Detroit Pistons

Stanley Johnson's Trade Value; Henry Ellenson's Improvement

There haven’t been any reported indications that the Pistons are pursuing a specific trade, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press notes, but the asset he posits would be most valuable if they were is third-year man Stanley Johnson.

Ellis cites the interest that Johnson drew at the trade deadline as the biggest indication that teams would still be interested in taking a flyer on the intriguing physical specimen. In addition to his impressive 6’7″, 235-pound, NBA-ready frame, the Pistons forward also has a palatable contract that would serve a contending team well.

Involved in a deal or not, however, this season marks Johnson’s best chance to succeed as he’ll break camp as the most natural small forward on the Pistons’ roster.

  • Expect second-year Pistons forward Henry Ellenson to vie for a larger role in 2017/18. As Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes, the sophomore forward has been focusing specifically on improving his defense and three-ball, two qualities that head coach Stan Van Gundy is known to put great stock in.

Reggie Jackson: Knee Feels Good Heading Into Camp

A year ago, Pistons guard Reggie Jackson was dealing with a sore left knee that caused him to miss the first 21 games of the season, but he tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press he believes that problem is in the past.

“With my knee, I’m feeling good,” Jackson said. “With the health of it, I’m feeling great. I just got to do the best I can to take care of it. The team is doing a great job of monitoring it. I’ve had no setbacks. I’m on pace, which is to be ready by training camp.”

Jackson’s early-season absence, followed by inconsistent play once he returned, was a major reason for the Pistons’ 37-45 record a year after making the playoffs. Jackson managed just 52 games, and his scoring, rebounding, assists and shooting numbers were all down significantly from 2015/16.

Diagnosed with chronic tendinitis, Jackson spent the offseason trying to manage the condition. He recently finished a 16-week protocol designed to cut down the strain of summer workouts. Under the supervision of team physical therapist Mark Cranston, Jackson’s basketball-related activities were limited to light shooting and jumping off one leg.

Jackson, who underwent platelet-rich plasma injections last fall, believes he made a mistake by trying to get back on the court as quickly as possible.

“It came about unexpectedly,” Jackson said. “Got injured and the whole key was to try to rush back in six weeks. We went into three weeks of the season, but the goal each day was to try to get back as soon as possible vs. knowing you have a nice amount of time to really take care of the knee and build everything up.”

The Pistons plan to be cautious with Jackson when training camp opens Tuesday. Coach Stan Van Gundy won’t have him practice twice when the team has two-a-days.

Jackson believes the knee is ready, but he can’t be certain until he can test it under game conditions.

“We won’t know until you are in competition and you get to see it,” Jackson said. “If I can get the burst by my man, if I can make the play like I did two years ago. That will be the only true test of knowing it. It feels healthy, but it’s really going to be playing to figure out what it truly is.”

NBA Teams That Can’t Offer More Than The Minimum

At this point in the NBA offseason, most free agents who remain on the open market will have to settle for minimum salary contracts, if they receive an NBA offer at all.

There are some exceptions, particularly on the restricted free agent market, where Mason Plumlee just signed a three-year, $41MM deal with the Nuggets. Within the last week or two though, we’ve seen top remaining unrestricted free agents like Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Allen, and Andrew Bogut settle for minimum salary contracts.

That’s good news for several teams who have used all their available cap room and/or exceptions and can only offer minimum salary contracts for the rest of the 2017/18 league year. They won’t necessarily be at a disadvantage when it comes to signing free agents if those players aren’t being offered more than the minimum by teams with the means to do so.

In some cases though, an inability to offer more than the minimum can handicap a team. Dante Cunningham‘s free agent decision this week reflects this — according to multiple reports, the deal Cunningham agreed to with the Pelicans is actually worth $2.3MM, which is more than his minimum salary of $2.1MM. While we haven’t seen the official terms of Cunningham’s new contract yet, it’s possible that the $200K difference was one reason Cunningham chose New Orleans over a suitor like the Timberwolves, who could only offer the minimum.

