Pistons Still Looking for Big Man; A Look at Remaining Free Agents

AP photo

So far this NBA offseason and season, the Detroit Pistons have drafted a new point guard of the future, waived a shooting guard of their past, re-signed a small forward who coined buffoonerylost an athletic, no defense power forward to the Boston Celtics, re-signed another, younger small forward they think will end up being a power forward, signed another, older small forward to what seems to be an unguaranteed contract, re-signed their starting point guard who might end up being a starting or backup shooting guard, and shown interest in free agent wing players. What’s missing from all that action? A big man. A real big man.

And while they might resemble the size of trees, they certainly don’t grow on them. It’s the one commodity every NBA team wants and could never have enough of. The Pistons have a solid piece for perhaps the next 10 years in second-year player Greg Monroe. The big man from Georgetown showed a lot in his rookie year last season, but the one thing he didn’t show was a lot of brute strength, a true back-to-the-basket game, or ability to get up and block shots. That’s OK. Just because he isn’t the next Shaq, doesn’t mean he won’t be the next Al Horford. But it does mean that the Pistons need to find a player that complements him well.

And by all accounts the Pistons have been searching for just that. But they didn’t find it in the draft. And it’s nearly impossible to trade for it unless you’re willing to give up a player like Monroe. With only their full mid level exception available, they weren’t in contention for Nene, David West or probably even Kris Humphries. Sure it’s more likely to be on the level of signing Damien Wilkins, but that doesn’t mean the player won’t add value to a team desperately seeking size.

After the jump, a look at free agents Samuel Dalembert, Kris Humphries and more!

Samuel Dalembert

The Pistons have to ask themselves a question. Do they want to make a move that most addresses their roster deficiencies or do they want to maintain a maximum amount of roster flexibility. You might assume the Pistons already answered that question when they re-signed the trio of Tayshaun Prince, Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Stuckey to long-term deals. But remember that the team still has its amnesty option in its back pocket and 66 games to gauge the long-term futures of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. And the two players also have 66 games to show some trade value or show that they are part of the long-term plan in Detroit. After the signing of Stuckey for $8 million per year, the Pistons are positioned to be right against the cap next season. If they amnesty Gordon, it clears $12.4 million off their books and allows them to make a big play in free agency. If they amnesty Charlie V. it clears $8 million and gives them the ability to offer more than the mid level exception.

Dalembert, who I expected to sign for $3 million per year with a championship contender (the mini mid level available to teams over the luxury tax), he is still on the open market. If the Pistons were willing to sacrifice their cap space for another season, the Pistons could offer him their mid-level exception. The Pistons regretted the last time they addressed their need for a big man by using the full mid level (Mohammed, Nazr), but now that we are so deep in free agency their is less urgency for the Pistons to offer the maximum number of years. If the Pistons offered a Jamal Crawford-type deal two years for $10 million, it would be a slam dunk to sign Dalembert. But if the big man were willing to accept those terms he probably would have already signed in Houston. And if he is willing to play for a bad club he might as well just re-sign with Sacramento, who need to spend some serious cash pronto now that the team was forced to void the recently signed contract of Chuck Hayes due to a heart abnormality.

If the Pistons did grab the Haitian seven-footer, what would they get? Well, if Detroit wants Monroe to work around the painted area, Dalembert had a good touch for a big man and can hit an open jumper from 10 to 15 feet. But his real value lies in his rebounding and shot blocking. Nobody had less rebounds or blocked shots than the Pistons last season. The team also finished dead last in opponents effective field goal percentage, allowing opposing teams to shoot an adjusted field goal percentage of 52.6. Pathetic.

Last season Ben Wallace led the Pistons with a rebound percentage of 17.3 percent. Dalembert hasn’t had a season that poor rebounding the ball since 2005. For his career his block percentage is at 5.6 percent, a number the Pistons haven’t sniffed since Amir Johnson left. While Dalembert is on the downside of his career he still has an impact on the defensive end in the areas where the Pistons are most deficient. If the Pistons are looking for a shot blocker and rebounder, they can do no better than Dalembert. Unfortunately, to woo him away from contending teams might take a $20 million commitment from Detroit and that is a risky proposition that teams like Detroit should avoid.

