I know, I know. As the season grows older and the Detroit Pistons begin to take form, many of the questions that surrounded the team may have begun to take shape: Can Brandon Jennings run the offense? Yes, he’s averaging 7.6 assists-per-game, well above his career average and easily the season average of his career. Will Andre Drummond thrive as a starter? He’s in the top-five for rebounds-per-game, field goal percentage, and is posting a 23.02 PER (Player Efficiency Rating). You tell me. Yet, despite those positives, two questions remain unanswered: how will the “BIG three” work together? Will Joe Dumars have to choose between Josh Smith or Greg Monroe? I honestly didn’t want to put in my two cents on this, but Smith’s monster game (31 points, 4 assists, 7 rebounds) against Portland forced me to.
Why everyone seems to be making such a big deal about the Smith-Monroe debate is beyond me. Here are the facts: Smith is locked up for four years at about $54 million, Monroe is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Smith has seen playoff action six times and has been the sole face-of-a-franchise for the Atlanta Hawks. Greg Monroe has not. Josh Smith’s career body of work is all-star caliber, and Greg Monroe has never even been considered for the team.
I know it sounds like I’m bashing Greg Monroe, but that’s not my intention. He’s a proven post-scorer and passer, and had he have played for a more mainstream team, would probably have been considered for an all-star team by now. But right now, Smith is clearly the guy Dumars has got to keep. The future of this team lies in Andre Drummond, that much is clear, and Smith’s defensive abilities coupled with his ability to stretch the floor compliment Drummond’s abilities in ways that Monroe’s strengths simply do not.
Despite all that, Monroe will fetch more value on the trade market than Smith will. Monroe’s potential for improvement remains, while Smith is as good as he’s going to get. Monroe isn’t a max-level contract player, but could still fetch a high price on the block. Monroe, combined with Villanueva’s and even Stuckey’s expiring contracts could potentially bring in a few pieces that bring balance to the Detroit Piston’s lineup.
Time will only tell what happens; However, Dumars and the Pistons are in a position to do what they haven’t been in a position to do in years: put together a winning squad.