Teams with the flexibility to offer more than the minimum could also benefit later in the NBA season. For instance, if Dwyane Wade negotiates a buyout with the Bulls and considers which team to join as a free agent, the fact that the Heat have retained their $4.328MM room exception could be a factor — it would allow Miami to make a stronger offer than the Cavs could.

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the teams that currently don’t have the ability to offer more than the minimum salary, which is $815,615 for a first-year player:

  • Boston Celtics
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Houston Rockets: $350 of mid-level exception available
  • Los Angeles Clippers: $774,770 of mid-level exception available
  • Memphis Grizzlies: $1,440,385 of mid-level exception available, but will use at least $815,615 to sign Ivan Rabb.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder

Meanwhile, the following teams have less than $3.29MM (the value of the bi-annual exception) to offer to free agents:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers: $2,549,143 of taxpayer mid-level exception available
  • Utah Jazz: $1,128,000 of room exception available
  • Washington Wizards: $1,902,000 of taxpayer mid-level exception available

Of course, just because a team has an exception available, that doesn’t mean the club will be eager to use it. Teams like the Bucks or Pelicans, for instance, still have various MLE and BAE exception money available, but their proximity to the luxury tax threshold will make them reluctant to offer more than the minimum salary to anyone the rest of the way.

For a full breakdown of how teams have used their mid-level, room, and bi-annual exceptions for the 2017/18 league year, be sure to check out our MLE tracker and BAE tracker.

NBA’s Board Of Governors To Examine Revenue Sharing System

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst have published an expansive and well-researched report on NBA teams’ finances, providing details on the league’s revenue sharing system, the impact from national and local television deals, and how a lack of net income for NBA franchises could push the league toward considering relocation or expansion.

The report is wide-ranging and detailed, so we’re going to tackle it by dividing it up into several sections, but it’s certainly worth reading in full to get a better picture of whether things stand in the NBA. Let’s dive in…

Which teams are losing money?

  • Nine teams reportedly lost money last season, even after revenue sharing. Those clubs were the Hawks, Nets, Pistons, Grizzlies, Magic, Wizards, Bucks, Cavaliers, and Spurs. The latter two teams – Cleveland and San Antonio – initially came out ahead, but paid into the league’s revenue sharing program, pushing them into the red.
  • Meanwhile, the Hornets, Kings, Pacers, Pelicans, Suns, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers also would have lost money based on net income if not for revenue sharing, according to Lowe and Windhorst.
  • As a league, the NBA is still doing very well — the overall net income for the 30 teams combined was $530MM, per ESPN. That number also only takes into account basketball income, and doesn’t include income generated via non-basketball events for teams that own their arenas.
  • The players’ union and its economists have long been skeptical of NBA teams’ bookkeeping, alleging that clubs are using techniques to make themselves appear less profitable than they actually are, Windhorst and Lowe note. The union has the power to conduct its own audit of several teams per season, and it has begun to take advantage of that power — according to ESPN, the union audited five teams last season, and the new CBA will allow up to 10 teams to be audited going forward.

How does the gap between large and small market teams impact income?

  • Even after paying $49MM in revenue sharing, the Lakers finished the 2016/17 with a $115MM profit in terms of net income, per ESPN. That was the highest profit in the NBA, ahead of the second-place Warriors, and could be attributed in large part to the $149MM the Lakers received from their huge local media rights deals.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Grizzlies earned a league-low $9.4MM in local media rights, which significantly affected their bottom line — even after receiving $32MM in revenue sharing, Memphis lost money for the season. The Grizzlies will start a new TV deal this year that should help boost their revenue, but it still won’t come anywhere close to matching deals like the Lakers‘.
  • The biggest local TV deals help drive up the NBA’s salary cap, with teams like the Lakers and Knicks earning in excess of $100MM from their media agreements. According to the ESPN report, the Knicks made $10MM more on their TV deal than the six lowest-earning teams combined.
  • As one owner explained to ESPN, “National revenues drive up the cap, but local revenues are needed to keep up with player salaries. If a team can’t generate enough local revenues, they lose money.”
  • Playoff revenue from a big-market team like the Warriors also helps push up the salary cap. Sources tell Lowe and Windhorst that Golden State made about $44.3MM in net income from just nine home playoff games last season, more than doubling the playoff revenue of the next-best team (the Cavaliers at about $20MM).

