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Chris Wilcox is playing well, should the Pistons attempt to re-sign him?

For most of the season, it has been a foregone conclusion that pending free agents Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady and Chris Wilcox will most likely be playing elsewhere next season. McGrady and Prince mostly because both should be in demand among contending teams and Wilcox because he never really seemed to find a niche with the Pistons.

But here’s the thing: Wilcox is playing kinda good right now. Unlike McGrady and Prince, who play positions where the Pistons have an abundance of guys in need of minutes, Wilcox plays a position where the Pistons need help. And since the team has little money to spend, signing an impact free agent big would be impossible, unless the Pistons miraculously shed a few contracts right after the season ends. Wilcox, because he’s been injured and inconsistent the last two years, isn’t likely to be a prime target of many teams in free agency, but he’s still an active big whose best skills — athleticism, running the floor, cutting in the pick and roll and finishing — mix well with up-tempo guards like Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum. And at just 28-years-old, bringing Wilcox back on a deal similar to the two year/$6 million contract he’s played on the last two seasons isn’t a gamble.

Dan Feldman loves to point out that Wilcox has had a pattern of tantalizing his teams with his potential only to disappear for long stretches during his career. I don’t think he’s done enough over the second half of this season to disprove that evidence. But he has improved drastically in a couple of key areas.

Last season, Wilcox turned it over on a ridiculous 21 percent of possessions he touched the ball. This year, he’s posting a career-low 10 percent turnover percentage. He’s only finished below 12 percent once in his eight previous seasons in the league, so that’s a major turnaround and the biggest reason he can be trusted with more minutes this season.

The other statistical area where he’s made a major jump is in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions). Last season, he finished with a 96 o-rating, not good for a guy who is considered primarily an offensive player. This season, he’s all the way up to a 114. The jump can be attributed to the fact that he’s always shot a high percentage (this season is no different, he’s at 55 percent) and now that he’s cut his turnovers way down, he’s able to score more efficiently on a points-per-possession basis.

Because Wilcox was out of the rotation much of the early season as he recovered from injuries, this season is a relatively small sample size to say that he’s finally figured some things out. But it’s hard not to think it represents some progress. When you combine his improved ability to hold onto the ball with the immense physical tools that he’s always had and the fact that he’s still relatively young and never played huge minutes in his career for any team, Wilcox could be a bargain next season. If he’s not re-signed, the alternatives likely include finding another veteran’s minimum-level big man to replace him. If that’s the case, why not just try and keep a guy who has already developed some chemistry with the young lineup identified as building blocks?

Re-signing Wilcox certainly won’t propel the Pistons into contention, but of their pending unrestricted free agents, bringing him back makes much more sense than bringing back Prince or McGrady.

34 Comments

  • Mar 22, 201110:07 am
    by Tim

    Reply

    Obviously, the first objective would be to see if the Pistons could get anyone good like Nene. But if they can’t, I’d be all for going after Wilcox for maybe 4 yrs at $10-12M.

    • Mar 22, 20113:33 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      First, Nene would have to opt out, which he’s given no indication that he will.

      Second, the Pistons would have to shed significant salary to get him, considering Denver probably wouldn’t want to do a sign and trade unless the Pistons wanted to include Monroe or Jerebko, which they probably wouldn’t want to do.

  • Mar 22, 201110:41 am
    by BIG MARV

    Reply

    Its a wait and see move but he wouldnt be the first priority like tim said try to get nene first or a another nice size center. Then mabey they should consider signing him as a back-up at the vet min price but he’s playing hard because he know its contract year. I always call that fools gold because if he plays hard now and you re-sign him and he stinks then you stuck with a contract you cant trade off for, kinda similar to charlie V and Ben Gordon. But back to the nene thing I feel he gonna want some nice cash to be going to another cold state especially to a team thats not winning either. I think he will flee either to Miami, New york, or San Antonio he getting older too (not old), and he wants to be somwhere solid for a few years. I say shoot for a young center mainly a diamond in the rough guy thats ready to play.

  • Mar 22, 201110:41 am
    by BIG MARV

    Reply

    Its a wait and see move but he wouldnt be the first priority like tim said try to get nene first or a another nice size center. Then mabey they should consider signing him as a back-up at the vet min price but he’s playing hard because he know its contract year. I always call that fools gold because if he plays hard now and you re-sign him and he stinks then you stuck with a contract you cant trade off for, kinda similar to charlie V and Ben Gordon. But back to the nene thing I feel he gonna want some nice cash to be going to another cold state especially to a team thats not winning either. I think he will flee either to Miami, New york, or San Antonio he getting older too (not old), and he wants to be somwhere solid for a few years. I say shoot for a young center mainly a diamond in the rough guy thats ready to play.

  • Mar 22, 201111:11 am
    by vick

    Reply

    sign him for the same amount he makes now or smaller…
    He would be a good 5th/6th big man.
    Let him earn more minutes/money with consistency.
    Get Kanter, Jonas, Sullinger, Benson, Dalembert in here

    Our 6 bigs could be:
    Monroe
    Kanter (or other 1st round pick)
    Dalembert (or trade/free agent pickup)
    Wallace
    Keith Benson (or other 2nd round pick)
    Wilcox

    Villanueva gone or at the 3 (he doesn’t like the paint… its time to get the square peg in the square hole, or get him on another team)
    Jerebko at the 3
    Daye at the 2
    Taye/McGrady gone or at 3
    Bynum/Stuckey at 1
    Rip/Gordon gone or at 2
    White at 2

    If we draft a point guard (Darius Morris or Kyrie)
    we can keep Villanueva as a backup 4 instead of a backup 3

    -the deskchair gm:-)

    • Mar 22, 20113:38 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Some issues:

      - Pistons can’t afford Dalembert, who could get a contract in the 7-8 million a year range. They’d have to clear cap space to sign him or convince Sacramento to take a bad contract in a sign and trade, something the Kings would have no incentive to do.

      - Keith Benson didn’t look NBA-ready at all in the NCAA tourney. I like Benson, but he’s at least a year or two from being a rotation caliber big man.

      - Villanueva is way too slow to play the three.

  • Mar 22, 201111:37 am
    by neutes

    Reply

    Never thought I’d see so many words written about Wilcox. If Ben Wallace retires I think we pretty much have to try to bring him back. No guarantees about what we’ll end up with in the draft, or if we get pigeon-holed into having to draft a big man if that guy will even be ready to contribute. Don’t have the cash to go out and get someone in free agency at the moment. A scenario where Maxiell is the primary backup center is not very appealing.

  • Mar 22, 201112:31 pm
    by Lucas

    Reply

    Fredette about it!

  • Mar 22, 201112:32 pm
    by Steve K

    Reply

    No thanks.
     
    The Pistons will be bad next season regardless. They need to experiment. If that means choosing a 2nd rounder over Wilcox, then so be it. Better to take a chance on a total prospect who has a 5% chance of becoming good than waste minutes on the known commodity who won’t take the team anywhere.

    • Mar 22, 201112:54 pm
      by neutes

      Reply

      No! I can’t have more Maxiell. Please no. There is no way some 2nd round prospect is going to see the court over Maxiell, although I’d prefer it, but it just won’t happen. Maxiell needs to be pushed to 15th on the depth chart not moved up higher.

    • Mar 22, 20113:47 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      The point is, they need to fill out the roster, even if they get a major find in the second round capable of playing frontcourt minutes immediately. Wilcox has played well and would be a cheap stopgap until they can add more upgrades, either through trades or the draft.

  • Mar 22, 20111:03 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    *sigh* eh… i mean, you got max rotting on the bench. is wilcox much better than max? the joker who wanted to give wilcox 4 years can’t be taken seriously, can he? personally, i’d be hesitant to sign anyone to a multi-year deal right now, because this team has to be careful what it does for the next few seasons. if we make smart moves, i think the team could actually be on the right track in one more season, but if we start committing any money to guys who can’t really help us get where we need to go, this stretch of awful basketball could go on forever. there isn’t a single move in the world i’d make in order to be better next year. if we could make a bunch of sweeping moves (deck-clearing mostly) that’s one thing. but every single thing this team does should be with an eye towards the season after next. it’s not practical to try to get incrementally better next season, and it’s only going to set us back.
     
    frankly, all you people talking about nene have got to be out of your minds. nene is NOT COMING HERE. there are two reasons zach randolph could conceivably come here (if he doesn’t sign an extension with memphis): 1) he’s a michigan guy, so there’s some built-in hometown appeal to signing here, and 2) as a legitimate 20-10 guy, he’s the kind of impact player who could single-handedly reverse the team’s fortunes. if not for both of these factors, i don’t think there’s a chance in hell he comes here. and until this team sheds its reputation for dysfunction and futility, no decent free agent is going to come here. period. the sooner you people get that into your heads, the sooner you’ll be able to conceptualize realistic ideas for how this team is going to dig itself out of the gutter.

