Practically no one likes Detroit’s Josh Smith signing.
The reasons are clear: Smith plays best when he’s playing power forward or center, the same positions the Piston’s two best players play. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe need time on the court, not to mention space to operate. Adding Smith, who isn’t much of a shooter, provides neither.
Here’s how friend of the program, ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh put it:
“As a non-glamour market, the Pistons often find themselves egregiously overpaying free agents (see: Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva). Better to let Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond blossom than have Smith poison the frontcourt with horrible shots.”
Though Handsome Tom implies the Pistons overpaid for Smith, the real issue is that they overpaid for what they will get. On the right team, Smith’s defense, athleticism and all around game can be worth $14 million per year.
Which brings me to my defense for this signing.
As Haberstroh points out, no one, besides Chauncey Billups, I guess, wants to go to Detroit, a city whose perch on the Detroit River does not exactly recall South Beach, Miami. This means the Pistons often overpay for talent. But the difference is that, while there is no universe in which Ben Gordon is worth $12 million, there are multiple teams, right here on Earth, which could benefit from Smith at his current price tag. The Pistons may have just acquired a valuable asset through free agency, something everyone acknowledges is very tough for them to do!
That being the case, it is possible that Detroit can both:
- Extract value from this signing now, when Smith is their best two-way player
- Move him and his contract for assets that are a better fit with their young stars in the future
There are 96 minutes every game for the center and power forward position. The Pistons can play each of their front court studs at one of those positions for 30+ minutes every game without ever playing all three together and be much better than they were last season. The last three playoff spots in the East are up for grabs. They could snag one!
Then, when the time is right, they can turn Smith (who is only 27) into a player who fits unforeseen future needs.
There are pit falls here, of course. If the Pistons play Smith extensively with Drummond and Monroe, the whole thing could be a disaster.
But I’ve sort of talked myself into this one.