↓ Login/Logout ↓
Schedule/Results
↓ Roster ↓
Salaries
↓ Archives ↓
↓ About ↓

Archive → June, 2010

Poll: If you’re the Pistons and the first six picks go as expected, who would you draft?

If you’re the Pistons and the first six picks go as expected, who would you draft?

View Results
Create a Blog Poll

Trade Idea: If the top six picks go as expected, it might be wise for the Pistons to trade out of the first round, and Ty Lawson would be great bait

Trade

Pistons receive:

  • Ty Lawson (8.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.7 steals)
  • Coby Karl (4.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.4 steals)

Nuggets receive:

  • Chris Wilcox (4.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.4 steals)
  • No. 7 pick in 2010 draft

Salaries

Data from ShamSports.com

Pistons receive:

Player 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14  2014/15
Ty Lawson $1,546,560 $1,654,440  $2,544,529 $3,610,686 $0
Coby Karl $854,389 $1,091,100 $0 $0 $0
Total $2,390,949 $2,745,540 $2,544,529 $3,610,686 $0

Nuggets receive:

Player 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Chris Wilcox $3,000,000 $0 $0 $0 $0
No. 7 pick $2,331,700 $2,506,600 $2,681,400 $3,405,378 $4,566,612
Total $5,331,700 $2,506,600 $2,681,400 $3,405,378 $4,566,612
  • Team option
  • Qualifying offer
  • Fully unguaranteed if waived on or before Aug. 15
  • Would hold value of $0 for trade purposes

Pistons’ perspective

Yesterday’s Kings-76ers trade killed my Pistons-Kings idea. Pistons followers seem split on what the trade means about Detroit’s chances of getting DeMarcus Cousins with the seventh pick.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press believes Cousins is more likely to slip. I know Patrick Hayes of Full-Court Press thinks the Kings will take Cousins.

Put me firmly in the this-makes-Cousins-slipping-to-7-less-likely camp. The Kings’ net change in centers is zero. Plus, by swapping Spencer Hawes for Samuel Dalembert, the Kings have a safe option at center. I think that means they’d be more likely to take the risk on Cousins.

A trade similar to original idea with Francisco Garcia instead of Andres Nocioni could still work. But Garcia has an extra year on his contract, so that wouldn’t be as appealing to Detroit.

A move with Sacramento, Philadelphia, Minnesota or even New Jersey is still possible, but the Kings-76ers trade means the Pistons are more likely to stay at No. 7, so let’s discuss what that means.

The rumors have been rampant that Detroit wants to move up to get Derrick Favors or Cousins. But I want to introduce the trade-up corollary:

If the Pistons really are keen on moving up (and I think they are), that indicates they’re not particularly high on anyone likely to be available at No. 7. Maybe they’re just that infatuated with Favors and Cousins. But in all likelihood, that’s only part of the puzzle.

After Favors, Cousins and Greg Monroe, there seems to be a pretty significant drop in big men.

Cole Aldrich, Ed Davis, Patrick Patterson, Ekpe Udoh and Hassan Whiteside represent the next tier of bigs, and they’re likely to go between Detroit’s pick and the next 10 to 15 picks. In my opinion (and because we don’t have much indication about what the Pistons want – other than they probably aren’t high on Davis – let’s stick with my opinion), there isn’t much to differentiate the value of those five players.

Aldrich is the safe pick. Whiteside has the upside (hey, that rhymes). Davis, Patterson and Udoh fall in between. But their values (odds of success multiplied by upside) all seem similar.

Unless you like one of those guys well above the rest, if you’re the first team to draft one of them, it’s not a great pick. But if you get the last of the group, that’s probably good value. Unfortunately, the Pistons position at No. 7 dictates they’ll probably fall on the low-value side of that scale.

If the first six picks of the draft are John Wall, Evan Turner, Favors, Wesley Johnson, Cousins and Monroe, who would Detroit take? The consensus next-best player available is Al-Farouq Aminu. But another combo forward isn’t ideal, and Aminu doesn’t exactly exude the toughness Joe Dumars says he wants.

