Like It or Not, Josh Smith is Detroit Pistons' Best Option at Small Forward

By Mike Klompstra
Josh Smith
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons suddenly have a plentiful front court full of more starting-caliber players than they have starting spots on their team. Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and recent free agent signee Josh Smith all play power forward or center.

As is the case with just about everything Smoove-related, his signing was met with either instant criticism or tepid optimism that something awe-inspiring could happen if the conditions were just right. Critics, and even supporters, of the move had questions immediately upon hearing the news. How can Smith, Monroe and Drummond possibly play together without limiting one another’s advantages? Would the Pistons even dare playing Smith at small forward? Is Smith actually capable of efficiently playing significant minutes at small forward? Does any of this even matter? Maybe somebody will come off the bench.

It’s pretty clear by now that coach Maurice Cheeks has no plans of bringing any of his triple towers off the bench. Whether you like it or not, Josh Smith is your starting small forward, Pistons fans. He’s the best option Detroit has to regularly play at the position for an extended period of time.

He may not be a great shooter and has yet to meet a long jumper he doesn’t like, but nobody else on the roster can best Smith in the other important categories for a small forward. Of the Pistons’ players capable of playing small forward, Smith is the greatest athlete. He’s also the quickest, best defender, and probably the best finisher. Not to mention he’s one of the best rebounders in the league.

Kyle Singler would probably be the next best option. Singler has shown a strong work ethic, professional attitude, and consistently solid production, but outside of his good shooting numbers he doesn’t quite meet the same quality standards as Smith does. Regardless, this hasn’t stopped the haters from arguing to start Singler because he’s a better shooter, and Smith hasn’t played well at small forward in the past.
























The reason I just labeled the supporters of Singler starting over Smith as haters is because the arguments they typically claim are easily debunked by statistics. Smith played a handful of minutes at small forward last season, about nine percent of the Atlanta Hawks‘ total minutes at the position, so we have a small sample size with which to compare against Singler’s numbers while playing the same position. The table on the left shows both players’ per-48 minute stats while playing small forward last season.

Looking at these numbers, it is easy to see why Smith is the best choice to start at SF. Note that Singler’s greatest perceived advantage over Smith, his shooting, doesn’t appear to be an advantage at all. In fact, the only place Singler outperforms Smith is total turnovers. However, Smith scored six more points and assisted on four more field goals per 48 minutes than Singler so it appears that Smoove’s many advantages would greatly outweigh his disadvantages

Don’t get me wrong, I think Singler is a good player, and an important piece of the Pistons’ rotation. However, he simply doesn’t stack up to Smith. By now, we know Smith will be the Pistons’ starting small forward, but whether he had been named the starter or not, it is pretty clear that he is presently Detroit’s best man for the job.

Mike Klompstra is a Detroit Pistons blogger for Follow him on Twitter @CityofKlompton, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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