Stan Van Gundy: Pistons plan to guarantee Ersan Ilyasova’s contract for next season

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The Pistons certainly hope Stanley Johnson, the No. 8 pick in last year’s draft, will eventually move into their starting lineup.

For a while, it seemed Marcus Morris was just a placeholder at small forward until that happened. But Morris has exceeded expectations in his first year in Detroit.

Perhaps, once Johnson is ready, Morris will slide to power forward, and Johnson will bump Ersan Ilyasova from the starting lineup. That’s a unit – Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Johnson, Morris, Andre Drummond – the Pistons have frequently used to much success in fourth quarters this season.

Where would that leave Ilyasova, who has just $400,000 of his $8.4 million salary guaranteed for next season?

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

The ability to waive Ilyasova and clear extra cap space is a nice option for the Pistons. But Ilyasova’s salary becomes fully guaranteed July 1, so they would have to waive him before (legally) speaking to other free agents.

Barring injury, it sounds as if the Pistons would rather have Ilyasova than the extra room – and that makes sense.

Ilyasova is a solid player, a stretch four who creates space for Drummond finishes and Jackson drives. Ilyasova also takes enough charges to make himself a fine defensive player.

It wouldn’t be a problem for Detroit if he’s starting again next season. But if he’s coming off the bench, his salary won’t be egregious under the new cap. The Pistons’ backup stretch four, Anthony Tolliver, becomes a free agent this summer. So, Ilyasova provides insurance in case Tolliver leaves.

Plus, Detroit in line to have major cap space regardless.

Keeping Ilyasova makes it more difficult for the Pistons to shoot for the moon in free agency next summer, but he helps them remain a solid team – one that will still have flexibility for outside improvement.