So, what are the options?

Maybe Detroit could trade down to a team that wants Aminu or another forward (like Cameron Haywood). Or maybe the Pistons could trade down to a team that has its sights set on a particular second-tier big man. But as I said before, that doesn’t seem likely.

So, that leaves one more option: trade out.

Finally, to the actual trade I’m proposing.

Chad Ford reported the Nuggets have been offering Ty Lawson for a top-10 pick. I’ve previously used this space to champion trading for Lawson, so I won’t rehash it all here.

Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company isn’t a fan of trading Lawson, but understands this would be a win-now move. If the Nuggets are looking for an immediate impact, Jeremy thinks Aldrich is probably their target (and I agree).

The most common trade partner mentioned with the Nuggets is the Pacers, who hold the 10th pick and desperately need a point guard. A trade with the Pistons would mean Denver would have to pay the pick more, which could be a slight drawback.

But given that the Jazz may lose Carlos Boozer in free agency, they could target Aldrich at No. 9. So, if the Nuggets want Aldrich, they’d be safer trading with Detroit than with Indiana.

Wilcox would also offer more size for the Nuggets, who are looking for depth down low. His expiring contract could help facilitate another trade, too.

The Pistons would waive Karl, and given his dad coaches the team, Denver probably isn’t in too much danger of him signing elsewhere (assuming the Nuggets want to keep him, and I think they do.)

Nuggets’ perspective

From Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company:

From a Nuggets fan’s standpoint obviously the seventh pick is more exciting than the tenth pick, but ultimately Denver will be targeting the same player regardless of which pick they acquire. I would be concerned about what additional assets the Nuggets might be forced to give up to pull off a swap with Detroit.

I believe Lawson would be a good fit for Detroit. The knock on Lawson is his lack of size.  Most observers believe his small stature equates with poor defender, but that is not the case. As you would expect, he moves well laterally and can stay in front of his man. I was also impressed with how well he fought over screens, especially for a rookie. Obviously, he can be taken advantage of in the post by larger point guards although he is strong and does a good job fighting for position.

Offensively, Lawson is known as a fast paced player, and he does excel in transition. He is also very effective in a half court game, which makes him so valuable as a point guard. His perimeter offense was much better than expected. Even so despite his strong percentages (according to Hotspots on NBA.com, he shot at least 40% from every section of the floor save two, both were behind the arc and he still shot 33% from those two areas) he is a tentative shooter. Part of that is due to the fact he prefers to pass than shoot. It was announced Tuesday that Lawson will be on the Nuggets summer league roster and he was quoted as saying he wants to work on being more assertive.

Lawson is a 22-year-old point guard with a great feel for the game and tremendous ability who played very well as a rookie. He is already a legitimate starting point guard and I am excited to see how much better he can become. The Nuggets may have come out of the Billups for Iverson deal better off than the Pistons. If this trade becomes a reality, it might not make up for that transaction, but I suspect the tables will be turned.

My response

Jeremy’s analysis just intensifies my desire to get Lawson. I’ve written Detroit should be more focused on a big man than a point guard this summer, and I still believe that.

But Lawson would give the Pistons a quality backcourt, and Dumars has talked about how important that is to him.

Verdict

This trade depends on whether the Pistons value any of the second-tier big men above the rest, and who knows whether they do? But if they don’t and Lawson really is available, in my mind, this trade is better than reaching at No. 7.

Chad Ford: Pistons-Kings trade is in Detroit’s hands

In his latest mock draft (which has the Pistons taking Al-Farouq Aminu), Chad Ford discussed the Pistons-Kings trade idea I brought up yesterday:

The Kings are also exploring trading picks, with one team (Detroit) squarely on the radar. If the Pistons would give up the No. 7 pick and Tayshaun Prince for the No. 5 pick and Andres Nocioni, I think they’d have a deal. But so far the Pistons have been adamant that they’re holding on to Prince, and I don’t think the Kings would do a Rip Hamilton-for-Nocioni swap.

