Late Friday night, Indiana Pacers free agent point guard Darren Collison announced his sudden and unexpected retirement in a piece for The Undefeated. Less than two days before free agency is set to begin, the timing of this news is unprecedented for a player who expected to make upwards of $10-to-12 million per season on his next contract, and it may have an impact on the approach the Detroit Pistons take to this summer’s free agency period.
With backup point guard being a critical concern for the Pistons, Collison’s sudden absence from free agency proceedings will compress the market for that position at the price point he would have demanded. While the Pistons have given no indication that he was actually on their radar, his removal from the field shortens the list of players available.
Now that Collison is off the market, players like Seth Curry, Derrick Rose, Corey Joseph, Ricky Rubio and perhaps even Isaiah Thomas may have some extra intrigue for teams around the league. Pistons’ free agent Ish Smith may also be in higher demand now that players who are equally capable as emergency starter or full-time backup point guard increase significantly in value.
The Pacers will be desperate to replace Collison now that they have extra cap space, but now they don’t have the Bird Rights to exceed the cap in order to bring a player of his caliber back next season. This means they’re likely willing to pay a premium to sign a player like those previously listed, and to do so earlier in the summer so they don’t get left out in the cold without even a fringe starting point guard for next season.
Already a team that struggles to score without the injured Victor Oladipo, being without a competent point guard who can carry the load in his absence would be devastating for a Pacers squad hoping to make another playoff run next season.
Even before Collison’s retirement, the Pacers were linked to Ricky Rubio. Although he doesn’t really fit the description of a point guard who can shoulder the scoring load, if he’s the guy they want, they’ll need to make sure to lock up the deal quickly as free agency begins on Sunday.
As for the Pistons, they’ll feel the pinch as a team who has limited options with which to address their own point guard depth. They can pay Ish Smith whatever they want thanks to holding his Bird Rights, and his asking price will likely come in the $5-to-7 million range. However, in this changing landscape, it’s possible he may be offered more by other teams looking to make a deal.
They also have the mid-level exception (MLE), worth $9.26 million in the first season and up to a max of nearly $40 million over four years, if they opt to move on from Smith and possibly make a larger splash in the free agency market on one of these other players. Prices will go up for these fringe starter point guards, however, so the Detroit Pistons will need to brace themselves for a suddenly ultra-competitive market.