By Dan Jenkins
DETROIT (97.1 The Ticket) — Shockwaves shook the NBA Tuesday morning with the news that Miami Heat superstar LeBron James decided to opt-out of the remainder of his current deal with the Heat.
The news doesn’t mean — however — that James is going anywhere and Miami is still believed to be the front-runner to keep him, provided the team makes some changes to their roster. But, it’s not every day that the best player in the league becomes a free agent — able to pick his destination — so the rest of the league will surely bring its A-game in an attempt to lure James away from South Beach.
Although the Detroit Pistons have some cap flexibility, the likelihood that James decides to come to the Motor City is slim to none — Detroit just isn’t a destination for high-profile free agents. There is a chance that other teams looking to sway James into signing with their team will be looking to free up cap space to sign the four-time MVP.
That’s were the Pistons could come in.
Here’s a look at some of the trades that the Pistons could make to help aspiring teams adjust their rosters to bring the King (and some other big names) to town:
5. Detroit receives SF Trevor Ariza and SF Otto Porter
Washington receives PF Greg Monroe, PF Jonas Jerebko and SF Luigi Datome
The likelihood that James decides to sign in D.C. is minimal. However, the Wizards finished second to the Heat in the Southeast Division last season and had the seventh-best scoring defense in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards even won their first playoff series in almost a decade against the Bulls this season.
There has also been rumors that the Wizards have been interested in signing Monroe during the offseason. The narrative for the Pistons has been that Josh Smith cannot play small forward and that he and Monroe cannot exist in the same lineup. A sign-and-trade could help the Wizards free up $2 million in cap space by sending sharp-shooting Ariza to Detroit along with an underwhelming rookie in Porter.
4. Detroit receives SG Eric Gordon and PG Brian Roberts
New Orleans receives PF Greg Monroe and PG Brandon Jennings
New Orleans has expressed major interest in bringing Monroe back to his hometown and pairing him with budding superstar Anthony Davis. The Pelicans also are trying to get someone to take the giant contract of injury-prone Gordon, who can be a go-to guy when healthy.
Dealing Jennings would leave the Pistons without a starting-caliber point guard, but it would let them take a run at a free agent like Kyle Lowry, who is coming off a career season.
3. Detroit receives SF Harrison Barnes and C Andrew Bogut
Golden State receives PF Kevin Love and SG Kevin Martin
Minnesota receives PF Josh Smith, PF Marreese Speights and SG Klay Thompson
Golden State is supposedly taking a major run at getting Kevin Love and would most likely need another team to make a deal work. Thompson has been rumored as the centerpiece of what it would take to lure Minnesota into a trade.
Moving Bogut’s giant $14 million contract would help Golden State free up cap space and help the Pistons add depth at the center position and Barnes would bring an instant wing starter with a defensive upside and an above-average 3-point shot.
2. Detroit receives SF Luol Deng and PF Tristan Thompson
Cleveland receives PF Josh Smith
Cleveland has been thought to be a favorite as a landing spot for LeBron ever since rumors surfaced that he would opt out of his contract. Doing a sign-and-trade with Deng to send him to the Pistons would free up the small forward position in Cleveland if Jame opts to return to his home state.
It has been said that Carmelo Anthony wants to follow LeBron wherever he goes, but Cleveland would be smart to get Smith instead to bring a better defensive presence and let James play at small forward.
1. Detroit receives PG Jeremy Lin and SF Jordan Hamilton
Houston receives PF Josh Smith
Houston desperately wants to dump Lin’s contract — with the emergence of Patrick Beverly — and he could be a serviceable backup in Detroit. Hamilton could also bring depth and allow Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to start and develop.
Houston was right behind Detroit in the Josh Smith sweepstakes last summer when Smith was a free agent and Smith is friends with another Atlanta-native Dwight Howard. A big three of Howard, Smith and James would be a very dangerous team in the Western Conference.