Kris Humphries

The curious case of Kris Humphries stretches far beyond his sham marriage to Kim Kardashian or his hilariously awkward Good Morning America appearance. How is a young big man like Humphries still on the free agent market? It could be that the New Jersey Nets have informally informed him of an offer he wouldn’t refuse, but have asked him to wait until the team exhausts every possible avenue in attaining Orlando’s Dwight Howard. Or maybe he’s just asking for an insane amount of money. If it’s the latter, you can count the Pistons out. If he is willing to take the full mid level, Humphries is the kind of player you spend it on. He’s young, athletic, a great rebounder for a power forward and has reined in his propensity to take dumb shots.

Of course, it is also possible that a career underachiever simply put in maximum effort in a contract year. In that case whoever signs Humphries will probably regret it. But if he has realized that his niche in the NBA, and his path to a bigger contract in the future, is by letting shooters shoot and simply cleaning up their misses? He would be a bargain at $5 million per year. But like Dalembert, I can’t imagine that the Pistons are the only team offering him that kind of money.

Kyrylo Fesenko

Now we are in to much more realistic territory for the Pistons. Stopgap players who would see Detroit as an avenue to playing time and perhaps a better offer next year. Fesenko has no offensive game to speak of but he is young, has a huge frame (7-foot-1, 288 pounds) and lives on the defensive side of the ball. This is what ESPN’s John Hollinger wrote about Fesenko in his player profiles this year:

Last season the Jazz were an eye-popping 11.91 points per 100 possessions better on defense with Fesenko on the floor, and this is not a new trend. The season before it was 8.67; in limited minutes his first two seasons he also had a strong differential.

Synergy Stats, meanwhile, rated Fesenko as the second-best defender in the entire league among players who faced at least 150 opponent plays; the season before he was first. And according to 82games.com, opposing centers had a PER of just 10.4 against him; the season before it was 12.9.

Despite his size, Fesenko doesn’t block a ton of shots or dominate the boards. He just uglies up the game for opponents with his sheer hugeness, especially since he moves his feet fairly well for his size. And he can still get better — he wasn’t always fully engaged in Utah and needs to step up his commitment.

He would definitely slide in nicely as a low-risk investment by the Pistons, allows them to add another young body who could actually improve to the club, and also puts him in a situation where he can be effective. The Pistons have bodies but they don’t have anyone who makes a huge impact on defense. Signing Fesenko allows coach Lawrence Frank to utilize matchups and manage his minutes.

Reggie Evans

Evans is known for one thing and one thing only — a serious nose for the basketball. While the undersized power forward isn’t a good defender he grabbed an eye-popping 25.6 per cent of available rebounds last season, which would have led the league had he played enough minutes to qualify. Unfortunately, Evans does literally nothing else to positively impact the game of basketball. He can’t shoot, can’t block shots, can’t hit free throws and is only good in limited minutes. But the Pistons were a terrible rebounding team last year and it would make sense to add a rebounding specialist and no one specializes in rebounding more than Reggie Evans.

Leon Powe

For three seasons in Boston it appeared that the Celtics had a blossoming power forward in Leon Powe. He was wonderfully efficient, with great touch around the basket and the ability to draw fouls. Unfortunately a series of knee injuries have forced him to miss much of the past two seasons. He still has the innate skills from his healthy days, but has lost burst and with it some of his effectiveness. Still, if the Pistons decide they want to go for a more offensive presence in order to space the floor Powe might make sense in limited minutes. He could pair well with Monroe as he still has good hands and can finish at the rim. But he’s never been a good defender and certainly isn’t one now.

Erick Dampier

You know you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel when you’re talking about a player who the Miami Heat let go in favor of Eddy Curry. After several years of mediocre production and being wildly overpaid in Dallas, Dampier took a minimum contract to chase a ring in South Beach. Unfortunately, it seems age finally caught up with him and the bottom fell out. He lost his ability to rebound and that was one of his primary assets. After years of plus-17 percent rebound rates, Dampier grabbed just 12.7 percent of all boards last season in limited minutes. Still, he remains 6-foot-11 and a thick 265 pounds. While he couldn’t deliver what Miami needed last season, he still has the defensive skills to be a rotation big in the NBA. Whether he still has a passion for the game and wouldn’t mind being the second big man off the bench remains to be seen, however.

Topics: Erick Dampier, Joe Dumars, Kris Humphries, Kyrylo Fesenko, Leon Powe, Reggie Evans, Samuel Dalembert

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