Pistons Lead

Cap-Logged Pistons Can Still Add Talent with Mid-Level Exception


We’re just a little over 48 hours away from the start of the 2019 NBA Free Agency period, but there isn’t much Pistons news to report yet. This is unfortunately due to the Pistons being essentially cap-committed for the 2019-20 season.

Blake Griffin ($34.2M), Andre Drummond ($27.1M), Reggie Jackson ($18.1M), Tony Snell ($11.4M, pending trade) and Langston Galloway ($7.3M) comprise Detroit’s top five payroll guys.

Reggie has earned a fair share of that money when healthy. But, the fact a player with better production like Eric Bledsoe re-ups with Milwaukee at a rate lower than Jackson (4 years/$70,000,000) speaks to the amount of money Detroit still has committed to players that are a cut below the better teams in the league. And when you see Galloway’s salary relative to their production, then it’s a lot of cuts below average. The Tony Snell-Jon Leuer swap added roughly $2M to Detroit’s tab next season, but Snell can be a lethal exterior threat– something the Pistons have been short on for numerous years.

Current Salary Situation

As of right now the Pistons have ~$119M on the books for next season. Declining Glenn Robinson III‘s $4.2M team option would free up a minuscule amount of space, but any wiggle room is helpful at this point.

This brings the Pistons total to roughly under $115M. This is slightly over the $109M salary cap. Being stuck like this isn’t easy, but besides standing pat, the Mid-Level Exception could provide Detroit with some assistance.

For those that don’t know what the Mid-Level Exception is, let me explain. It is a tool created by the collective bargaining agreement for teams over the salary cap to still have some money to entice free agents. With next year’s salary cap set at $109,000,000 and the luxury tax line set at $132,000,000 that means the Pistons are left with using the full Mid-Level Exception since they are over the salary cap, but under the luxury tax. For the 2019 NBA offseason, this means they have $9,246,000 left to offer free agents. Now, they can either throw this whole dollar amount at one player, or they can split it up into multiple players.

Too Expensive for the Pistons

To start, let’s consider who is most likely just out of this price range. This helps to start narrowing down Detroit’s options. Since the Pistons most pressing need is on the wing, I will be considering that position mostly. Point guard is also likely to garner consideration with this money, so I will list options there as well. With these caveats, the guys for me that most likely turn down this full MLE kind of a deal are: Bojan Bogdanovic, J.J. Redick, Patrick Beverley, and Ricky Rubio.

All four of these guys would fill pressing needs for the Pistons and compliment Blake and Andre nicely. But for one reason or another, they are just out of Detroit’s range. Bojan is most likely going to command $10M+ annually, seeing as he was Indiana’s 2nd best player last year posting career highs in points per game (18.0), field goal percentage (53.8%), three-point percentage (42.5%!), assists per game (2.0), while playing in 81 regular season games and all four playoff games. He also carried the load offensively to keep Indiana as the 5 seed even after Victor Oladipo went down with an injury. Redick is unlikely to sign any place other than Philly since they need him.

And both Beverley and Rubio would be fantastic 6th men in Detroit, but both can find teams that will start them even if they can’t offer them more money than Detroit. And seeing as how both guys are gamers, I bet they take the opportunity for more playing time since the difference in pay is going to be like a few million anyway.

The List

Now, let’s look at the field of free agents the Pistons can actually consider with the MLE money the have. These players are listed in no particular order.


Terrence Ross, Danny Green, Iman Shumpert, Garrett Temple, KCP, Alec Burks, Mario Hezonja, Justin Holiday, Lance Stephenson, Rodney Hood, Troy Daniels, Reggie Bullock, Vince Carter, Wayne Ellington, Quincy Pondexter, Corey Brewer, Justin Anderson, David Nwaba, Furkan Korkmaz, Wayne Selden, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Rodney McGruder, Tyler Dorsey, Patrick McCaw, Wesley Matthews, Nik Stauskas, Jodie Meeks, Trevon Bluiett, Davon Reed, Kadeem Allen, Rawle Alkins, Trevor Ariza, DeMarre Carroll, Wilson Chandler, Rudy Gay, Jared Dudley, Thabo Sefolosha, Stanley Johnson, Jeff Green, Luol Deng, Kelly Oubre Jr., Darius Miller, Sam Dekker, James Ennis, Jake Layman, Dorian Finney-Smith, Danuel House, George King, Deng Adel, Devin Robinson, Vincent Edwards, Troy Williams, Jaron Blossomgame

Point Guards

Cory Joseph, Elfrid Payton, Trey Burke, Delon Wright, Tyus Jones, TJ McConnell, Quinn Cook, Emmanuel Mudiay, Ish Smith, Tomas Satoransky, Jeremy Lin, Seth Curry, Jerian Grant, Tim Frazier, Shelvin Mack, and Ryan Arcidiacono

Narrowing Down the List

I realize that is a long list of guys at both positions. The Pistons, however, really need to leave no stone unturned when looking to add another wing. Also, there are going to be so many teams going at the top guys in free agency (KD, Kawhi, Kyrie, Jimmy Butler) and even supposed second-tier guys (Khris Middleton, D’Angelo Russell, Nikola Vucevic, etc.) that getting in the door day one on someone not deemed a superstar for other teams can go a long way in negotiations. Point being, there actually are quite a few options for the team.

Now, there are two ways I can see the team attack this. 1) Use all of the MLE on one guy, or 2) They split up the $9.2M in multiple ways to ink two or more guys. For example, say they want a backup big man and offered him $3.1M. This equals to roughly 33.8% of the MLE money they have to spend. The team would then have $6.1M left to offer anyone. I use this split as an example because it is the most likely scenario when considering who the team could potentially sign with that money, I’ll be using this split.

Keep it here for more-specific player profiles on who the Pistons could potentially nab with their MLE.

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