There’s the belief — or, should I say, hope — that the Pistons are going to make a splash come free agency. After all, Detroit walks into the summer with roughly $26 million in cap space and the possibility to add more, given some of the team options on the roster. The franchise wants to turn a corner next season, with a pick high in the draft and a significant amount of cash to spend in free agency at its disposal. It makes sense why the hope is there.
But what if the Pistons can’t land one of the marquee names? Keep in mind that this particular free-agency class isn’t to die for. Dallas’ Jalen Brunson and Chicago’s Zach LaVine are the big names when it comes to unrestricted free agents, and Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton and Charlotte’s Miles Bridges are the belles of the restricted free-agency ball. All are good players, and ones who would help Detroit immensely, but not franchise-altering talents, especially when you consider the price it may take the Pistons to entice each of these players to come to the Motor City and when you factor in what the 2023 free-agency class looks like. Additionally, there’s a world in which all of these players stay put. All are vital parts to their current teams.
I say all that to say this: Detroit will have backup plans when it comes to free agency.
That’s why I’m here, to take a look at some names the Pistons could go after on more team-friendly deals, keep flexibility and, possibly, become more competitive next season.
There is a lot of maize and blue in Detroit right now, so it’s only fair to mix in some green and white.
Harris, who will be 28 when the 2022-23 campaign starts, is an unrestricted free agent this summer after spending last season in Orlando, where he landed as part of the Aaron Gordon trade. The former Michigan State Spartan has been productive, but his career path has been unconventional. Injuries have plagued him. He’s had stretches of really good basketball. He’s had forgotten seasons. One year, he’ll shoot 39 percent from 3, and the next, he’ll hit 33 percent of his attempts.
Regardless of the inconsistencies that have followed Harris, he’s a good player who checks many boxes for Detroit. The Pistons have a massive void at the other guard spot in the starting lineup. Harris won’t necessarily help ease the ballhandling duties of Cade Cunningham, but he’ll be a traditional two-guard who has the potential to be an above-average 3-point shooter, score around the rim and move well without the ball. He’d also step in and be one of the two best perimeter defenders on the roster. Also, from a culture standpoint, Harris fits.
I could see Harris taking a prove-it deal this summer. He just wrapped up a four-year, $84 million contract. I highly doubt a deal like that is available for him this summer. It’s possible — and this is just me spitballing — that Harris could seek a prove-it deal. Maybe Detroit can get him for a two-year deal at a good price with the second season being a team option.
If that manifested, the Pistons would get a good NBA player who could help them turn a corner, the flexibility moving forward and a few more appearances at Little Caesars Arena from Tom Izzo.
OK, I promise that this is the last Michigan State guy.
The Lansing, Mich., native, who will be 29 when next season starts, is a career 3-point marksman. Forbes hasn’t shot below 38 percent from 3 in a season since his rookie year, and he’s hit better than 39 percent of his 3s in four of his six NBA seasons.
Detroit ranked 29th in the NBA in 3-point shooting last season. That will get addressed this summer, and Forbes would help fix the deficiency.
The Pistons can get Forbes for a good deal. He’d provide competition for Frank Jackson — assuming Detroit picks up his team option — in the second unit at, roughly, a similar cost.
The first restricted free agent of the names mentioned, DiVincenzo could be a cost-friendly option for the Pistons. The 25-year-old could act as a kinda-sorta cheap alternative for Brunson, meaning he’d relieve ballhandling duties from Cunningham, is capable of being an average 3-point shooter and can defend solidly for his position. Furthermore, Jay Wright’s Villanova guys are the new black right now.
Of course, DiVincenzo doesn’t slot as a starter long-term, or maybe even short-term, but he is a useful NBA player who does provide a positive impact. I can’t imagine that the Kings will go above and beyond to retain DiVincenzo, even though they did acquire him in a midseason trade. He’s got a qualifying offer of $6.6 million. I’d be surprised if he gets much more than that in annual salary next season.
The soon-to-be 29-year-old Warren essentially missed all of last season with a foot injury. And much like Harris, there’s a world in which you see Warren taking a prove-it deal in order to maximize his value before he turns 30.
Before the injury, Warren was a walking bucket. From 2017-20, Warren never averaged fewer than 18 points per game on respectable efficiency. The two seasons prior to this past one, Warren shot better than 40 percent from 3. Detroit was one of the least efficient offensive teams in the NBA this year, and if Warren is able to be the player he was before the injury, the Pistons will get someone who can help address that clear weakness.
The one question with Warren: Where does he slot in? Given his size, Warren overlaps with Saddiq Bey as a tweener small forward/power forward. He wouldn’t start over Bey, and it’s unlikely he goes to a new destination where he comes off the bench. If the Pistons move Jerami Grant this summer, maybe you can see a world in which it makes a little more sense for both sides. Even then, if Warren and Bey are both starting, it likely means Detroit didn’t get a top-three draft pick and/or ended up selecting a guard.
The Warren fit is a little funkier than the rest of the names mentioned, but he surely would be of great use to the Pistons at a fairly good price, assuming he’s 100 percent healthy.
(Photo of Gary Harris: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports)