Excitement and expectations for the Detroit Pistons’ season went through the roof when the team signed Josh Smith to a four-year, $54 million contract this past offseason.
On paper, Smith has been a key contributor to the success of the Atlanta Hawks since they made him the 17th overall pick in 2004. In nine seasons with the Hawks, Smith averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. Last season, he was the only player in the NBA among the top 40 in averages of points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, per game. The 6-foot 9-forward dominated the highlight reel due to his exceptional athleticism on both ends of the court, which may be the reason Pistons’ fans became increasingly excited for this season.
Questions first arose concerning Smith’s play when he was benched by Maurice Cheeks, just seven games into his Pistons’ career. In 20 games this season, Detroit has been provided with an array of reasons why the Hawks did not even offer him a contract to stay with the team.
The Pistons’ starting small forward has scored at least 20 points in just three games this season, averaging 14 points per game, and shooting 38.9% from the floor. Along with a career-low in shooting percent, he is taking one-third of his shots from behind the 3-point line, making just 27.4% of theses attempts. The 2009-10 season was the season he experienced the best shooting percentage of his career. In 81 games that season Smith shot 50.5% from the floor, and only attempted seven 3-point shots.
Some may argue that this increase in attempts from behind the arc is due to a lack of Smith’s post-up opportunities when Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are on the floor. Regardless of the reasoning, he should find a spot to score from inside of the 3-point line. Even with his previous success of 3-point shooting, he does not have the level of ability necessary to be attempting five per game.
Combining steals and blocks, Smith averages more than three per game. However, these statistics paint a false picture of his actual play on the defensive end of the floor. Even though he has the potential to be an outstanding defensive player, he seems very apathetic and displays laziness at times.
Aside from the looming questions about his play on the court, Smith’s contract put the Pistons over the salary cap this year. With Monroe and Rodney Stuckey in the last year of their contracts, Joe Dumars will likely have to decide which player, if either, the organization will re-sign next summer. Due to the amount of available money and the fact that he is currently starting at Smith’s natural position, all fingers are pointing towards Monroe as being the one who is let go.
Despite the ups and downs of the roller coaster experience that Josh Smith brings to a team, the Pistons are currently in 5th place in the Eastern Conference. Smith needs to change his attitude and approach to the game or Detroit may need a new rotational approach, decreasing the time he plays with Drummond and Monroe simultaneously.
Whatever the answer may be, the Pistons better figure it out quickly. If they fail to do so, they will start to fall in the standings of their top-heavy conference.
Read more Pistons rumors, news and opinion on our Detroit Pistons page