    • Mar 22, 20111:07 pm
      by Laser

      Reply

      and just to preemptively cover my bases: i understand that under the current cap structure we can’t afford either nene or z-bo unless we shed significant salary. but we’d have to clear a fantastic amount of money and significantly overpay any good free agent we wanted to lure. because no player wants to come here and have their career coached into the ground.

    • Mar 22, 20113:51 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      “i mean, you got max rotting on the bench. is wilcox much better than max?”

      Yes.

      • Mar 22, 20114:54 pm
        by Laser

        Reply

        i dunno.
         
        but my main point is that even if he’s the best option we have (and maybe he is) what’s the difference? sign him or don’t. wilcox or no wilcox is currently irrelevant. bring on some sweeping changes this summer (probably unlikely to happen) and i’ll start worrying about if it’s worth bringing him back.

    • Mar 24, 201111:50 am
      by Tim Thielke

      Reply

      4 yrs aint bad if its less than $3M each. If you can get a guy at a bargain, always go for multiyear deals. Thats how you end up with beautiful contracts like Thabo Sefolosha’s.

  • Mar 22, 20112:23 pm
    by Jacob

    Reply

    I’m surprised nobody has brought this up but is it possible that Wilcox is playing better because it’s a contract year? Give him another 2+ year contract and we’ll see if he gets content again, happy to be inconsistent and average. I think if you re-sign it should only be for $2 mil or less per and only if you haven’t found another big with a more defensive skill set in free agency or draft.

    • Mar 22, 20113:31 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Great point, although I will reiterate that his drop in turnovers is borderlining on miraculous considering how bad he’s been in his career when it comes to turning it over.

  • Mar 22, 20114:03 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    @ Laser
     
    Your sentiments are right on target. Stop with the band-aid solutions! We need to act based on a set of fundamental principles and a long-term plan rather than snap judgments — i.e., is Wilcox better than Maxiell? Defense should be our identity and our #1 priority. Our franchise is about defense. Stop signing these periodically successful offensive players simply because we’re talent starved. We’re talent starved because of bad contracts like the one you’re advocating for Wilcox. Keep your core, bring in young hungry talent that has defensive pride, and build from there.
     
    If we sign another big that can’t consistently guard his position and then subsequently wonder why the the hell our team is so inconsistent, I may lose my mind. You sign inconsistent players, expect inconsistency. You sign guys who can’t defend their position, expect a crappy defensive team. Forget about Wilcox. It took 1.7 years for him to play competent basketball on a 2-year contract. And do we really want to see him on a second unit for the next 2-3 years with defensive stalwarts Ben Gordon and CV. The fact that this is even up for consideration makes me nauseous.

  • Mar 22, 20114:08 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    @ Laser
     
    1. Agreed, Nene is not coming here.
     
    2. Z-Bo would be a horrendous signing. It would leave us for the next four to six years with two below-the-basket, non shot blocking forwards, one of whom is a notoriously bad defender. Monroe and Randolph DO NOT compliment each other. And I’m not sure if Z-Bo compliments anything but his bank account. His a good player who will always play for bad teams because he can’t defend and has only two dimensions to his game. You can’t simply put two good players together and expect it to work out. See Amare and Melo… Can anyone picture Z-Bo holding up a championship trophy on any team in the league in the next four to five years?! If not, perish the thought.