How is revenue sharing affecting teams’ earnings?

  • Ten teams paid into the NBA’s revenue sharing system in 2016/17, with 15 teams receiving that money. The Sixers, Raptors, Nets, Heat, and Mavericks neither paid nor received any revenue sharing money. Four teams – the Warriors, Lakers, Bulls, and Knicks – accounted for $144MM of the total $201MM paid in revenue sharing.
  • While there’s general agreement throughout the NBA that revenue sharing is working as intended, some teams have “bristled about the current scale of monetary redistribution,” according to ESPN. “The need for revenue sharing was supposed to be for special circumstances, not permanent subsidies,” one large-market team owner said.
  • The Grizzlies, Hornets, Pacers, Bucks, and Jazz have each received at least $15MM apiece in each of the last four years via revenue sharing.
  • However, not all small-market teams receive revenue-sharing money — if a team outperforms its expectations based on market size, it forfeits its right to that money. For instance, the Thunder and Spurs have each paid into revenue sharing for the last six years.

Why might league-wide income issues lead to relocation or expansion?

  • At least one team owner has raised the idea of expansion, since an expansion fee for a new franchise could exceed $1 billion and it wouldn’t be subject to splitting 50/50 with players. A $1 billion expansion fee split 30 ways would work out to $33MM+ per team.
  • Meanwhile, larger-market teams who aren’t thrilled about their revenue-sharing fees have suggested that small-market clubs losing money every year should consider relocating to bigger markets, sources tell ESPN.
  • As Lowe and Windhorst observe, the Pistons – who lost more money than any other team last season – are undergoing a relocation of sorts, moving from the suburbs to downtown Detroit, in the hopes that the move will help boost revenue.

What are the next steps? Are changes coming?

  • The gap between the most and least profitable NBA teams is expected to be addressed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting next week, per Lowe and Windhorst. Team owners have scheduled a half-day review of the league’s revenue sharing system.
  • Obviously, large- and small-market teams view the issue differently. While some large-market teams have complained about the revenue sharing system, they’re outnumbered, with smaller-market teams pushing those more successful clubs to share more of their profits, according to ESPN.
  • Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is one of the loudest voices pushing for more “robust” revenue sharing, sources tell ESPN. Some team owners have argued that the system should ensure all teams make a profit, while one even suggested every team should be guaranteed a $20MM profit. There will be “pushback” on those ideas, Lowe and Windhorst note. “This is a club where everyone knows the rules when they buy in,” one owner said.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, some teams have floated the idea of limiting the amount of revenue sharing money a team can receive if it has been taking payments for several consecutive years.
  • Any change to the revenue sharing system that is formally proposed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting would require a simple majority (16 votes to 14) to pass.

Pistons Notes: Galloway, Bradley, Drummond, More

Having received a three-year, $21MM deal, Langston Galloway was the Pistons‘ biggest free agent investment of the offseason, and even he admits that he was surprised how quickly he reached an agreement with the team, writes Keith Langlois of

“I really thought it was going to take a while. I thought I was going to be on the board for a long time,” Galloway said. “My agent was pretty optimistic. We knew there were a few teams talking about me, but nobody really said, ‘We’re going to take a chance on you and go with you.’ But, hey, once 12 o’clock hit and I got an unexpected call from [Pistons president of basketball operations] Stan [Van Gundy], that was amazing.”

As Langlois details, Galloway is comfortable playing at both the one and two, and his ability to handle the point allowed the Pistons to avoid having to go out and sign a third pure point guard behind Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith.

Moreland Passes One Salary Guarantee Date

Pistons power forward Eric Moreland got a significant increase in his salary guarantee by remaining on the roster through Friday. The 25-year-old, who signed with Detroit this summer, saw his guarantee for the upcoming season rise from $500K to $750K. Moreland inked a three-year contract, but it’s filled with guarantee dates that require him to remain with the team. The next one is opening night, October 18, when Moreland’s salary will increase to $1MM.

