On Sunday night, the Brooklyn Nets made a shocking yet beneficial move when they came to terms on a contract extension with Caris LeVert, a promising young wing who was set to be a restricted free agent next July. LeVert was set to be one of the most sought after free agents, with teams ready to try to outbid a Brooklyn team that committed a lot of money this summer to two stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
One of those teams was likely to be the Pistons. Detroit is set to have some cap space next offseason, something they have not had in quite some time. Reggie Jackson and Langston Galloway will both be free agents, opening up $22 million alone in cap space. Andre Drummond, who has a $28 million player option for the 2020-2021 season has given all indications that he will decline that option. This would open up a ginormous amount of cap space. Thon Maker will be a restricted free agent as well. He’s currently making a little over $3.5 million for the upcoming year. And the remaining $5.3 million that the Pistons owe Josh Smith will be paid off this season, which is the cherry on top in terms of opening up money for the Pistons to spend.
To sum up that last paragraph, the Pistons will have a lot of money to spend next summer. And one area where some have been expecting Detroit to attack was the restricted free agent market due to the 2020 summer having a weak unrestricted free agent class. LeVert, along with Pascal Siakam, Jaylen Brown, and Brandon Ingram lead a strong restricted free agent class. Dejounte Murray and Buddy Hield join are set to join that same group.
But LeVert peaked most’s interest due to his level of play and perceived opportunity to be available, unlike Siakam. Before suffering a traumatic dislocation of his right foot, LeVert was enjoying a breakout season with the Nets. Amazingly enough, LeVert was able to return before the regular season had ended. It took time to settle himself back on the court, and he finished the season averaging 13.7 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Detroit passed on LeVert in the 2016 NBA Draft, as they decided to take Henry Ellenson instead of the 6’7” wing.
In the playoffs, he was stellar. While the fellow star of the team D’Angelo Russell somewhat cracked under pressure, LeVert rose to the challenge and wreaked havoc against the Philadelphia 76ers before Brooklyn was eliminated in five games. He averaged 21 points on 49.3% shooting from the field and 46.2% shooting from beyond the arc. He added in 4.6 rebounds and three assists per contest. He even had his way with Joel Embiid a pair of times.
But LeVert is off the market now, which makes next offseason even stickier for Detroit. It wasn’t some foregone conclusion that the Pistons would have signed him, but the fit was ideal. He was a playmaker on the wing that would mesh with Blake Griffin and fortify their defense.
Now, who will Detroit turn their attention to? Will they hope the Celtics aren’t willing to commit to Jaylen Brown? Could they look to replace Reggie Jackson with Murray? Would they throw big money at Ingram? Or could they hope to pick up one of the few useful unrestricted free agents such as DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry? Will they themselves throw a big payday at Andre Drummond, who will expect a max contract?
LeVert was the safest choice. Now, they’ll have to play a little riskier.
And what are the after-effects of next offseason? What if they strikeout on everyone and are too late to sign back Drummond? Do they trade Griffin and begin a rebuild?
The decisions made next offseason could have huge effects on the future of the Pistons.
One player who no longer appears as an option for those future plans is the newly re-signed Caris LeVert.
All stats via Basketball-Reference.com or stats.nba.com.
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