Pistons Mailbag - June 19, 2013
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Editor’s note: You can now submit Pistons Mailbag questions via Twitter. Include the hashtag #pistonsmailbag and, as always, your first name, hometown and state or country. Questions submitted via Twitter will also include the questioner’s Twitter handle.
Aaron (Trenton, Mich.): If we spend up to the cap on other free agents, can we go over the cap to retain Jose Calderon?
Langlois: Yes and no. Yes, the Pistons can go over the cap to retain any of their own free agents – that’s Jason Maxiell, Will Bynum and Corey Maggette in addition to Calderon. But only if they do not renounce their rights to those free agents in the first place. And if they don’t renounce their rights to them, then the $20 million-plus in cap space that the Pistons can create won’t exist. Without renouncing Calderon, for example, he would have a cap hold of roughly $16.5 million – 150 percent of last season’s salary of about $11 million. Calderon won’t earn $16.5 million next season on his new contract, so the Pistons could free up cap space by signing him first. In that case, they’d have whatever his first-year salary would be less in cap space. Or they could renounce him but still re-sign him. They just would no longer have his Bird rights and, thus, could not go over the cap to re-sign him. They also wouldn’t be able to give him the larger annual raises a Bird rights player can receive. In other words, they would no longer have any advantage over other teams to win him back.
Darren (Warwick, Australia): I’ve read many articles over the past two seasons where Roy Rogers has been credited with helping the development of both Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Any chance he stays with the Pistons? Any other news on who coach Cheeks’ assistant coaches will be?
Langlois: Rogers has been reported to have accepted jobs with both Sacramento and Phoenix over the past few weeks. Phoenix announced on Monday that they couldn’t finalize a contract with Rogers but specifically said finances wasn’t the sticking point. There is speculation Rogers will wind up in Brooklyn with the Nets, which could mean Lawrence Frank will be Jason Kidd’s top assistant. Rogers is very close to Frank, breaking into the NBA on Frank’s staff with the New Jersey Nets before following him to both Boston, when Frank served as Doc Rivers’ top assistant, and to Detroit. No news yet on Cheeks’ staff. With Summer League starting on July 7, it won’t be long.
Henry (West Bloomfield, Mich.): What do you think about taking a shot at Rickey Ledo in the second round? Ledo can provide a big scoring punch off the bench if he really comes through with what everyone is saying about him. I think he’s worth a test run. I think he can be like Ben Gordon except he’s 4 or 5 inches taller.
Langlois: We’ll discuss Ledo in today’s draft preview that looks at possibilities for the Pistons’ pick at No. 37 early in the second round, Henry. There are some who believe he’s got a chance to go late in the first round, but I’d be at least mildly surprised if anybody would commit to two guaranteed years for someone with such a scant resume; Ledo sat out his freshman season at Providence due to NCAA eligibility issues. You say he’s worth a “test run,” but there could be several players available at that pick that offer more certain value. They might not have Ledo’s upside, but upside in that range of the draft usually comes with a far greater likelihood the player won’t make it. History shows there are usually some really good players available in the top 10 of the second round – the Pistons have Jonas Jerebko, Kyle Singler and Khris Middleton from the past four drafts as proof – but players taken as upside picks in that range are less likely to hit. The Pistons have taken two such players in the past five years, Walter Sharpe and Terrico White. If they want to roll the dice this year, they’ll probably do it with their pick at 56. My guess is they’ll find someone they like at 37 who they had ranked in their top 30 but falls out of the first round. We’ll see. It’s entirely possible Ledo fits that description.
Jens (Cologne, Germany): With rumors circulating that the Celtics are going to blow it up, do you think it would be possible to get Rajon Rondo? Would it take Greg Monroe straight up? Monroe plus Knight? Even if that’s awfully expensive, wouldn’t that make sense?
Langlois: Rondo likely has at least five more really good years left, though it’s worth wondering how a 170-pound whippet will be affected by a torn ACL. He’s a 6-foot-1 point guard who relies on speed and quickness, qualities that diminish in most mortals past 30; Rondo is 27. Monroe just turned 23 this month. He could have another dozen really good years left. I’m not smart enough to know how either Joe Dumars or Danny Ainge would respond to such an offer, but I’d have more reasons to back away from it if I was the one holding the rights to a 23-year-old big man – they generally remain productive longer than undersized point guards – who looks like he’s on the verge of cracking the All-Star roster for a good run of years. The Pistons have more than $20 million in cap space and a lottery pick that they can put to use over the next few weeks. It might be more prudent to see what the roster looks like after those assets are expended before pondering what sacrificing a talent like Monroe could yield.
Rami (@RamiMikho): Are there any particular free agents we’re going after? Any trades we’re exploring?
Langlois: I think the dynamics are much different in free agency today than the last time the Pistons had cap space in 2009, Rami. Back then, teams that had the most money under the cap were first out of the gate and going after the biggest names available when the clock struck midnight on July 1. We’ll see if that’s the case this time around. It could be the Pistons jump fast but not necessarily by offering big money to a premier player. If you were to tell me the Pistons would have a player making $10 million or more on next year’s roster and asked me to choose the most likely way that player was obtained, I’d probably say “trade” rather than “free agency.” I don’t have any names for you, but trades are being talked about every day. Joe Dumars and his staff are spending very long days in their offices. They’re considering as many contingencies as they can imagine. The reality of having as much cap space as the Pistons will have is that they can look at other team’s rosters and target players they believe their current teams will be open to moving for any number of reasons, salary cap and luxury tax concerns among them.
