 points and 5.0 assists. He’ll be 29, but he could be a short-term fix, especially if the salary is near his $1.9 million this year.
►Bryn Forbes, guard: He’s overshadowed in San Antonio, but the former Michigan State Spartan has developed into a solid player. He’s 27 and at just $2.9 million, he’s a huge bargain for his production: 11.2 points and 39 percent on 3-pointers.
►Malik Beasley, guard: He’s a restricted free agent and if the Timberwolves have other plans, he could be available. He’s only 23 and is a budding contributor, with 11.2 points and 43 percent from beyond the arc.