On Monday morning, all Detroit Pistons received terrific news that the Pistons had waived F Josh Smith. New Pistons coach/president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy had announced the move and it was one the Pistons had to make.
Last season, former GM Joe Dumars, in a desperate move to try and make the playoffs, signed Smith to a 4-year $54 million deal. While Smith is a very talented player, he came with some baggage like not being able to co-exist with other teammates or coaches and he had this issue where he thought he was a 3-point shooter. The fact is, Smith is not a good 3-point shooter and when you pair him up with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in your frontcourt, you aren’t going to have any spacing, because none of those guys can shoot outside the paint. It was a move that was doomed to fail from the start.
His first year with the Pistons was tumultuous and it was just downright awful. Smith shot a career low 41.9% and an awful 26.4% from deep on an alarming 265 3-point attempts. The Smith-Monroe-Drummond triumvirate clearly wasn’t working as they had a hard time defending the perimeter and couldn’t make any shots from the perimeter themselves. In a season where expectations were playoffs of bust, the Pistons busted and this Smith signing combined with the trade for Brandon Jennings cost Dumars his job.
Fast forward to this season. In came Van Gundy as he tried to move Monroe to the bench and slide Smith back to his natural position at the 4. This didn’t work out either as Smith has continued to struggle, currently averaging only 13.1 points and shooting new career lows of 39.1% and 24.3% from deep.
When Van Gundy realized that Smith just didn’t fit, he tried to trade him. When he was out on the market, the only team interested was the Sacramento Kings – the same team who wanted Smith in the summer. But Van Gundy didn’t like what they were offering. Also, in any trade offer, he would’ve had to give up a 1st round pick just like Dumars had to do when he traded Ben Gordon to the then-Charlotte Bobcats a few years ago. Van Gundy didn’t want to repeat the same mistake, so he cut his losses and just released Smith. The Pistons will use the stretch provision to pay for Smith’s contract and will pay him $5.4 million per year until 2020.
This move is the first step in the right direction for the Pistons. This team was going nowhere and going nowhere fast with a few bad pieces. Van Gundy has come in here and he has done his best trying to clean up the mess that Dumars left behind and so far he’s done a solid job. Releasing Smith was a move that had to be made, it gives the Pistons a better chance to re-sign Monroe, and it signals the beginning of another rebuild. Solid pieces are already in place with Drummond, Monroe, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who has played pretty well, but nobody has noticed due to the horrible play of Smith and Jennings).
Josh Smith's PER through the years. pic.twitter.com/aVJr9hoiqF
— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) December 22, 2014
Now the big thing here is, Van Gundy needs to rebuild the right way and stay patient with everything. Dumars’ big mistake was he went for the quick fix signings. First it was Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in the summer of 2009 and then 2 summers ago it was Smith and Jennings. Van Gundy needs to just let these younger guys develop, like he said he would in a statement earlier today, and let them grow. A core of Drummond, Monroe, Caldwell-Pope, Spencer Dinwiddie, and possibly an Emmanuel Mudiay or Stanley Johnson in this year’s draft looks very intriguing for years to come.
Rejoice Pistons fans, this is the first step in the right direction. Now, we just have to hope that there isn’t any bumps in the road the rest of the way.