The Detroit Pistons are in the difficult position of trying to add good players to a roster that has some serious salary cap limitations. Danny Leroux of The Athletic highlighted some teams looking to shed bad money this offseason through the contract of J.R. Smith. Count the Pistons as one of those teams.
The article lists the Pistons along with the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers, and Dallas Mavericks as the teams in the market for shedding salary via the Cavaliers disgruntled shooting guard. Each of the teams listed above either took risks that ended up not paying off, made bad decisions, or both. The Pistons are one of the teams who made some unfortunate decisions.
Cleveland, who has done a respectable job recouping assets in the wake of another LeBron James departure, is holding a piece of collective bargaining history in their hands and waiting to use it. Smith’s contract was signed under the previous agreement, meaning his salary can be sent out and subsequently wiped out by the team who acquires him – aside from the $3.8 million salary guarantee. Smith is due $15.7 million next season, so a team would be saving $11.8 million by trading for Smith and cutting him.
Detroit should be jumping at this opportunity, or at the very least exploring it. Jon Leuer and Langston Galloway are two bad salaries that could be used in a trade to relieve some of the salary pressure Detroit is attempting to work with. Cleveland is willing to take on bad salaries and essentially gift free cap space to another team – but there will be a price – and I am not quite sure exactly if the Pistons will be able to offer enough.
The Pistons own their first and second round picks in this year’s draft, the 15thand 45threspectively. They also possess their own first-round picks for the foreseeable future, which is promising. However, they do not own a second-round pick until 2024 according to Real GM. Giving up a first-round pick for Smith’s contract is too high, particularly the 15ththis year. If this pick was in the 20s, I think a case could be made. Detroit could also look to swap their first round pick this year and get Cleveland’s 26th pick, a compromise that still allows the Pistons to stay in the first round. But a quality player can be drafted at 15 that could be helpful next season and beyond. To move that for the chance at signing someone perhaps better and more proven is a risk.
Though, I did mention can and could. There is no guarantee the player they draft at 15 is helpful enough immediately. The Pistons are operating under the mindset of now. Maybe they can tack on another contract to give the Cavaliers with the 15th pick, a move that may make more sense since Detroit would open up even more cap space. But I am not sure the Cavaliers would be willing to take on two contracts especially considering how close to the cap they are already.
The Heat have an early jump in getting Smith’s contract according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Miami may be willing to swap their 13thpick with the Cavs’ 26thpick as an added incentive. Oklahoma City is in the same boat with pick number 21 and plenty of bad salary too. Charlotte may be desperate to clear space for the max contract of Kemba Walker and any help they could find him. Dallas wants to make a play this offseason for some wing help and needs to cut money too. There are many suitors and plenty of options for the Cavaliers, but the Pistons can – and should – get involved.
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