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NBA AM: Pistons Believe Drummond Worth Max Deal

Detroit has a big offseason ahead and the first order of business may be maxing out Andre Drummond.

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Pistons center Andre Drummond in line for a max contract extension

The last time the Detroit Pistons reached the playoffs back in 2009, the team featured names such as Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Kwame Brown and Allen Iverson. All four of those guys are no longer in the league and Detroit hasn’t posted a season with a winning percentage of at least .400 since.

Although the franchise just wrapped up their third consecutive 50-plus loss season, Pistons owner Tom Gores believes the organization has begun to turn the corner under the watchful eye of head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy.

Gores also believes a key component of the Pistons’ rebuild is emerging center Andre Drummond, who the team can sign to an early contract extension that would proactively prevent the big man from testing the free agent waters next summer.

“Andre’s a maximum guy,” Gores told David Mayo of MLive.com. “He’s a maximum guy. He’s not only a great player, he’s a great person.”

The Pistons’ stance on Drummond, who averaged 13.8 points and 13.5 rebounds per game this past season, completely differs from the plight of forward Greg Monroe.

The Pistons chose to allow the market to set the price for Monroe last summer and the forward ultimately decided to sign the team’s qualifying offer for the 2014-15 campaign instead. Monroe will now enter the summer as an unrestricted free agent and the Pistons could potentially lose the talented player without receiving an asset in return.

“I’m sure we’ll talk about it,” Van Gundy said about having a discussion with Monroe on his looming free agency. “But my guess is the answer I’ll get, and I’m sure it’s a very honest one based on the way I’ve seen Greg act, is that he hasn’t given a ton of thought to it right now. So that’d probably be a discussion for later on down the road, because Greg has stayed pretty focused.”

As it stands currently, the Pistons will also have to make decisions on veterans Caron Butler ($4.5 million) and Anthony Tolliver ($3 million). Both players have non-guaranteed contracts for next season and the team could release the players to open up more salary cap room.

Besides throwing an extension at Drummond and attempting to re-sign Monroe to a reasonable deal, the Pistons’ also must make a decision on talented point guard Reggie Jackson who the team acquired at the trade deadline from Oklahoma City.

Once the team issues a qualifying offer, Jackson will head into the summer as a restricted free agent and the Pistons would be free to match any offer received for his services.

Hornets’ Jefferson doesn’t plan to opt out of contract to test free agency

The Charlotte Hornets (33-49) were arguably the most disappointing team in the league this season. Heading into the campaign, the Hornets had all of the momentum. The team was coming off a playoff appearance, rebranding of the franchise’s name and colors, growing fan excitement and had signed one of the most talented free agents on the market in guard Lance Stephenson. The organization also boasted the services of center Al Jefferson, who was coming off an All-NBA third team campaign.

However, the momentum was quickly lost as Stephenson didn’t live up to expectations in his first season with the team, fan excitement waned and Jefferson struggled through an injury plagued campaign.

Jefferson, who averaged 16.6 points and 8.4 rebounds in 65 contests this past season, has a player option worth $13.5 million for the 2015-16 campaign and can choose to opt out in order to test free agency or secure another long term deal.

Losing Jefferson would be a blow to the Hornets, but the veteran big man said he has no intentions on opting out at the moment.

“I’ve got unfinished business here. That’s not even an option for me,” Jefferson told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.  “Unless something dramatic changed, I can’t see myself opting out, and leaving that bad taste in my mouth. And in the Charlotte Hornets’ mouth. I can’t walk away from that.”

Good news for the Hornets, indeed.

Despite the Hornets’ struggles the team missed a playoff berth by only five games. Considering Jefferson’s injuries, guard Kemba Walker’s 20 missed games and Stephenson’s unexpected struggles, the Hornets could be back in the playoffs next season with a few tweaks this summer.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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