It’s time to take a look at all the new players on this Pistons roster. I’ll tell you one thing it’s going to be incredibly exciting, but also worrying. Detroit has a heck of a lot of talent, new hope but one thing keeps haunting me and that is…Josh Smith is not that good. I’ll get to that, but first let me run down the excitement with what seems will be our starting lineup in no particular order:
Greg Monroe – Clearly Moose is our best player right now. He can operate out of the post he has interior passing, he can play the pick and roll, he can play inside out, he has an incredible basketball IQ, his only drawback is below average foot speed. Moose is going to be better this year than last year, and is already a leader of this team. I sometimes hear about people who want to trade Moose and I just don’t get it.
Andre Drummond – Comparisons for his ceiling are now, Shaq, Howard, Robinson. He’s an incredible athlete. There are no more concerns about his motor, his attitude, his game. All the reasons he dropped down to us in the draft are nothing now. Other teams have only regrets that they passed on the most exciting young center in the NBA. His game is not polished, and it will take years of work for him to get where he needs to go. But he can already do what he needs to do for us, finish at the rim, defend, and block. If you want to find a single word that describes the difference between perhaps the biggest bust in NBA history . . . Darko over Bosh, Melo and Wade and this amazing pick of Dre falling to us, that difference is soft hands. Darko was never going to make it in the NBA. It’s not his fault; he just does not have the hands for it. Dre on the other hand, is a freak of nature, great strength, agility and hands that the never drop the rock. There was a mistake that Dumars made selecting Darko and that was insufficient scouting. Ever since then, Dumars has been on top of his game, sure he has made some mistakes, like Brandon Knight or Daye, but they were never again a bad pick like Darko merely because he didn’t know the player. Dumars knew more than I think anyone else what Dre’s potential is when he picked him.
Chauncey Billups – Nothing pleases me more than to see Billups suit up again in the red white & blue. He will be forced into a position he is not very pleased with, a shooting guard. He would rather, I think come off the bench and lead the second unit as the point guard. We’ll see as the season goes where he ends up. Mo Cheeks wants to reward vets by starting them, and making rooks earn their position.
Brandon Jennings – the other Brandon. This is a point guard with only one decent arm, the left, but he is able to take care of the rock, work the pick and roll, and be a more complete player than Brandon Knight could be with both hands. I have come around to Jennings’ game, he is just the kind of player that we need to fit in along with our towers. One thing that will be there, with Jennings at the helm that might not be immediately obvious is that we will be able to take care of the rock. For the past few years, we have been a turnover prone team, but now with Jennings as our point guard, we will find it easier to score, easier to defend, and not be constantly chasing the other team in transition. Turnovers makes everything about basketball difficult, and with our new Brandon, it will all get a lot easier. No matter how many times I watched that commercial with Brandon Knight dribbling it didn’t make his handle any better.
Jennings has a decent handle.
Josh Smith – I look at Smith and I am forced to remember what Joe has done with other free agent signings. Allen Iverson (yeah not a real free agent but I’m including it anyway) Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and now Josh Smith. Each time it’s the same problem. These are not bad players, the problem is that Dumars gets a bit of money in his pocket, it burns a hole in it and he has to spend it all. Ben Gordon would have been a great shooting guard off the bench at $6 million a year. Instead his salary was $12 million. Charlie V is a decent stretch 4 who can shoot the 3 with a very quick release, not as accurate as a shooting guard, but able to stretch the defense, and has a drawback of no defense. He would have been a great pick up at $4 million a year, instead we have him at $8 million. Allen Iverson, well I think everyone in Detroit can agree he’s poison. If you are from Philly you can argue how he’s one of the greatest of all time, but if you are from Michigan, well, he was horrible here.
And now Josh Smith $14 million for four years.
He’s a good player, but why does Joe have to overpay like this? Josh Smith does not fit well as a small forward in our team. This is the position where he has had the least success in his career, shooting ill-advised jumpers and what is more, with Moose and Dre on the floor, we will want him to shoot the three to stretch the defense, a shot that he falls in love with too easily. Yes he is a great defender, he gives us an answer to Melo or LeBron, but he creates problems for us on offense. Moose will be forced to shoot that jumper that he hasn’t been able to make last year, while Smith at small forward will want to use the mismatch to post up, but how can you post up with the paint clogged? You look at our pre-season games you see a lot of problems scoring, Josh is just not a good enough player to justify his salary, and Mo is pretty much forced to start him. Everything about the Josh Smith acquisition makes me worry. Spacing problems, poor shot selection, and our highest paid player playing out of position. If only we had him with less money, then we could bring him off the bench play him at a more natural power forward but you can’t do that when you pay so much.
Tony Mitchell is going to be good later, but for now he’s not NBA ready. Peyton Siva will be ready sometime later this year, but you can see he is just not used to the NBA athletes yet. Josh “Jorts” Harrellson was a cheap great pickup by Joe, though he hasn’t played enough minutes for us in pre-season what I have seen looks good. Gigi Datome, please heal up they will need your 3 point shooting. Datome was a great acquisition by Dumars. Singler, and Jerebko are going to thrive under Mo Cheeks you can tell he likes players who play hard on both the offense and defense and is willing to let them shoot themselves out of any slumps. KCP another great pick by Joe Dumars. I was a homer for Trey Burke for the longest time, but the more I see of KCP the more I like him, he can shoot, defend, has good size, and will be forced to earn his way into the starting lineup. Bynum, we are going to need him as a spare point guard, even though it seems like we have a lot of point guards after last year (when it seemed like we had none). Even in the preseason Bynum has played a lot of minutes because of injuries. Oh and Charlie Villanueva, I think he will be warming the bench a lot. Something about not playing any defense has rubbed our new coach the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong I like Charlie V, but he can’t just play one side of the floor. Stuckey I have always liked his game, but he is not a good fit because he can’t shoot jump shots. I hope he finds a good team somewhere else to play for, and put his “Hey” to good use.
This team should make the playoffs based on the talent of two of our bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond and the fact that they have a giant talent upgrade through the entire lineup. Did I forget to mention the fact the they have Rasheed Wallace as player development coach on the bench to help them?
Joe Dumars has created an exciting team, full of new players, talent, athleticism, high basketball IQ, and veteran leadership. There is just one piece that worries me, how is Josh Smith going to fit in.