Josh Smith’s first season in Detroit was less than spectacular.
With three years remaining on Smith’s contract, front office team Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower must decide whether or not to keep or shop Smith. Given his poor performance last season and the size of his contract, it is unlikely the duo will be able to unload Smith even if they wanted to.
More importantly, unloading new talent in the city too soon is exactly the reason why Van Gundy is president of the organization. Joe Dumars resigned as president after years of poor and rash decisions caught up with him. Coaches like Maurice Cheeks never entirely got their fair chance in Detroit and Dumars traded away new talent like Brandon Knight too soon in hopes of short-term success.
Even unloading bad signings bit Dumars where it counted — ask any Detroit fan how they felt about trading Ben Gordon after watching the lottery.
Van Gundy’s approach to basketball is more nuanced with patience. The incoming, mustachioed man of destiny has publicly defended Smith, stating he was not the sole reason for the team’s failure last season. Smith himself has remarked in the past that it was due to a losing culture in Detroit, resulting in players not giving their all. Last season was his first season since 2006 that the team did not make the playoffs.
All the while, Van Gundy has been reluctant to make any final statements on Smith’s future with the organization. Fellow big man Greg Monroe’s future with the team is more uncertain due to his free agency. Van Gundy has repeatedly stated that the team functions better with two of the three big men on the floor at once. He has also heavily hinted that he will do what he can in order to bring Monroe back to Detroit for the 2015 season.
Andre Drummond is the base of the pyramid with Smith most likely aiding on defense, while Monroe helps out with offense. Quick, defensive turnarounds have happened with something as simple as a coaching change. Just ask Charlotte.
As far as offense goes, depending on either Monroe or Smith for consistent productivity is far from ideal. Smith’s all-time low shooting percentage in 10 seasons is proof to that. Monroe’s precarious situation just complicates matters.
On the flipside, Smith’s veteran status shows he is able to find the basket. In Smith’s first game in Detroit, Smith had a .667 field goal percentage in 40 minutes on the floor. Other times, he’s been a complete brick machine, including making zero baskets in 20 minutes against his old team. Against the Bulls he pulled off a .182 percentage in 35 minutes. The list goes on.
These numbers are awful, yet Smith is not entirely to blame here, and Van Gundy is right about that. A coach is supposed to have confidence in his players and in his team. At a certain point, though, he has to know when enough is enough and change tactics.
Van Gundy has the sense to know that stars must sit on the bench occasionally. This is why his plan has weight over his team’s shortcomings. In this regard, Van Gundy should try to salvage Smith’s tenure in Detroit.
Personnel changes probably will not work in the Pistons’ favor anyway since they do not have much to offer. Detroit does not even have a first round draft pick to give up. Dumars took care of that.
Colin Jackson is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.