Detroit has one of the NBA’s more exciting young rosters, highlighted by big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The two have both shown excellent play-making ability over the last handful of seasons, thanks to excellent low-post play and, in Drummond’s case, otherworldly athleticism.
Pairing the two bruising bigs with space-clearing shooters would, on paper at least, make the most sense for the young Pistons to jump over the hump and become a force in the East. But its much more difficult to see Joe Dumars’ vision after his Pistons signed Josh Smith for four years and $56 million, per ESPN.
Make no mistake: Smith is a very solid player, a year removed from a great 19-point, nine-rebound season. But he hardly fills a void in Detroit. It’s one thing for a team to draft for talent over need, but in the high-risk, high-reward free agency game, stockpiling big men like Detroit seems to be doing doesn’t make sense. And even if his position on the floor is a bit ambiguous – Detroit plans on starting him at the three, alongside Monroe and Drummond – the fact that he can be a starting NBA small forward doesn’t mean that he should be a starting NBA small forward. Unless Smith improves both his ball-handling and his shooting in the two and a half months between now and training camp, defenses will have a field day daring Smith to shoot.
In all likelihood, the Josh Smith experiment will go down as a moment when Detroit – for whatever reason – couldn’t muster up some patience and wait for a more logical candidate to come in an return their team to prominence. But, just as we have to give Detroit a side-eyed stare, we have to call into question Smith’s desire to win. Houston made it clear that they wanted Smith after the Dwight Howard domino fell. How far those talks actually got, we’ll never know. But he wouldn’t have received the $13 million over four years. That seems certain.
I really hate when writers call the desires of professional athletes into questions – who the hell am I to judge a man like Smith, a man I’ve never met? – but it’s hard not to in such situations. From the outside looking in, this looks like as much of a money grab for Smith as a bone-headed move from Detroit. Coming into Saturday, both parties had a lot of potential and, under the right circumstances, reason to believe greatness was on the horizon. Joining forces should ultimately prove to be several unfortunate steps in the wrong direction.