Detroit now a possible landing spot for LeBron?

One of the by-products of the Billups-for-Iverson swap is that the Detroit Pistons will have a ton of cap space in the summer of 2010, when LeBron James and a number of high-profile free agents could potentially hit the free market. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop goes through the options.

Down the road the Pistons becomes the driving force of big-time free agency as soon as Iverson’s contract comes off the books next summer. The Pistons will combine a winning environment, one of the most respected general managers in the game, and — depending on salary cap levels that are yet to be set, and extensions that may yet be given to existing Pistons — likely enough cap space to sign two free agent players to max contracts over the next summers of 2009 and 2010.

Feast your eyes on this list of players who will be available. 2010 free agents include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Ray Allen, Tyson Chandler, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Redd.

The two that jump out to me are, of course, Chris Bosh and LeBron James. They played together nicely on Team USA, and now Dumars can at least entertain the notion of signing not one of those two, but both.

A team that suspects one of those players might leave via free agency in 2010 might be compelled to realize some value for the player by dealing with a team under the cap like the Pistons in the summer of 2009. (The NBA’s rules about matching up salaries in trades only apply to teams that are over the salary cap. Once Iverson’s big contract is off the books next summer, the Pistons will be able to deal freely.)

Other than Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell, no other Piston is currently signed through 2011 (though the franchise is likely to exercise its option on Rodney Stuckey’s rookie contract). That puts Detroit’s payroll at an estimated $19 million for the 2010-11 season, which should give the team major salary cap flexibility during the summer of 2010.

Abbott thinks that the Pistons can turn this cap space into two premier players. Throw in Prince, Maxiell and Stuckey, and that’s a nice core.

Update: The Pistons signed Rip Hamilton to a three-year extension worth $34 million that would presumably keep him in Detroit through the 2013 season.

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