With the no. 8 overall pick in the upcoming June 27th NBA Draft, more than $20 million to spend with the possibility of having closer to $30 million if Charlie Villanueva is amnestied and Rodney Stuckey is bought out, there will be more than a few pairs of NBA eyes on the Detroit Pistons in the coming weeks. The big names of the 2013 free agent class are Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, and while the Pistons could potentially create enough cap space via amnesty, buy-outs and trades to give both players max deals (as ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton pointed out last week), it's unlikely that the potential tandem would consider the Pistons regardless of money. As far as what's been reported, the Pistons priorities going into free agency are around Denver Nuggets shooting guard/small forward Andre Iguodala, with interest in their point guard during the second half of the season, Jose Calderon.
It was announced on Friday by Yahoo! Sports that Iguodala would exercise his early termination player option with the Nuggets in order to hit the open market on July 1st when free agency begins. It was an expected move, but a smart one nonetheless, as Iguodala will be the third highest sought-after player in free agency behind Howard and Paul. (Remember Miami's big three could be hitting the free agent block next offseason if their respective early termination options are exercised)
Iguodala would fill a major need on the wing for the Pistons. The down-low duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond ideally requires an athletic small forward who can stretch the floor, hit the long-ball or drive the hoop, opening the lane for the two "bigs" to work. Iguodala is exactly that type of player. Still, the reason Iguodala has decided to come out to free agency early is because he knows there's a good chance he gets the type of max-player money he wouldn't sniff in a stronger, deeper free agent class. As the Pistons have already made poor, high-dollar decisions in lesser free agency pools (Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Wilcox), it's likely that the Pistons already have monetary limits in mind that they won't dare offer.
Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press discussed what amount Iguodala might be expecting:
Iguodala is giving up $16 million for next season (by opting out of his final year with the Nuggets), so you can bet he has indications he can get a sizable deal. He could land a deal in the $10-million to $11-million range. That price tag could be more than the Pistons are willing to pay.
Whether or not the Pistons would actually be "willing to pay" $10-11 million per year for Iguodala's services remains to be seen, but the reports about the approach to Jose Calderon seem to carry a similar tone. Bob Finnan of The News-Herald in Northern Ohio, reported Sunday that they Pistons don't want to overspend on Calderon if they bring him back:
The Pistons would like to bring back Calderon in free agency, but don't want to break the bank.
The best way for the Pistons to avoid overspending on Calderon is to let him test the free agent waters. Many believe that Calderon will pursue a role on a team poised for the playoffs as he's only been to the postseason twice (06-07, 07-08) over the course of his eight years in the NBA. Calderon made $11 million dollars last season, and while he's not likely to make that amount in his next contract there's no telling what the point guard would consider fair. If Calderon went to a playoff team and found himself being "short changed" based on the team not having as desperate of need for his services, Calderon could consider the Pistons. If Calderon only received low offers from around the league, then perhaps the Pistons could get him back for a price that wouldn't make a crippling dent to their free agent spending plans.
When Calderon was acquired at the trade deadline Joe Dumars had said that the trade was not done to just bring Calderon in for the season's finish, hints of re-upping in free agency. Still, if the Pistons aren't willing to pay Iguodala in the $10-11 million range as Ellis wrote, then the number for Calderon would likely be somewhere in the $6-7 million range at most. It's possible, but the Pistons would need to get help in the form of "low balling" from the teams around the league.
As the draft approaches, so does free agency. Whether the Pistons land either Iguodala or Calderon is still unknown, but expect conversations and rumors to heat up as draft day approaches.