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Pistons 101 Player Series: Josh Smith

June 3rd, 2014 at 2:38 PM
By Sean Walters

To call Josh Smith’s first season with the Detroit Pistons a disappointment would be an understatement. After inking a monster deal handed out by now former Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars, Smith never quite fit in Detroit, posting one of the worst seasons of his career.

'Josh Smith and Greg Monroe' photo (c) 2013, Erik Drost - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Often times after players strike it rich in free agency they regress the following year, and this was clearly the case with Smith. He was able to cash in last off-season, and it seemed like Smith was content to cash his checks and lose games this year.

That’s not to say a perceived lack of motivation was the only problem for Smith in his first season in Detroit. He was terribly out of place at small forward. The trio of Andre Drummond at center, Greg Monroe at power forward, and Smith at small forward just did not work. They were able to do great work on the boards, but as a whole were outplayed offensively and defensively. Smith needs to play power forward because he simply lacks the shooting prowess to play small forward. This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if Smith could cut back on the outside shooting, but he just couldn’t as he got up an absurd 265 three-point field goals last season. He shot 26% from deep, a number that shows he simply shouldn’t be attempting outside shots. Whether it’s his ego, or maybe he just can’t wrap his head around the fact that he isn’t a shooter, in either case he needs to stop chucking threes. Smith shot 3.4 three-pointers per night last season, and that number should be much closer to 1.0 next season if he is going to be more effective.

Smith’s numbers were down across the board. His shooting percentage fell all the way to 42% due to all the outside shots, and his blocks were even all the way down to 1.4, the lowest number of his career. Clearly the stats are down due to Smith being out of position, but some of it is also his complacency on the court.

Something is clearly going to need to change next season, as the trio of Drummond, Monroe, and Smith just didn’t work. There are two ways the Pistons could choose to shake up the lineup.

Monroe is a restricted free agent, and the Pistons could choose to let him walk, or get back draft picks in a sign and trade. This could pave the way for Smith to return to his normal role at power forward where he is more comfortable. Smith would be closer to the hoop defensively where he can roam and disrupt in the paint, which is what he is best at. Smith could go back to letting his length take over defensively, and would instantly improve the Pistons defensively. It would also put Smith closer to the hoop on offense which would hopefully limit the number of outside shots he would be getting up every night.

The second option is to cut bait. The Pistons could very well decide that they would much rather have a younger core of Drummond and Monroe down low, and try to move Smith. While he is a very talented player, moving Smith would be a major headache due to the 4 year 54 million dollar deal he just signed that still has three years left. Salary cap flexibility is everything in the NBA, and that would be a monster deal to take on. Many teams simply won’t have the cap space, but there would definitely be interested suitors. Whenever you can possibly get a player of Smith’s caliber at a reduced price teams seem to pop out of the woodwork. A deal would prove tough to hammer out, but is certainly an option.

Whatever happens, Josh Smith will need to get back to work next season. This past year was no doubt a humbling experience for the one time budding superstar. No matter what position, or what team Smith plays for next season, he needs to show he has the desire to be a great player in this league again. Smith needs to prove to whatever team is paying him that he is worth the huge checks that are cutting him. Hopefully he comes in motivated, and ready to put last season’s disaster behind him.

Tags: Andre Drummond, Basketball, Detroit, Detroit Pistons, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, NBA

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