Detroit Pistons announce 2010 Las Vegas Summer League schedule

From a team release:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The Detroit Pistons announced today that the club will participate in the NBA Summer League which is held in Las Vegas, NV.  The 23-team league consists of 22 NBA teams, 11 which participated in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, and one team compiled with NBA D-League stars. Games will be played from July 9-18 on the campus of UNLV at both the Thomas & Mack Center and COX Pavilion.

Current Pistons’ players Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko and DaJuan Summers are scheduled to play with the team.

Games featuring L.A. Lakers, Golden State, Sacramento, Miami and New York will be open to the media and general public.  For media credential information, please contact the Detroit Pistons Media Relations Department at (248) 377-0135.

A complete broadcast schedule will be released at a later date.

Following is the Pistons schedule for summer league:

            DATE    GAME    TIME    _

            July 9  Detroit vs. L.A. Lakers 5:00 p.m. PST 

            July 10 Detroit vs. Golden State        5:00 p.m. PST 

            July 12 Detroit vs. Sacramento  3:00 p.m. PST 

            July 14 Detroit vs. Miami       7:30 p.m. PST 

            July 16 Detroit vs. New York    1:00 p.m. PST

Trade Idea: Trading up two spots to get DeMarcus Cousins

Trade

Pistons receive:

  • Andres Nocioni (8.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.4 steals)
  • No. 5 pick in 2010 draft
  • Sacramento’s second-round pick in 2013 or 2014 (Kings’ option in 2013)

Kings receive:

  • Tayshaun Prince (13.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.7 steals)
  • No. 7 pick in 2010 draft

Salaries

Pistons receive:

Player 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14  2014/15
Andres Nocioni $6,850,000 $6,650,000  $7,500,000 $0 $0
No. 5 pick $2,812,200 $3,023,100  $3,234,000  $4,097,478  $5,433,256
Total $9,662,200 $9,673,100 $10,734,000 $4,097,478  $5,433,256

Kings receive:

Player 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Tayshaun Prince $11,147,760 $0 $0 $0 $0
No. 7 pick $2,331,700 $2,506,600 $2,681,400 $3,405,378 $4,566,612
Total $13,479,460 $2,506,600 $2,681,400 $3,405,378 $4,566,612

Team option

Qualifying offer

Pistons’ perspective

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided the basis of this trade Sunday:

Sources say the Kings are also still open to trade possibilities, and Detroit and Utah are two teams eager to move up in the draft. The Pistons’ Tayshaun Prince could be intriguing to the Kings, who are eager to add a veteran small forward to the roster.

Zach Harper (Cowbell Kingdom) and I discussed the particulars last night, and we both believe this version makes the most sense.

Nocioni is overpaid, and you probably hate him. But he only has one more guaranteed season than Prince.

He’s a good defender, and he would inject some of the much-need toughness Joe Dumars has talked about finding. If he didn’t shoot so much, Nocioni would be a great role player. And his ability to swing to power forward makes him more ideal for this roster than Prince.

But really, he’s the bullet Detroit would have to bite to get DeMarcus Cousins. Dumars has been rumored to want to move up, and Cousins is often mentioned as the target. Cousins could be the Pistons’ starting center for the next 10 years, or he could flame out of the league in a few years. With the fifth pick, I think the risk presents a great value.

It appears the first four picks of the draft will be John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors and Wesley Johnson. That means Cousins would likely be available at No. 5.

I know one conclusion could be: if the Kings are willing to do this trade, they’d probably pass on Cousins, so Detroit would be better off staying at No. 7. But Golden State would likely take Cousins at No. 6. Logic like this doesn’t fly (from Vincent Goodwill Jr. of The Detroit News):

Although there’s a spot between Detroit and Sacramento, you can just about "X" the Golden State Warriors out of the equation. Don Nelson is running the show, and the last time he took a big man with a top-10 pick was in 1998, when he drafted the portly Robert "Tractor" Traylor from Michigan–then subsequently traded him for the big man he really wanted, Dirk Nowitzki.

