Josh Smith and the Detroit Pistons grabbed the league’s attention when they snapped the Indiana Pacers’ winning streak on Monday in Indiana. Detroit held that attention when, two nights later, they overcame a 20 point deficit in Boston to stun the Celtics in a 107-106 victory. The league then stopped paying attention after the Pistons (in all-too-familiar fashion) blew a 20 point lead in a loss to Charlotte.
And the Pistons may have returned, in the eye of the masses, to nothing more than an afterthought once more after Dwight Howard showed Andre Drummond what Drummond could one day look like, in a 114-97 victory. Despite the up-and-down week in the win/loss column, the Detroit Pistons showed progress in several major areas; most importantly perhaps, the improvement of Josh Smith.
But how has he improved? Yes, Smith’s numbers are down pretty much across the board from last year, but it’s hard to say that this was unexpected, especially in the rebounding aspect, when he has to compete with Greg Monroe and Drummond for floor space. However, the assumption was that, upon his arrival, Smith would become the primary scoring option for the Pistons across the floor. Despite that, he was averaging fewer than 14 points per game for a long stretch. Recently, however, Smith has seemingly regained his scoring touch, starting with a 31 point performance in Portland last week. He has scored at least 18 in the four contests since.
Why the sudden upswing? Smoove has quit taking so many misguided three’s and started doing his work inside the paint. As a natural power forward, Smith is going to operate much more efficiently inside as opposed to outside, and his career body of work supports that. Once he started stretching the floor as a backup plan as opposed to a primary scoring option, his numbers started looking more like the Josh Smith’s numbers that led Atlanta for the past six years.
We all knew that this season would take time for the big three to properly jell and find their roles within the offense and defense. Andre Drummond knows his job. Brandon Jennings is evolving more into a playmaker. Josh Smith is starting to transform his game into a combo power-small forward. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may become a fantastic three-and-D guy this season. Greg Monroe, however, needs to start playing like an All-Star again, or he may be looking for a role on a new team sooner rather than later.
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