    • Mar 22, 20115:03 pm
      by Laser

      Reply

      no, i think z-bo would be a coup for this team right now. monroe and randolph might not really complement each other, but i think monroe would do a suitable job adjusting his game to complement randolph to the best of his abilities. randolph may have two dimensions to his game, but those dimensions are “scoring” and “rebounding.” not such a bad skill set if you ask me. we won’t be very athletic up front, but it could be worse. it would be nice to pair monroe with a long, athletic, shot-blocking PF/C who can score in the low post, but those guys just aren’t readily available. personally, i’ll take randolph’s shortcomings for the rebounding and post scoring.
       
      i mean, at this point it sounds like he’s going to sign an extension with memphis, so this is a moot point. but nobody wants to come here. we’re going to have to clear some cap space and drop a fortune if we want to see a good free agent in a pistons uni. flaws and all, it would be like christmas for this team to get a guy like zach randolph.

      • Mar 22, 20115:18 pm
        by neutes

        Reply

        I agree here I’d take Randolph in a heartbeat. However being as good as Memphis is not exactly the goal I’d want to set. I’d want to shoot for the moon in the draft with Irving or Barnes somehow and screw the big men. We would need a superstar point guard or wing player to complement Randolph and Monroe down low. Conley, Mayo, and Gay aren’t enough therefore neither would Stuckey, Gordon, and Daye be enough. We’d have to go big or go home to get an impact player in one of those positions much better than what Memphis can offer.

  • Mar 22, 20115:43 pm
    by rick

    Reply

    To answer the title question: HAIL NO!

  • Mar 22, 20117:24 pm
    by Trav

    Reply

    No more than a 1 year contract and only as a last resort.  I would have no problem resigning wilcox if we didn’t already have Maxiel and V with so much money and so many years with little to no production.  But since we already have them for a while, don’t get wilcox for more than a year.
     
    I’m just hoping Ben Wallace is around for one more year anyways.  That way Monroe can join him in the cage this offseason.  If Greg can get stronger, he will be vastly improved.

  • Mar 22, 20117:51 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    yes. the bottom line is that i would be INCREDIBLY careful about handing out ANY contract that extends beyond next year. i’d be DAMN sure the player was a part of the core going forward. as it is, we look to have stuckey, hamilton, gordon, bynum, maxiell, villanueva, daye, jerebko, monroe and possibly wallace under contract (white’s certainly not playing, and the writing’s on the wall for summers). i don’t think we’re very likely to add anybody better than these guys through the draft or free agency, so even though we need to fill out the last few roster spots, it wouldn’t make sense to do so by handing out a long-term contract to someone who stinks. probably wiser to hand out a full midlevel exception for next season than a two-year contract for the same amount of money spread over both years.
     
    there’s no reason this team can’t be on the right track in 2012-2013 if they’re smart. and yet, they’ll almost certainly prolong this rebuilding disaster for a few more years in an effort to be marginally better in the short term.

  • Mar 22, 20118:50 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    I generally agree. But I’d reiterate the Z-Bo would be a long term disaster.
     
    “not such a bad skill set if you ask me. we won’t be very athletic up front, but it could be worse. it would be nice to pair monroe with a long, athletic, shot-blocking PF/C who can score in the low post, but those guys just aren’t readily available. personally, i’ll take randolph’s shortcomings for the rebounding and post scoring.”
     
    “it could be worse” is not a rationale that will lead to a championship contender. If you’re a GM you can’t sign guys with the goal of incremental progress from one year to the next. As a fan, I hear you. I don’t want to see this garbage again and Z-Bo would undoubtedly improve the 2011-12 team. But he just isn’t a championship caliber starting big man. And when you start signing sub-championship starters you get stuck in the hell of NBA mediocrity.

  • Mar 22, 20118:52 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    If we could get Z-Bo for role-player money I’d be down. But this guy will eat up a huge chunk of the cap, and prevent us from obtaining the players we need to get over the top two or three years from now.