I don’t understand how taking Stephen Curry over Jordan Hill last year proves the Warriors won’t take Cousins. That’s the only time Nelson has had a top-10 pick since 1998. It’s hardly a pattern.

I e-mailed Rasheed Malek of WarriorsWorld.net last night, and he believes Golden State would likely take Cousins if he’s available at No. 6. The Warriors need an interior presence, and Cousins would provide that. Besides, it’s not like Nelson’s future with the Warriors is guaranteed, so there’s no point of passing on the best player available for someone who fits his small-ball system.

If the Pistons want Cousins – and indications are they do – a trade like this is probably necessary to get him.

Kings’ perspective

Zach Harper of Cowbell Kingdom:

The Kings have two missions in retooling the roster this summer: 1) get better defensively and 2) cut long-term salary for the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement. This trade seems to solve both of these issues in one fell swoop and it’s almost too easy.

Tayshaun Prince seems to be the perfect mentor for guys like Donté Greene and Omri Casspi. A year under his tutelage could be invaluable. With the strides Donté Greene made between his rookie and sophomore years, being shown the ropes by Prince could help him go from very good role player to 10-year starter. For Omri, Prince could help curb some of the confidence in practice every day and make him learn how to be creative and crafty in the way he attacks the best defenders in the league.

Also, having his expiring contract at the trade deadline when contenders will be looking for a dynamic defender to complete their championship run could be even more valuable. With the year of contract lopped off the future, the Kings would get maximum roster flexibility. It would put the Kings nearly $30 million under the cap heading into the potential lockout and allow them to go on a deadline spending spree or a free agency spending spree once the CBA is hammered out.

The real question is whether or not the Kings can justify passing on DeMarcus Cousins if he’s there. He has the potential to be a huge bust because of attitude problems or to be the best player in the draft. Is giving that opportunity to find out worth some financial freedom and a defensive role player with the seventh pick (Udoh or Whiteside most likely)? How do you sell that to your fans in good conscience?

My response

Maybe the Pistons aren’t as public about it or maybe they’ll be ill-suited for the new NBA, but I’m glad they’re not overly concerned about cutting payroll.

I don’t think it was a coincidence Chauncey Billups was traded to his hometown of Denver. Prince is from California, and I think Dumars would try to accommodate him, too.

Prince’s attitude wavered at time this season, but I think it would improve in California. He still looks up to Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton in Detroit. I think he would embrace being a leader with the younger Kings.

Zach also brings up one reason I’d hesitate to make the trade. Prince could have big value to a contender at the trade deadline.

Verdict

If the Pistons love Cousins and the Kings don’t (which both seem very possible), this trade makes a ton of sense for both sides.

History, Joe Dumars say it’s time to give Charlie Villanueva the benefit of the doubt about his offseason conditioning

Charlie Villanueva doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Nothing inspires confidence like confidence, and Villanueva doesn’t ooze swagger. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun once told Brian Koonz of The (Dansbury, Conn.) News-Times:

"Charlie is maybe the least confident kid on our team. He really is."

I think Villanueva’s confidence has grown since, but there are still issues. Is he a good player? Sure. A nice guy? You bet. But someone you believe can rally a team or a fanbase with his presence? No way.

But I think it’s time to show some confidence in him.

Summer plans

In April, Villanueva said he would stay and work out in his NBA city during the offeason for the first time. Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News reported Wednesday that Pistons officials confirmed Villanueva had been working out “diligently.”

My reaction: ho-hum.

If Kulfan checked on Villanueva’s progress, what were Pistons sources supposed to say? They’re obviously biased, so who knows how truthful they were being? Nobody was even willing to to attach his or her name to the statement.

But then Joe Dumars, who I find much more credible than anonymous sources, corroborated the story during his conversation with Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Charlie and Ben Wallace have been in the gym more than anybody else on our team since the season ended. Charlie started coming in about the middle of May and so did Ben. So I’ve seen those guys in the gym more than anybody else. So Charlie has been a man of his word about the time and effort he was going to put in here. And stay here during the summer. Charlie is a New York guy, spends time in LA, but not this summer. He’s been a Detroit guy, stayed in Detroit and made a commitment that he’s going to be in the gym and proud of what I’ve seen so far this last month or so. He and Ben Wallace, I look out my window on a daily basis and I just about see those guys every day. It’s a great first step.

