The Detroit Pistons were one of the NBA’s most active teams last offseason as they attempted to rebuild their roster and make a playoff run. However, they have not found the level of success they were hoping for this season, as they are just 21-29 and sitting in 9th place in the East. The Pistons decided that firing Maurice Cheeks was a necessary step towards righting the ship, but the truth is that move doesn’t solve their problems. The Pistons’ problem is that their top free agent acquisition, Josh Smith, has not meshed in the frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
Detroit gave Smith a huge 4-year, $54 million deal this offseason, but he simply has not been effective playing large stretches at small forward, where his poor jump shooting is exposed. Smith is shooting a career low 42.0% from the field and an awful 23.0% from three despite attempting 3.6 threes per game. Smith’s 15.3 PER this season is a career low.
This is not to knock Smith’s talent. He is still a very good player, but he has to be used properly. Smith is at his best as an undersized power forward where he can use his absurd athleticism to make plays in transition and beat slower defenders off the dribble. However, with Monroe at power forward and Drummond at center, the Pistons can’t maximize Smith’s ability. With Monroe set to receive a sizable contract as a restricted free agent this offseason, the Pistons are rumored to be trying to trade Smith in order to clear space to keep Monroe.
Unfortunately, his huge contract makes Smith a very difficult commodity to move. The Pistons will find it very hard to get any significant value back in return, and making a deal that simply saves them money could torpedo their playoff chances this season. One such trade would be sending Smith to the Charlotte Bobcats for Ben Gordon. Smith would fit well next to Al Jefferson, and Michael Jordan wants to make the Bobcats a contender. The Pistons traded Gordon to the Bobcats in 2012, but he is an expiring contract now.
The Pistons could also talk to the Phoenix Suns about trading Smith for Emeka Okafor (also an expiring contract), but it’s unknown if the Suns would have any interest in such a trade. In any deal with either the Bobcats or the Suns, the Pistons would certainly like to get a young prospect or draft pick back as well. Unfortunately for them, Smith’s trade value is at an all time low right now, making it difficult to get anything of too much value. The reality of both of these trades is that Pistons get worse by making them, which is obviously not their goal since they are just outside a playoff spot.
A hypothetical deal that the Pistons would probably like to make is with Dallas Mavericks for Shawn Marion. Marion is an expiring contract, as is Dirk Nowitzki, and Mark Cuban has failed in repeated attempts to land a younger star. The Mavs would have to throw in Wayne Ellington to make contracts match, though the Pistons would probably ask for Shane Larkin. However, I’m not sure that this deal would interest the Mavericks, as Nowitzki and Smith aren’t exactly an ideal fit together. Marion would be a great fit for the Pistons, but they would certainly be fighting an uphill battle to get such a trade done. This deal pure speculation, but it’s probably close to best case scenario for the Pistons.
As you can see, trading Smith is not going to be easy. The Pistons thought they could make their oversized frontcourt work, but that simply hasn’t come to fruition. Unfortunately, if they don’t trade Smith then they run a major risk of losing Monroe, whom they are reportedly more inclined to keep. Joe Dumars put himself in a tough spot here, and it will take a really good break to get himself out of it.