Pistons' roster flexibility offers optimum shot to reshape future
Last week, the NBA Board of Governors, discussed four options for continuing the suspended season. Only one of those scenarios involved all 30 teams and would include the Pistons, who are 20-46 and have the fifth-worst record in the league.
When the season stopped on March 11, they had lost 12 of their previous 13 games and were on the way to finishing with a top-3 lottery position and having the best odds to get the top pick in the draft — whenever that will be.
Wherever the draft pick ends up being in the lottery, it will be one of the most important pieces in reshaping the current roster, which has more than half the players on expiring contracts and entering free agency.
Five players are under contract, six others have a player option or team option and five will be unrestricted free agents. The Pistons could be one of the few teams in the league with substantial salary-cap space and can remake the roster with young, affordable contracts for next season or wait until the 2021 free-agency pool to try to make a splash.
Here’s a look at the roster breakdown for next season.
► Blake Griffin: After another disappointing season ended in injury, Griffin should be able to return fully healthy to start next season. He hasn’t been as explosive as he was, but he’ll still be effective from the perimeter and in creating mismatches. His contract doesn’t fit a rebuilding team, but it’ll be hard to trade him. Contract: $36.6 million next year and a player option for 39 million in 2021-22.
► Derrick Rose: After battling injuries and uncertainty about whether he could play at an All-Star level again, Rose proved his doubters wrong. At 31, he’s still as effective as in his younger years and he was able to ramp up to 26 minutes per game, and he started 15 games. Rose was coveted at the trade deadline this year and in the last year of his deal, a contender could come knocking again. Contract: $7.7 million through next season.
► Bruce Brown: The second-round pick from 2018 has been a find. He’s started 99 of 132 games and he has been fairly durable. He has strides to make in his offensive game but made a nice improvement to 34 percent on 3-pointers this season. His hustle, scrappiness and heart — plus a rookie contract — likely make him part of the future nucleus. Contract: $1.7 million through next season.
► Sekou Doumbouya: The rookie tantalized during a nice stint in January, but he struggled the rest of the way. He has made an impression, but the next step is to improve his focus, consistency and production. An offseason to work on his physique and inside game will be huge for him. Contract: $3.5 million next season, with team options for the next two seasons.
► Luke Kennard: Injuries derailed what was a promising third season, as he posted 15.8 points and shot 40 percent on 3-pointers. There is concern about knee tendinitis and there were reports that he was available on the trade market, making it still unclear whether he’s part of the long-term roster plans. Contract: $5.3 million through next season
Decisions to make
► Tony Snell: He was a solid starter, playing in 57 of 59 games this season and posting 8 points, with 40 percent on 3-pointers. Where he fits going forward is unclear, but he has a reasonable contract that isn’t breaking the bank. He’ll almost assuredly opt-in for next season, with the financial uncertainty around the league. Contract: Player option for $12.2 million.
► Svi Mykhailiuk: When he got an opportunity to play consistently, Mykhailiuk was one of the better wing players on the team, posting 9 points and shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. The Pistons liked him in the 2018 draft and with a low-risk trade, he could be part of their longer-term plan. There’s more there to find, but he’s off to a good start and he’ll very likely get another year to show what he has. Contract: Team option for $1.7 million.
► Thon Maker: Another low-risk trade, Maker has been solid in some spurts and a defensive liability in others. As a perimeter big man, he was good in shooting 34 percent on 3-pointers, but he didn’t defend the paint very well and isn’t a very good rebounder. He’s only 22 and in his fourth season, his upside still is unclear. Contract: Pistons could make a qualifying offer of about $4.9 million to extend his rookie contract.
► Khyri Thomas: It’s hard to believe that Thomas has played in only 34 games in his two seasons. Injuries limited him to only eight games this year and when he’s played, he hasn’t been able to show much of the promise that made him the 38th overall pick and had the Pistons trade for him. With the logjam of wings, it’ll be harder next year to find minutes. Contract: $1.7 million team option (not guaranteed)
► Jordan Bone: The rookie played in just 10 games and at times, he looked like the speed of the game was too fast for him. He’s uber-athletic, but he has to show that he can become an NBA point guard. The opportunity is there as a backup point guard but he seems to have only a little more time to show he can take it. Contract: Two-way/restricted free agent.
► Louis King: Like Bone, King was a two-way player but in his 10 games, there was a little more optimism about his fit in the league. At 6-foot-7, he fits as a small forward but will need to establish a better rhythm. Contract: Two-way/restricted.
Unrestricted free agents
► Christian Wood: After getting the final roster spot, Wood was one of the biggest surprises this season, with 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds. Toward the end of the season, he played some of the best ball of his career and set new career highs, with 29, 30 and 32 points in the final week of the season. He’ll be a free agent, but the Pistons have his Bird rights and can offer more than another team. He could command somewhere north of $10 million per season.
► Langston Galloway: He broke out in the final year of his three-year contract and had impressive numbers: 10.3 points and 40 percent on 3-pointers and played in all 66 games. Galloway, 28, is a valuable veteran with his leadership and presence in the locker room and the Pistons would like to have him back — what’s a reasonable contract number, though?
► John Henson: He came over as salary filler in the Andre Drummond trade and had some solid stretches in his 11 games, with 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds. He could be a solid consideration for a reserve center because he has a good skill set, but it wouldn’t be at the $9.7 million he made this season.
► Brandon Knight: Another piece in the Drummond trade, Knight was good in his second stint with the Pistons. he played well, with 11.6 points and 4.2 assists, including three starts. He’s finishing a five-year deal for $70 million but if the numbers are right, he could be an option to return.
► Jordan McRae: He only played four games, but McRae never was hesitant about shooting when he had an opening. With 11.8 points and 3.8 rebounds, he played fairly well, but it’s too small a sample size to make any large-scale determinations. He’s 29, and the Pistons could use his scoring, but developing younger wings could be a bigger priority.