And Kulfan actually went to the practice facility and saw Villanueva, who seems to understand what’s necessary:

"I want to change my whole body," said Villanueva, who wants to get stronger and quicker.

Still, it’s only June 13. It’s easy to see how a month of working hard can turn into a summer of partying, golfing and relaxing.

But, using history as a judge, I don’t expect that to happen to Villanueva.

The best I can tell, Villanueva has twice pledged to go above and beyond during the offseason. Both times, he honored his word.

Connecticut 2004

Villanueva arrived to Storrs, Conn., a McDonald’s All-American and rival.com’s No. 5 recruit, in 2003. But with a disappointing freshman season that saw Villanueva disappear down the stretch, UConn faithful seemed to think, “this is it?”

But in July 2004, Matt Eagan of The Hartford Courant provided an update on Villanueva’s offseason:

That may be all he said, but Villanueva has spent his summer working to make sure explanations won’t be necessary again. He has added about 10 pounds of muscle and has been preparing his game for more work in the low post.

Both were items on UConn coach Jim Calhoun’s wish list.

“He’s got to be more explosive with his body,” Calhoun said. “The weight is the only way to go. Every other part of the game, you’re amazed by some of the things he is able to do.”

Villanueva concedes as much but has become convinced that he needs to establish himself inside to reach a higher level.

“I’m working on one move in particular, my jump hook, for my post game,” Villanueva said. “Last year I tended to stay outside, but this year I am going to take a whole different approach. I have to work it inside and then go outside.”

It didn’t take long for Villanueva to impress. From Phil Chardis of the (Manchester) Journal Inquirer:

And Saturday, at the first official practice of his sophomore year, perhaps the real Villanueva began to emerge.

"Charlie was a star today he was a big-time player, that’s a better word than star," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said after the three-hour, 10-minute practice. "He dominated at times — he dominated the rebounding, and in one of the more physical box-out drills we’ve had. He was really good."

Indeed, Villanueva already looks like a far more confident player than last year. Noticeably bigger and stronger, the versatile forward from Brooklyn was scoring inside and with his jumper and holding his ground defensively, which was a weakness last season.

"I feel like I’m a bigger presence on the court," Villanueva said. "It comes from working in the weight room and working hard over the summer. I just feel more confident with my body, more confident being out there, period. Last year, I tried to stay away from contact, but now I think I’m working hard in the post and I feel I can be an inside-outside type of player. My confidence level right now is high and I don’t see it going down."

Perhaps more important, Villanueva carried himself differently Saturday — like a player who is ready to assume the responsibility of the Huskies’ go-to player.

A simple stat shows Villanueva’s offseason work transformed his game in the same way Pistons fans would like to see him change this summer.

  • Freshman year: 18-of-49 on 3-pointers.
  • Sophomore year: 6-of-12 on 3-pointers.

Villanueva’s improved play made him the Huskies’ MVP and the No. 7 pick by the Toronto Raptors.

Milwaukee 2008

After a couple disappointing seasons in Milwaukee, Villanueva was mentioned in several trade rumors during the summer of 2008. Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel talked to Villanueva about his offseason plans:

Villanueva also was hampered early in the season because he was returning from shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, a procedure performed in March 2007.

"Last year the whole summer I was rehabbing," Villanueva said. "Now I can play basketball, lift weights. I can improve. I have the whole summer, and I know I can get better, a lot stronger and be in shape when season 4 gets under way."

The next season, Villanueva posted career highs in points per game (16.2), rebounds per game (6.7), assists per game (1.8), PER (18.6), defensive rating (106), defensive win shares (2.7) and win shares (4.9).

Pause for concern

Both those examples were contract years of sorts. Villanueva used his sophomore season at UConn to become the No. 7 pick, and he turned his 2008-09 season with the Bucks into a big contract from the Pistons.