  • Mar 23, 20111:03 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    no sense even saying something like “if we could get z-bo for a pack of cigs i’d be down,” because his price tag is built-in. so you’d pass on z-bo. fine. maybe i’m just a little higher on him than you are.
     
    personally, i don’t think we can afford to hold our potential free agents up to such ridiculously high standards before considering them. if zach randolph isn’t “good enough” for you, then we’re going to be awful forever according to your plan. rebuild slowly through the draft over the course of the next decade, adding one piece at a time. nobody wants to come here. detroit wasn’t even a true destination team back when we were GREAT. now we’re terrible and dysfunctional, and joe dumars’s reputation as a GM can’t possibly be very good anymore. nobody wants to come here, and who could blame them?
     
    i happen to think zach randolph could start on a championship level team. particularly if he was paired with an athletic, defensive-minded center. and even if he didn’t start, i could see him being 1/3 of a great frontcourt. maybe that’s just me. but even if he fell short of that, we can’t dismiss him based on that. you gotta draw the line somewhere. look at the money we’ve got tied up in BG, CV, RIP and MAX! compared to that lot, randolph looks like a bargain at even $20 mil.
     
    but my standard isn’t necessarily to either have the greatest player in the league at every position or not bother even trying to be competitive. you gotta compromise at some point, and i think randolph is the right compromise. who else are we going to lure here? i’d rather be reasonably competitive, be the kind of team that on any given night could beat anyone, be fun to watch. i don’t think there’s anything wrong with that as a standard.
     
    i don’t know if you’re just too spoiled as a fan (and i don’t think all detroit fans are) to settle for a very good player with shortcomings, or if you genuinely think he’d further cripple the team and set them back. but if you think no high priced player should come here unless they can carry us to a championship, i think your standards are too high, and that attitude is going to keep the team mediocre more so than one overpriced (but very good) player.
     
    when i think about the future of the team and which pieces we should go forward with, two of the core guys i can’t see a future for are charlie and BG. i’ve got no idea where charlie fits into the equation, and if we had any sense we’d get rid of BG (who should be movable and negates stuckey’s size advantage over opposing PGs because of defensive cross-matching). but i could see randolph fitting in. if we added a starting caliber point guard (who we might be able to fetch with the midlevel exception if we can’t draft one) and shed dead weight like max and charlie and one of our shooting guards, i could get behind this team.

  • Mar 23, 20115:21 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    Actually, I think it’s just the opposite. You’re too spoiled as a fan to have the patience it takes to build a championship contender. It will take a couple years of sub-par basketball to find the right pieces. It’s the formula the Lions have taken. Instead of going out and exciting the fan base with a household name, they methodically build a powerhouse over the course of three or four years. That takes patience. Fans don’t have patience. Their emotions rise and fall with every win and loss. I want the Pistons to be a great team and a great franchise. I don’t want to be the Blazers or the Jazz. I want to be exactly what we are — one of the five or six organizations that have won NBA titles in the past 30 years. You don’t get there by quick fixes. You don’t get there by clogging up your cap with high-priced players who can’t play defense.
     
    If you can show me the equivalent of a Z-Bo on this year’s slate of title contenders (a big man with similar deficiencies who is top-3 on the team in terms of salary) I’ll reconsider my position. You can’t. The big men getting paid big bucks on title contenders are defensive studs. The only possible exception is Nowitski who is a “superstar” and thus an exception (though I’m not convinced Dallas is a contender). The Pistons have to make smart cap decisions for the next two years if they want to regain their status as true contenders.

  • Mar 24, 201110:36 am
    by vinny

    Reply

    How do the pistons not have money next year? You have Prince’s $10 mil coming off the books and likely McGrady’s minimum deal. With no significant pay increases for any of the signed players that looks to me like a $10 mil player and a 1st round rookie contract that can be added. What am I missing?

    • Mar 24, 201111:09 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Because they’re well over the cap this season. Prince/Wilcox exprire, which is only about $13 million, but they still have $48 million roughly committed for next season to Gordon, Hamilton, Villanueva, Maxiell, Daye, Monroe, White, Bynum and Stuckey (if he takes the qualifying offer). There’s also the possibility, rather than taking the qualifying offer, Stuckey could get an extension, which would make his cap number even higher. Figure in a first round pick in the lottery (roughly a $3 million a year salary) and re-signing Jonas Jerebko for, I would guess, at least $4-$5 million, and the Pistons are already in mid $50s million range. This year’s cap is set at $58 million, and the Pistons for next year, if Jerebko is re-signed, are pushing very close to that already. They won’t have money to add a significant free agent unless they move a couple of long-term deals right after the season ends and don’t take any money back in return. It’s a real longshot that they’ll be able to do that.

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