Posted: Friday May 19, 2006 12:31PM; Updated: Friday May 19, 2006 2:13PM
After winning his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award, Ben Wallace will likely ask for a raise on his $7.4 million '05-06 salary.
Marty Burns will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
For most of the season it has been assumed that Ben Wallace, a free agent this summer, will re-sign with Detroit. The Pistons have said all along that they want to keep their 6-foot-9 center, and Big Ben has said he is happy in Motown. Given that the Pistons can offer Wallace more money than any other team, it seems like a no-brainer.
But money often complicates simple matters. And the Big Ben situation is going to involve a lot of money. Perhaps as much as $100 million over six years.
Are the Pistons really willing to shell out that much for a soon-to-be 32-year-old whose game is so dependent on athleticism and energy? Won't GM Joe Dumars at least have to wonder if an aging Wallace can play at such a high level three or four years down the road? Keep in mind, any new deal for Big Ben might push Detroit over the luxury tax next season, and almost certainly will in 2008 or '09.
Throw in a possible early Pistons' flameout in this year's playoffs, and it could get even more interesting.
"Detroit will re-sign him because they're not going to have to pay him [the max]," says one veteran agent. "You don't see many max deals anymore. And the only teams with [significant] cap room, like Chicago and Atlanta, probably aren't going to make him that kind of offer."
Of course, that's what many said about Steve Nash a few years ago, before he bolted the Mavs for the Suns.
The Bulls, with some $12 million to $15 million in cap space, might be tempted to make a pitch for Wallace. Chicago could reap double rewards by strengthening its own frontcourt while dealing a blow to its division rival. If nothing else, Bulls GM John Paxson could make an offer to drive the price tag up and force the Pistons to take a bigger financial hit.
But even if the Pistons are truly in the driver's seat, there is no guarantee that negotiations with Wallace will go as smoothly as many think. For one, Big Ben just doesn't seem to be enjoying himself on the court as much as usual. His refusal to re-enter a game late in the season might have been just a one-time occurrence, but it raises questions. Then there's the fact that Wallace recently hired Arn Tellem as his agent. Why hire a hardball agent like Tellem if you don't intend to at least test the market?
By league rules, the Pistons can offer Wallace more money than anybody else. They surely will do so to keep him. But what if Big Ben feels insulted by a less-than-maximum offer and decides he'd rather take less somewhere else or try to force a sign-and-trade?