The Pistons are prepared to match any offer sheet he receives, even if it produced a maximum contract, according to multiple persons with firsthand knowledge of the franchise’s thinking.
One person told the Free Press: “We can’t lose him.”
This is the right course for Detroit.
If the Pistons let Caldwell-Pope walk, they’d have just the $8,406,000 mid-level exception or so to replace him. That’d yield a far lesser player, which is untenable for Detroit with too many players – Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris and Jon Leuer – under contract and at least theoretically ready to win now.
The 24-year-old Caldwell-Pope should remain productive through his next contract, which makes paying him major money less risky. He’s a strong defender, solid 3-point shooter and fantastic transition threat. Teams can’t get enough two-way wings as small ball gains popularity. His recent DUI arrest is unlikely significantly affect his stock, because his blood-alcohol content registered barely above the legal limit and he has an otherwise solid reputation as a diligent worker.
Caldwell-Pope would likely get max offers if he were an unrestricted free agent. By putting word out now, the Pistons might dissuade other teams from wasting their time pursuing him. More likely, Detroit opens the door to negotiating a five-year deal with Caldwell-Pope rather than matching a shorter offer sheet from another team, which can be for a max of four years.
Interestingly, the next Collective Bargaining Agreement bans teams from declaring an intent to match all offers for a restricted free agent. It’s unclear how the league will enforce anonymously sourced reports like this, because the Pistons have plausible deniability they didn’t provide Ellis the information. More importantly in this case, the next CBA has not yet taken effect. The Pistons have wide latitude for another couple months to publicly negotiate Caldwell-Pope’s next contract – a deal that increasingly appears will return him to Detroit.