I think it was fitting that I woke up this morning (alright, afternoon...it's summer) to the sound of rain pelting my gutters and thunder echoing through the heavens. It was a perfect start to what should be a tumultuous offseason for the Detroit Pistons.
Part One of my offseason breakdown will show who of the current Pistons is poised to return, and who should be starting next season in another team's uniform.
Likely to Return:
Rasheed Wallace (2 years remaining; due $12.54 million in 2007-08)- Regardless of whether Sheed is still as beloved among Piston fans as he once was in light of his ejection (and complete loss of composure) in Game 6, he will be back in a Detroit uniform next year. With his $12.54 million salary, declining production, and obvious attitude issues, Wallace is relatively untradeable if the Pistons want to get any sort of worthwhile value out of a trade.
Rip Hamilton (3 years; $9.75 million)- Rip is one of the pieces that Detroit will be looking to build around for the future. He is 29 years old, is in tremendous shape, and has a style of play that lends itself to a long and effective career. He has been probably the Pistons' most consistent player since the 2004 title run, and should be the team's go-to scorer next season and beyond.
Tayshaun Prince (4 years; $8.675 million)- Tayshaun is the other player the Pistons will shape their team around. He is probably the most battle-tested 27 year old player in the league, with an NBA title and five conference final appearances already under his belt, and has shown tremendous leadership for a player of his age and experience. He is already an all-league defensive player, and his offensive game has developed with each passing year.
Carlos Delfino (2 years; $1.868 million)- Delfino is only 24, and will certainly have a role coming off the bench for the Pistons in the near future. He's a solid defender and has decent athleticism, although he needs to learn how to play in control on offense. Delfino is a former first round pick who has a lot of talent, so Detroit will look to develop him before they decide if he is worth keeping around after his contract expires.
Jason Maxiell (3 years; $1.041 million)- Maxiell was a revelation in the playoffs, providing a tremendous spark off the bench with his energetic play. He should have a much bigger role next season, especially with the possible departures of Antonio McDyess and Dale Davis. Maxiell is a potential starter down the road, a power forward who plays much bigger than his 6'7" frame.
Ronald Dupree (1 year; $826,046)- Dupree will probably never be a player who consistently cracks the rotation. He's a pretty athletic small forward, but has a shaky jumper and is already 26 years old. He didn't make the Pistons playoff roster this season. However, he's under contract for next year, so expect to see him on the end of the Detroit bench for at least one more season.
Amir Johnson (restricted free agent)- A lot of Pistons fans (including myself) are excited about the 20 year old's potential, and Detroit will do whatever they can to lock him up. He absolutely tore up the NBDL, and also played well in a brief stint with the Pistons this season (including a 20 point, 12 rebound, 4 block performance against Boston on April 18). He is a long (6'9", 210), athletic forward who should be coming off the bench next year and has the potential to be a very good player as he gains experience.
Will Blalock (team option for next season; $687,456)- Detroit is in desperate need of depth at guard, and Blalock is cheap and serviceable. I doubt the Pistons will expect him to be the backup point guard, but Blalock may be the third guard off the bench next year. For the small cost there's no reason Detroit shouldn't give the 23 year old a shot.
Up in the Air:
Chauncey Billups (unrestricted free agent)- Chauncey will surely opt out of his contract with Detroit and test the free agent market. Despite his poor showing in the conference finals, he is still a top 6 point guard who will certainly garner attention from teams looking for a floor general. He should be able to command upwards of $13 million, which would make him the highest paid player on the Pistons. What Detroit does with Billups, whether a sign-and-trade or just signing him, determines the direction the franchise is taking for the next few years.
Antonio McDyess (unrestricted free agent)- I'm also assuming McDyess will opt out of his contract (he has a player option for $6.4 million next season) and try to negotiate a raise, whether with Detroit or another team. It will be interesting to see how much Detroit is willing to pay him, what with Maxiell looking like a potential sixth man and Johnson waiting in the wings for a chance at playing time. My guess is that McDyess will go to another contender in his quest for that elusive championship ring.
Nazr Mohammed (4 years remaining; due $5.6 million in 2007-08)- Nazr certainly wasn't happy with his playing time after Detroit acquired Chris Webber, and Detroit will probably look to trade him in the offseason. His contract could be difficult to work around but I really don't see him wearing a Piston uniform ever again. He could be an extra piece in a potential Billups or Wallace trade.
Dale Davis (unrestricted free agent)- Davis, who is 38 years old and has played 16 seasons in the NBA, will most likely retire. Detroit would be unlikely to resign him, as they have young big men who they will look to get playing time.
Lindsey Hunter (1 year; $2.25 million)- Hunter has been offered a job in the Pistons front office whenever he decides to retire, and there is a decent chance that happens this offseason. I certainly hope he does, as I'm tired of watching him ruin our offense off the bench, as well as my fond memories of him from the title team and the mid-90's Pistons.
Flip Murray (unrestricted free agent)- Flip has a player option for one more year that I'm pretty sure he'll turn down. He also was not happy with his limited role as the season wore on, and I'm sure another team will find a spot on their bench for a player with his scoring ability.
Chris Webber (unrestricted free agent)- According to the Detroit News, Webber may be leaning towards retirement. He certainly looked like he didn't have a lot left in the tank at the end of this year, and his legs don't have much spring left in them. The only way I see him playing next year is as a bench player for a title contender.
Wow, that took forever. Tomorrow I'll look at possible offseason moves for Detroit, especially with regards to Chauncey Billups, as well as who we should draft.