Undrafted out of Oregon State in 2014, Moreland began his career with the Kings, but played just 11 NBA games in two seasons. He was waived by the Cavaliers in training camp a year ago and spent the entire season with the team’s G League affiliate in Canton, earning a spot in the All-Star Game and third team all-league honors. The Pistons used a portion of their mid-level exception to sign Moreland.

Reggie Jackson's Future In Detroit

One of the biggest factors that will influence the fate of the Pistons is just how well Reggie Jackson manages to bounce back after a disappointing 2016/17 campaign. The 27-year-old guard, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press says, appears right on schedule following lingering knee issues from last season.

The technical term for Jackson’s knee issue is tendinosis, which Ellis describes as chronic tendinitis. As such, knee woes aren’t exactly new for the Pistons guard and he’s supposedly been impacted by them since he was drafted back in 2011. It was recovery from the platelet-rich plasma injection that he received last offseason, however, that set his 2016/17 campaign askew from the start.

A healthy Jackson is an incredibly potent weapon for the Pistons and Lang Green of Basketball Insiders reminds us that the playmaker averaged a staggering 17.6 points and 9.2 assists per game in his first half year with the club. Do the Pistons still hold Jackson in the same regard following last year’s disappointing results though? And how long will his leash be in 2017/18?

A healthy Jackson tends to inspire Andre Drummond and an enthusiastic Drummond can be a game-changer for a Pistons team that seemed to lack motivation last year. If Jackson can stay healthy and produce as he did when he earned his lofty contract extension back in the summer of 2015, we could very well see Detroit pick up where they left off at the end of 2015/16.

  • The Pistons don’t have any mega-stars in an era that virtually requires them, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes, suggesting their title outlook is dim. The league, he says, just isn’t what it used to be back in 2004, when Detroit last won a ring with no superstars.

Magic Johnson Turned Down Warriors, Pistons, Knicks

Magic Johnson passed on front office positions with three teams before becoming president of basketball operations for the Lakers, he said this morning on ESPN’s First Take (Twitter link).

The Hall of Famer claimed the Warriors, Pistons and Knicks all made offers that he turned down because he had a sense of loyalty to the Lakers.

“My good friends Peter and Joe Lacob bought the Golden State Warriors. They came to me. ‘I want you to be an owner, be a partner with us.’ I said no, I’m a Laker,” Johnson recalled. “My friend bought the Detroit Pistons, Tom Gores, and a Michigan State guy. ‘Come on home. It’ll be a great story.’ I can’t; I’m a Laker. I could have owned other teams.”

The panel also brought up the Knicks, who reportedly expressed interest in Johnson.

The Lakers hired Johnson to serve as team president in February after a front office purge that resulted in the dismissal of executive Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak.

Central Notes: Thomas, Lue, Walters, Pacers

There is still little to no definitive answer on Isaiah Thomas ailing hip and the new Cavaliers point guard could be dealing with more than just a hip ailment, Jason Lloyd of The Athletic writes. Lloyd referenced general manager Kolby Altman‘s reluctance to address Thomas’ injury and the cloudy aura surrounding his recovery.

Thomas has previously given optimistic comments about his future, stating that he will be the same dynamic scorer he was in Boston upon returning. However, it has not been over four months since Thomas went down with the hip injury and there is no solid update on his future. One person Lloyd spoke to suggested that Thomas is dealing with more than just a torn labrum, adding that a loss of cartilage and some arthritis in the hip are complicating the healing process.

“No one has any idea how quickly this will heal or if it even will heal at all,” the source said to Lloyd about Thomas’ injury. “It’s hard to predict.”

At this point, it’s all but certain that Thomas will not be ready for opening night; one report mentioned the All-Star break in February as a possible timetable.

Read more news around the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue likes the moves his team made this offseason and is entering the 2017/18 season with an optimistic mindset, Joe Vardon of writes.
  • Former NBA player and G-League coach Rex Walters has joined the Pistons‘ coaching staff. As’s Keith Langlois writes, head coach Stan Van Gundy is excited with Walters’ reputation to help players develop their skills after he was frustrated
  • Shaun Powell of previews the Pacers‘ first season in the post-Paul George era.
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