Will he match his intensity of those summers without more money on the line? He’s guaranteed to make $31.2 million the next four seasons – regardless of the work he puts in this offseason. When he becomes a free agent in 2013 or 2014, teams really won’t care what he did this upcoming season.

Perhaps, I’m being naive, but I really believe Villanueva will work hard this offseason. I couldn’t find any previous examples of him promising this type of effort for non-contract years. I think he’s finally beginning to take ownership of his NBA career.

Plus, working out with Ben Wallace will help keep Villanueva in line.

Previously, I defended Villanueva by saying he’s just not as bad as he played this year. Now, assuming his improvement will come only from reverting to the mean might be selling him short. It could be time to expect his play to match his immense talent.

Pressure is on, Charlie.

Tom Izzo’s stall tactics make him more likely to coach Pistons someday

Tom Izzo wants to be an NBA coach.

That much has never been in question. If he didn’t have interest, this saga would’ve ended a long time ago.

But Izzo also wants to coach Michigan State. He’s been in East Lansing since 1983, and he obviously isn’t in a rush to flee.

On the surface, Izzo waiting to announce his decision allows two things to happen:

  1. The Michigan State community has more time to hold rallies and declare his greatness.
  2. Izzo can take more time to gauge LeBron James’ intentions, which obviously determine whether Izzo is taking a great job or a bad one.

But I think there’s a third reason for his delay:

By taking his time, even if he returns to Michigan State, Izzo is sending a message to NBA teams that he’s serious about coaching in the Association.

If Izzo decides this isn’t the right job, this method makes it more likely he’ll get another shot in the future. If he shoots down Cleveland immediately, NBA teams won’t be knocking down his door next time.

I don’t think this is necessarily a completely calculated move. I believe Izzo is truly undecided. But I think there’s a good chance he knows taking his time will help him in the long run, so there’s no pressure to make a quick decision.

What this means for the Pistons

I’ve said from the beginning, in addition to the Cavaliers offering a better chance at a title than most teams hiring, the job has a clear advantage for Izzo: it’s in the Midwest. The culture in Cleveland is similar to Michigan, and I think Izzo wants, ideally, to stay in his comfort zone and jump to the NBA.

Detroit would obviously offer the best opportunity to do that.

The Pistons could have an opening as soon as next summer, and Izzo could end up on Joe Dumars’ radar whenever the job needs to be filled.

I still think Izzo to the Pistons is an extreme long shot. Besides concerns about the poor track records of recent college-to-pro coaches, it will be a long time until Detroit is willing to spend the five years, $30 million necessary to make Izzo consider leaving East Lansing.

But because he’s waiting to decide, the Pistons will likely consider him.

Or maybe he’ll go to Cleveland in a couple days and this will all be moot. As a Pistons and Michigan fan, I can only hope.

Poll: Which current Detroit professional athlete do Detroit fans hate most?

A new feature on PistonPowered: polls. From time to time, I will post Pistons-related poll. The most-recent poll will also appear in the sidebar. So, here’s our first one:

Which current Detroit professional athlete do Detroit fans hate most?

View Results
Create a Blog Poll

If you vote for “other,” please note in the comments whom you think deserves it. Actually, even if you voted for someone on the list, please explain your choice in the comments.

Pistons may or may not be allegedly, possibly trying to move up in draft

ESPN’s Chad Ford says yes:

The Pistons, Spurs and Thunder have been the most aggressive about moving up.

The Pistons have been searching for a big and would love to get their hands on either DeMarcus Cousins or Derrick Favors.

Joe Dumars says no:

Have you had any talks with any of the six teams picking ahead of you about moving up?

JD: No, I’ve not had any conversations as of June 7, 12:30 p.m.

Introducing Detroit MLE Dreams

If you haven’t been reading Patrick Hayes’ great series on potential Pistons draft picks, you’ve really been missing out. Seriously, go check out all the posts now:

The series has been so great, I’m (semi-shamefully) going to rip it off.

