Just two high-quality free agents remain – Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe – and they’re still on the market due only to their restricted status.
The Pistons’ negotiations with Monroe haven’t devolved to that level of public disagreement.
But that doesn’t mean they’re any closer than Bledsoe and the Suns to a deal.
The Pistons have moved from the initial five-year, $60-million offer and an offer that’s slightly better than the four-year, $54-million deal that Josh Smith signed last summer is on the table.
But the offer to make him the highest paid player on the roster hasn’t brokered an agreement. And negotiations aren’t ongoing.
It’s unclear whether Monroe or Detroit is pushing toward a shorter deal with a higher annual salary. Are the Pistons willing to pay Monroe more per year as long as their total investment isn’t too burdensome? Or does Monroe want a shorter contract and the ability to become an unrestricted free agent sooner?
I’m sure Monroe fancies himself a max-contract player, and there is a case to be made in a vacuum. But unless he draws a max offer sheet at this late stage, there’s practically no incentive for the Pistons to pay him that much.
And it doesn’t seem Monroe will get a max offer sheet. The 76ers are the only team with enough cap room, and though a sign-and-trade is possible, it would require another team offering Detroit satisfactory compensation.
At this point, it’s possible Monroe is trying to set himself up for his third NBA contract. Perhaps, playing with Josh Smith isn’t in Monroe’s best interest. No question, the two and Andre Drummond functioned poorly together last season, and Monroe took a brunt of the hit.
But new Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy has made Monroe his top offseason priority and called Monroe and Drummond an “ideal pairing.” Drummond, not Smith is Detroit’s franchise player. So, that should signal to Monroe he’s in good hands, right?
Monroe needn’t be certain of that, but if he’s leaning toward that being the case, he shouldn’t pass up more than $54 million over four years (or maybe $60 million over five) for a $5,479,934 qualifying offer.
There’s still plenty of time to reach a deal, and this process is naturally slow. The Pistons’ willingness to increase their offer shows progress, but considering negotiations aren’t ongoing, the finish line probably remains far.
Eventually, Monroe will either bring Detroit a qualifying offer or get serious about discussing the structure of his next contract. In the meantime, both sides wait – and for now at least, avoid the Bledsoe-Suns-style public bickering.