The Detroit Pistons had fans scratching their heads with their puzzling free agency strategy, as opposed to their solid approach in the draft.
Every NBA offseason, there’s at least one organization that leaves fans, talking heads and experts scratching their heads in befuddlement. Last year, the New York Knicks were that organization after they signed an abundance of power forwards moments after losing out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets. It felt as though the Knicks spent it all on “best players available” and to use up their massive amounts of cap space as if to tell their fanbase, “Hey, we tried.”
The Detroit Pistons and general manager Troy Weaver must have loved the strategy of the Knicks, because over one year later, they’ve spent a majority of their free cap space on bigs. It was a true far cry as to why the Pistons would do that, considering their NBA Draft strategy was mostly impressive. So why on earth would they do this?
Pistons hoarding all the bigs
Prior to the start of free agency, the Pistons acquired center Dewayne Dedmon from the Atlanta Hawks for Khyri Thomas and Tony Snell. Then they added Washington big man Isaiah Stewart with the 16th overall pick in the draft. You’d have thought that the Pistons were done adding big men to their roster. That’s where you’d have been wrong.
At the start of free agency, the team instantly agreed to sign Mason Plumlee to a three-year, $25 million deal and former 2015 third overall pick Jahlil Okafor to a two-year contract worth the veteran minimum. Shortly after those head-scratching moves, Detroit agreed to sign forward Jerami Grant to a three-year, $60 million contract.
Let’s start by saying that Grant was a solid signing by Weaver, as the Pistons convinced him to decline a similar deal from the Denver Nuggets with the promise of giving him a larger role in the offense. So kudos on that. However, it’s the Plumlee and Okafor signings that left a bad taste in the mouths of Pistons fans. What are they going to do with all of those big men on the depth chart?
Well, we received the answer on Saturday. The Pistons planned to waive and stretch the contracts of Dedmon and Rodney McGruder, whom they acquired from the LA Clippers in the three-team Luke Kennard trade involving the Brooklyn Nets. With this strategy of stretching out Dedmon’s $14.3 million owed and McGruder’s $10.4 million owed over the next five seasons, the Pistons will be able to fit the contracts of Plumlee and Grant under the salary cap.
While that’s all well and good, that still doesn’t make the signings of Plumlee and Okafor any better. Plumlee will serve in the same role as he did with the Denver Nuggets, and that’s as an overpaid backup center. Why are they committing $25 million to a backup center? At least Okafor comes at a relatively cheap price, but his role on the team will be a question mark too, especially with the selection of Stewart.
As the character Pepper Brooks from the cult-classic film Dodgeball famously said, “It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for them.”