Why did the Pistons give Reggie Jackson $80 million over five years when he was a restricted free agent with no other obvious suitors?
The answer probably starts with Greg Monroe.
A restricted free agent last summer, Monroe accepted the Pistons’ qualifying offer. He played out the season, became an unrestricted and then bolted for the Bucks this summer.
Did the Pistons fear Jackson following the same path – taking the qualifying offer and opening the door to him leaving?
Stan Van Gundy, via NBC Sports Radio:
That was a scenario that we couldn’t have happen. That was really the one.
I think all the teams like us would tell you, when you’re a team that’s been battling below .500 for a number of years, the free agent market, quite honestly, is not kind to you.
We couldn’t afford to lose Reggie. So, yeah, that was certainly a big part of our thinking.
Monroe was the best player ever to accept the qualifying offer. Basing future decisions on that outlier would be a mistake.
That said, there are substantial differences between Monroe’s and Jackson’s situations.
Most importantly, the salary cap will shoot up next season. There will be a lot of money available, and Jackson would have had a good chance to get a sizable portion of it as a restricted free agent.
Jackson has also meshed better with Detroit’s franchise player, Andre Drummond, than Monroe did. The Pistons were certainly more willing to pay Jackson than Monroe.
But the Pistons also had plenty of leverage.
Would Jackson really have taken the qualifying offer ($4,433,683) if the Pistons offered him $65 million over five years? That’s a huge risk for Jackson to take, even if the upside exists. For the Pistons, that extra $3 million of cap flexibility per season could have come in handy.
They apparently didn’t want to find out the answer to that question.