Even now, more than a month after the Detroit Pistons started the NBA’s free-agency period wheeling and dealing, their offseason feels weird, and unsettling, and potentially awful.
They hard-capped themselves on July 1—July 1!—by using a bulk of the mid-level exception on Langston Galloway. They flipped Marcus Morris’ two-year, $10.4 million commitment for Avery Bradley’s expiring pact. They renounced restricted free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
This series of moves is bizarre. They don’t make the Pistons appreciably better, if they’ve improved at all. Detroit essentially delayed making a decision on whether to enter the luxury tax until next summer. And, as of now, it seems they plan to—provided Bradley’s addition works out.
From Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler:
The Boston Celtics had to move off some contract money to make room for their free agent signing of Gordon Hayward. While moving Bradley to Detroit was likely the right move for the Celtics, it was not an easy move because of how much Bradley meant to the chemistry and success of the Celtics. All of those characteristics that made it a hard decision for Boston are why the Pistons opted to trade for Bradley rather than re-sign guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Whether you believe Bradley is an upgrade over the combination of Caldwell-Pope and Morris (he’s not), or whether you believe the Pistons technically could have re-signed KCP and then still traded for Bradley if they didn’t sign Galloway (they could’ve), doesn’t matter here. Their intentions do. This move isn’t one you make if you don’t plan on paying Bradley over the long haul.
And from a financial perspective, this might work out for the Pistons. The market correction from 2016’s spending craze is expected to leak into next summer, so Bradley may not cost the $15 to $18 million per year many initially believed he would. So, that’s something.
As for what the Pistons are trying to do other than give themselves a year to figure out what in the hell they have on the roster, that’s something else.