The big reason why Detroit Pistons are in worst 3-year run in 40 years

The Detroit Pistons are in the worst three-year stretch in 40 years and there’s one big reason why: They have six contracts with dead money eating up a gigantic chunk of salary this season.

Due to waiving players whose contracts still had guaranteed money owed, the Pistons’ dead money for 2021-22 is an astounding $45.5 million — worst in the NBA — led by the $29.8 million charge for buying out Blake Griffin last March. That deal saved the Pistons $13.3 million over Griffin’s final two years, including $9.2 million on this year’s cap, helping them create the space to sign Kelly Olynyk in free agency last August.

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The Pistons have $79.7 million in active contract money for a total cap number of $125.2 million, meaning their dead money is accounting for 36.3% — just over a third — of their cap spending.

That’s a big part of why in Year 2 of general manager Troy Weaver self-proclaimed “restoration,” the Pistons own the NBA’s second-worst record at 10-32, ahead of only the Orlando Magic (8-37).

In an Eastern Conference as deep as ever, the inflexibility caused by the cap issues is a major reason why the Pistons lack depth and own one of the worst rosters.

Entering Tuesday’s game at Golden State, the Pistons have 40 contests left this season. They are an abysmal 50-130 over the past two-and-a-half seasons for a .278 winning percentage. The franchise’s worst three-year run before this came in 1978-81, when they went 67-179 (.272 win percentage).

The Griffin catastrophe, of course, is not on Weaver. Executed nearly four years ago, it was a misguided Hail Mary attempt by owner Tom Gores and then-president and head coach Stan Van Gundy.

But Weaver’s cap management outside of Griffin can be scrutinized.

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Pistons guard Cade Cunningham shoots against Nets forward Blake Griffin on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, at Little Caesars Arena.

Fifteen teams have less than $2 million dead money on their cap this season, according to sports database Five teams have…


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