Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes Sunday about the Pistons’ plans for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, long seen as a Nets target in free agency.
The Pistons will pay the restricted free agent, writes Ellis, even if it means offering the 24-year-old a max deal. Here’s his report, which is included in a season review.
The Pistons are prepared to match any offer sheet he receives, even if it produced a maximum contract, according to multiple persons with firsthand knowledge of the franchise’s thinking.
One person told the Free Press: “We can’t lose him.”
It’s fair to question this path. Caldwell-Pope improved in his fourth season with the Pistons, but his performance fell off after the All-Star break.
His growth has been tremendous since his rookie season, and there’s confidence he will reach his ceiling.
If Stanley Johnson would have progressed enough to earn the starting spot from Van Gundy, the Pistons could have considered letting Caldwell-Pope walk.
But with the team’s current cap situation, there really is no way to replace him if he were to leave.
That would also mean that the Pistons organization is willing to look past KCP’s recent DUI arrest in suburban Detroit. If and when he is convicted or pleads guilty, the league is certain to suspend him for several games ... three is the most likely. No one on the Nets is talking about how the DUI would affect their interest.
It’s in the Pistons interest to match an offer sheet the Nets or any other team tenders Caldwell-Pope. He can get more years and more money from the hometown team than he can from Brooklyn or Philadelphia.
Detroit’s problem as things stand is that it has so much money invested long-term in young, underperforming players like Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. The Pistons had $107 million in salary this past season and even without KCP, they will have more than $90 million committed last year. Unless they make big changes, adding a max contract for KCP would put them precariously close to the luxury tax threshold, with no guarantee of a playoff spot. Similarly in 2018-19, they would have more than $100 million committed.