Johnny (@JG_Hollywood): Since Will Bynum probably won’t be back, it’s logical to go with Pierre Jackson, who will be cheaper and possibly better.
Langlois: Jackson is one among a deep crop of point guards who should go from late in the first to midway through the second rounds, Johnny. He’s the smallest of the bunch but maybe as dynamic as any of them offensively, given his perimeter shooter ability coupled with his penetration skills. I’ve made the case in this forum more than once that the draft is the province of the front office, not the coaching staff, but it’s certainly possible they’ll ask Maurice Cheeks to take a look at video of that group of point guards to see if one or two jump out at him, as I wrote in Tuesday’s edition of True Blue Pistons. Jackson, by the way, has been shut down for any more workouts by his agent due to what they say is a minor left knee injury.
Mustafa (Sterling Heights, Mich.): Last year the Pistons traded Ben Gordon and his contract along with a first-rounder for Corey Maggette’s expiring contract to free up cap space for this summer. Couldn’t we have just used the amnesty clause on Gordon instead of giving up a valuable first-round pick? Also, do you think Joe Dumars will end up using the amnesty clause on Charlie Villanueva or just let it go to waste?
Langlois: The Pistons were tacitly saying they expect to make a strong run at the 2014 playoffs when they structured the protections on the future first-rounder they owe Charlotte in that deal, Mustafa. Their preference, of course, would have been to make the playoffs this year and convey a non-lottery pick to the Bobcats in 2013. But the primary motivation for the trade was to give them the wherewithal to dramatically upgrade the roster this off-season. It’s been widely reported and understood that the 2014 draft is expected to be a strong one, but that’s largely because there will be a half-dozen or so potential impact players at the top of the draft. The Pistons are protected in the event of injury or some other factor that causes them to be in the top half of the lottery next season; in 2014, the pick is protected if it’s in the top eight. As for using the amnesty instead, the economics argue in favor of the path the Pistons took. Teams have bought first-round picks for $3 million. That’s probably going to be a pick toward the bottom of the first round, but if the Pistons expect to be in the playoffs next season and they wind up sending a pick in the high teens or low 20s to Charlotte, that wouldn’t be a much different slot than what they might be able to get for $3 million. Compare that to the $13.2 million they shaved off their 2013-14 payroll by shedding the final year of Gordon’s contract. We’ll see about Villanueva. With Austin Daye no longer on the roster, what he brings – a big man who can knock down 3-pointers – is a coveted asset no one else on the team really offers today. If the Pistons pay him to play elsewhere, they’ll create the need to go find a similar player in free agency. Not saying it’s outside the realm of the possible, but that it might create more problems than it solves.
James (Plano, Texas): Can you give us an idea of what teams will be over the luxury tax line this year so we can get an idea of trade targets?
Langlois: It’s an inexact science because we’re not sure where the tax line will be set and there are moves that teams projected to be over the presume line might be able to make to get under it without having to make drastic moves, James.The tax line is expected to be set at around $71 million by best estimates and there are probably seven teams that will start out over that amount: Miami, Brooklyn, the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago, Golden State, New York and Toronto. Some of those teams have cap situations that project to get even messier the following season. It might turn out that some or many of those teams are OK starting the season over the tax line but change their perspective – depending on how next season unfolds for them – as the trade deadline nears. (For purposes of paying luxury tax, the number used is the one a team shows at season’s end, not the beginning.) The Pistons have studied every angle of this off-season for the past year. I expect they’ll be prepared to exercise patience if that’s what the situation demands. If the right opportunity doesn’t present itself on or near July 1, they know a better opportunity might come around a few months into the 2013-14 season.
Master (Grand Rapids, Mich.): As far as you know, did Rasheed Wallace have any interest in coaching? His basketball IQ was always impressive. Any chance Cheeks brings him on as an assistant?
Langlois: Haven’t heard anything one way or the other on Wallace’s latest post-retirement plans, Master. By all accounts, he and Cheeks have a solid relationship. Last September, when the bulk of the Pistons had already gathered in Auburn Hills prior to the start of training camp, Wallace spent a few days scrimmaging. Even then, he was constantly offering advice to Andre Drummond. It would make for an interesting dynamic. But his heart would really have to be into it – it’s a demanding job with almost no days off from October until season’s end. As much of a family man as he is, he might not be ready for that type of commitment so soon after retiring as a player.
Zach (Southgate, Mich.): With the Mavs looking to get rid of their No. 13 pick, what are the chances the Pistons can offer Rodney Stuckey for that pick? Would our early second-rounder have to go, too? I like the thought of getting a duo like Caldwell-Pope and Dennis Schroeder.
Langlois: No idea about the credibility of reports that say Dallas is looking to move the No. 13 pick, Zach, but by all accounts the motivation for the Mavs doing so would be to avoid the $1.65 million cap hold to free up more money to pursue free agents. There is widespread speculation Dallas is going to try to make a run at the premier free agents to offer two max contracts and it will have to be very creative to do so. That’s a long way of saying it wouldn’t further that pursuit by taking back Stuckey’s contract. The speculation is that Dallas will use the 13th pick as enticement to take a big contract off of its books, perhaps Shawn Marion’s $9.3 million deal, which expires after next season. Stuckey’s deal reportedly calls for him to get $8.5 million, though it is believed to be guaranteed for $4 million.