State of the Cap: Detroit Pistons

Fri, 05/11/2007 - 8:56am

By Josh Redetzke

2007/08 Detroit Pistons Payroll: $57.6 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $2.6 million over cap

[img_assist|nid=3883|title=Tayshaun Prince - AP Photo: Duane Burleson|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=323]The Good: Rip Hamilton continues to shoulder the scoring load for the Detroit Pistons. The energetic guard kept his average near 20 points a game and shot a decent percentage from the field. The Pistons will keep Hamilton for the next three seasons at an average of $10.5 million each. That's not a bad sum for a dependable scorer and one of the game's best mid-range jump shooters.

Many of the Piston's numbers were low this year, but thankfully not Tayshaun Prince's. After signing a big contract extension, his stats were down last year. Not a good sign when the player hasn't even started cashing his higher paychecks yet. This year, Tayshaun's stats were bumped up across the board, which included a 5.2 rebounding average and 38% shooting from beyond the arc. Another bump is probably in order as his contract escalates from $8.6 million this year to $11.1 million four years from now. At least this season was a step in the right direction for the dynamic and effective forward.

The Bad: The career of the 32-year-old Rasheed Wallace is starting to decline, though his paychecks won't. Wallace is owed $12.5 and $13.6 million the next two seasons. His 12.4 points per game is his worst output in eight years and his 42.4% shooting is a career low. It remains to be seen whether Sheed has enough motivation to play hard the rest of the contract and earn that kind of dough.

Detroit at least gets something out of Wallace. However, they get absolutely nothing from Nazr Mohammed. The team expected Mohammed to fill part of the void left by Big Ben so they gladly accepted his long-term contract. Unhappy with his play, the Pistons picked up Chris Webber and Mohammed was forced to rack up DNPs on the end of the bench. He didn't even play a minute in their first-round sweep of Orlando. Mohammed still has four years and $25 million left on his contract. That's a ton of money to pay someone to watch games from courtside seats.

Point guard Chauncey Billups had a decent season this year, posting his second highest totals in assists (7.2) and points per game (17). The bad news is that he is underpaid and will opt out of his contract this summer. This is Chauncey's last chance to sign a mega-deal and he is looking to cash-in. After the surprising departure of Ben Wallace last year, will Billups follow him out the door?

The Future: Looking at their roster, Detroit's bench isn't exactly brimming with talent. Their best sub, Antonio McDyess, has a player option for next year and then he is done. Ronald Murray was a complete waste and shot only 40% from the field. Lindsey Hunter can't shoot worth a damn, Carlos Delfino doesn't scare anyone, and I've already mentioned Nazr Mohammed's woes. Only second-year player Jason Maxiell has shown any promise and he is an undersized power forward. The strength of the Pistons has always been their starting five and with Webber talking retirement, that starting five could be missing a piece.

Everything about the future of the Pistons depends on what they do with Chauncey Billips this summer. If they break the bank for him, and they probably owe it to him for his previous services, the team will be in salary cap hell for a few years. Detroit is still a very good team, but they are also an aging team that has put on a lot of miles in their recent playoff runs. If they let him go, they lose their floor leader and he could end up on Milwaukee, a divisional opponent. They wouldn't have enough money left to replace him and thoughts of rebuilding would begin. Joe Dumars certainly has his work cut out for him.

Free Throw: Who would have thought that $700,000 dollar Chris Webber would be so much better than $17.6 million Chris Webber? Even though he averaged roughly the same number of points and minutes with Detroit as he did with Philly, Webber shot the ball 10% better and was a much more effective player with Detroit. His play had been declining for years, but in Motown, Webber didn't have to be a star for the first time in his career. He looked like an effective complimentary player and if Billups does stay in town, the Pistons are going to try hard to convince Webber to postpone retirement. Seeing as how Philadelphia will still send him paychecks next season, they can probably afford it.

* includes player options for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, and Ronald Murray that may not be exercised.

Grade: B-

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