Introducing Detroit MLE Dreams

Since Joe Dumars announced in March the Pistons would use the mid-level exception, there has been a fair amount of speculation about whom he will target. Patrick Hayes ran down a list of potential players, and Mike Payne of Detroit Bad Boys analyzed the available point guards.

Instead of a mass rundown, this series will take an in-depth look at several of Detroit’s potential signees one-by-one.

Projecting the mid-level exception

The first step is projecting how much Detroit will have to spend. The mid-level exception starts at the NBA’s average salary. From Larry Coon’s FAQ:

The league computes the average salary by taking the total salaries paid during the previous season, dividing by 13.2 times the number of teams (other than expansion teams in their first two seasons) and then adding eight percent.

Using salary data from ShamSports.com, the average salary this offseason will be defined as $5,798,000 (assuming Larry Coon’s table indicates the MLE is rounded to the nearest $100,000).

Because a player can receive up to eight-percent raises with a mid-level exception contract, the most the Pistons could offer a player is five years, $33,628,400.

The stakes

The Pistons have a better chance at landing a franchising-altering player with the seventh pick than with the MLE. But the cost of the MLE can be much greater.

The seventh pick will receive about $4.8 million guaranteed for two years. Plus, the Pistons will have options for about $2.7 million and $3.4 million the next two seasons. Then, if Detroit chooses, the player will become a restricted free agent. That’s great value.

Five years, $33,628,400 is much riskier. The Pistons already have Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Richard Hamilton and Jason Maxiell locked up to weighty contracts. Another one could be crippling.

Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus thoroughly analyzed the mid-level exception in 2008. Here’s a sample of his findings:

Through last summer, 49 mid-level-type deals had been signed (including three players–Jerome James, Nazr Mohammed and Joe Smith–who have twice been signed using the exception). As a whole, these players were predictably average the year before they hit free agency, with average ratings of a .505 winning percentage and 3.6 Wins Above Replacement Player.

Actually, because of their minutes played, the group was really more valuable than average before becoming free agents. If salaries and performance were perfectly distributed, a player making the mid-level salary could be expected to add about 2.5 WARP per season. How has the mid-level group done compared to that standard? Not well at all.

Combined, the mid-level free agents have played 160 seasons on their contracts. Of those, 52–less than a third–have been rated as worth at least 2.5 WARP. Performance over the life of the deal is even more striking. Of the 49 players signed using the mid-level exception, just 13 have averaged more than 2.5 WARP per season during the contract. Nearly as many (10) have rated as below replacement level over the course of the deal.

When he announced his intention to use the exception, Dumars noted he’s had success with it in the past. Pelton agreed, rating Chauncey Billups as ”far and away the best player ever signed for the mid-level” and Antonio McDyess the fifth best.

Once again, any faith in the Pistons turning around is based on moves Dumars made long ago, not recently. After all, the last player he signed with the MLE was Nazr Mohammed.

The opportunity

Because the MLE is based on contracts signed years ago and the salary cap is based on last year’s revenue, the value of the exception is at an all-time high.

The NBA projected the salary cap will be $56.1 million next year, which is down from last year. But the contracts signed years ago weren’t based on the cap going down. So, this year’s MLE is worth a higher percentage of the salary cap than ever before.

Summer MLE Salary cap Percent
2010 $5,798,000 $56,100,000 10.3
2009 $5,854,000 $57,700,000 10.1
2008 $5,585,000 $58,680,000 9.5
2007 $5,356,000 $55,630,000 9.6
2006 $5,215,000 $53,135,000 9.8
2005 $5,000,000 $49,500,000 10.1

Is that significant enough to make a difference? I’m not sure. But I’d rather have the MLE to spend this year than 2008.

What to expect

The coming individual analysis will focus on what each player would bring and how he’d fit with the Pistons. Synergy will certainly play a part in the analysis. And I’ll try to get the TrueHoop Network blogger of each player’s current team to contribute, too.

Obviously, the focus will be on big men and point guards. I have a few players in mind, but let me know in the comments who you’d like to see me profile.