Detroit Pistons fans have had a rough time over the last few years, so you can excuse them for a bit of panic at this week’s announcement that the team and Andre Drummond have stopped talks about a contract extension.
After all, the last time a star post player didn’t reach an agreement on an extension with the Pistons … well, Greg Monroe is going to look very strange in a Milwaukee Bucks jersey this season.
This time, though, is different, at least according to Drummond and the team. The 22-year-old is going to get a max contract from the Pistons, but he’s delaying it for a year in order to help the team. If he signs his extension now, a year before he hits restricted free agency, that’s money that the Pistons can’t use in the free-agent market next summer.
This way, the Pistons will have an extra $13 million in cap space while building the 2016-17 roster, because they can wait until the end of free agency and use their Bird rights to go over the cap to re-sign Drummond.
The move, which was made on Drummond’s suggestion, pleased Pistons coach/president Stan Van Gundy.
“When you go around and talk to players, every player says, ‘I’m all about winning,’ ” Van Gundy told the team website. “But this is a guy who’s proving that he’s all about winning. This guy’s doing that to create the flexibility so that we can add to the roster significantly next summer.
“We’re all on the same page. We want to win, we want him here long term and he wants to be here long term.”
Drummond didn’t want to go into great depth about his discussions with Pistons owner Tom Gores, but he made it clear that this wasn’t another Monroe situation.
“It’s between Tom and I, those discussions,” Drummond said. “They don’t really need to be discussed openly. We both have an understanding of what’s best for the team.”
Monroe wanted to escape a dysfunctional organization, and even went as far as playing last year on a qualifying offer in order to get unrestricted free agency. Knowing how much he wanted to leave, the Pistons made no serious effort to keep him.
The situation is entirely different with Drummond. While Van Gundy has cleaned out almost every remnant of the Joe Dumars era, he made it clear on his first day that he intended to build the franchise around Drummond. That hasn’t changed – the current roster is built to play with four players on the perimeter in order to give his center all the room he needs to become a scoring force.
Of course, Drummond is taking a huge risk in order to help his team. He could’ve signed an extension right now, and had it waiting for him next season even if he blew out his knee in this year’s opener. He knows that, having seen first-hand how Brandon Jennings’s career has been derailed by his torn Achilles’ tendon.
Drummond has critics who don’t like his limited shooting range, terrible free throw shooting or perceived lack of defensive effort, but consider this stat: since the NBA started counting offensive rebounds in the 1976-77 season, there have only been three seasons where a player averaged at least 13 points and five offensive rebounds. Moses Malone had the first one, and Drummond has put up the other two in the last two seasons.
Yes, there’s nothing on paper, and Drummond could try to pull a fast one on the Pistons next summer. That, though, seems utterly out of character for him, and would mean risking a second season with no job security on a low-paying qualifying offer.
That’s why the Pistons are thrilled by this move, and not afraid to admit it.
“Everybody always thinks in terms of the cap space as just we go out and sign a free agent, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be just one guy,” Van Gundy said. “That could be money that goes into two guys who are significant players who can help. That cap space opens you up in the trade market. You don’t have to send out equal money or anywhere near it. There’s a lot of ways that cap space helps you.
“For Andre to look at it at 22 years old and come to that kind of mature and team-oriented decision speaks volumes.”