By: Will Burchfield
In Avery Bradley, the Pistons have acquired a soon-to-be cheaper version of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Does that spell the end for KCP in Detroit?
It certainly appears so. Per Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pistons are renouncing Caldwell-Pope, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Caldwell-Pope is in line for a significant payday. Many believed he was going to attract a max offer sheet in restricted free agency — four years and about $100 million — and now he has the leverage of an open market. Per Wojnarowski, the Lakers would consider offering him a one-year balloon deal, whereby KCP could make in the ballpark of $30 million.
The biggest deal he can command in unrestricted free agency, from a team other than the Pistons, is also four years and about $100 million. (The Pistons have the ability to offer a fifth year.) His annual salary can account for 25 percent of the $99 million salary cap, with yearly raises of five percent. He is almost assured to receive such an offer.
The Nets were reportedly ready to give KCP a max offer sheet as an RFA, and they’re still interested him as a UFA.
Remember, the Vertical reported toward the end of last season that Detroit did not want to match a max offer for KCP in restricted free agency. What’s more, the two sides had not made much progress on a new deal prior to the renouncement.
So if KCP chases the money — and he has no reason not to — the Pistons won’t sprint after him.
Bradley, who Detroit acquired on Friday in exchange for Marcus Morris, carries a cap hit of $8.8 million in the 2017-18 season. Like Caldwell-Pope, he is considered a strong two-way guard, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
Caldwell-Pope, 25, averaged 13.8 points and 3.3 rebounds last year for Detroit. Bradley, 26, averaged 16.3 points and 6.1 rebounds for Boston. The former, who is a lesser shooter, will potentially cost three times as much in the 2017-18 season.
With the additions of Bradley and Langston Galloway, acquired Thursday via free agency, the Pistons’ 2017-18 payroll is about $109 million — $10 million over the salary cap. That’s a soft cap, and many teams operate over it, but $25 million for KCP would push the Pistons over the hard cap as well.
That was the case prior to the Bradley trade, so the financials of the deal aren’t necessarily the snag. But there is now a logjam of guards on the Pistons roster: Bradley, Galloway, Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith and first-round pick Luke Kennard. KCP would bring the total to six, and that’s without mentioning Michael Gbinije.
The Pistons are high on Kennard’s offensive ability, and by all accounts he impressed defensively in the summer league. He figures to see the floor in his rookie campaign. Jackson still seems to be a prominent part of the Pistons’ future, especially in the estimation of Van Gundy. Galloway wasn’t signed to sit on the bench, Smith played his way off it last season and Bradley is very much a part of Detroit’s starting five.
Cap implications aside, Caldwell-Pope is suddenly an expendable player. That the Pistons renounced him makes that very clear. The team never wanted to pay a solid but unspectacular two-way guard like a frontline star, and the acquisition of Bradley means they don’t have to.
Bradley will likely command a max deal when he hits unrestricted free agency at the end of next season. So in some ways this is just delaying the inevitable. But Bradley may be worth the money that KCP isn’t.
And the Pistons may be inclined to extend him before his contract expires.
When reports first surfaced in the spring that Caldwell-Pope was likely to receive a max offer sheet this summer, Van Gundy stressed time and time again that the situation was in the Pistons’ control. They would only lose him if they felt comfortable doing so.
It appears they feel more comfortable now than ever.