1. How do you grade the Pistons’ signing of Josh Smith?
Dan Feldman: B-. Beyond Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, two players the Pistons had zero chance of landing, Josh Smith was the best free agent this offseason. Unfortunately – in part because he’s not an ideal fit with Greg Monroe and And Drummond – Smith won’t necessarily lift the Pistons to the playoffs. For a team that will lose its first-round pick with even minor improvements, that’s a big problem. Good for the Pistons for getting Smith, and watching them next season will be more enjoyable because of this signing. I’m just not convinced it advances the ultimate goal of contending for a championship.
Patrick Hayes: A. Are there fit questions? Are there cost questions? Absolutely. But the bottom line is, Smith was one of the top fourish free agents on the market. Joe Dumars did something many observers thought he couldn’t – entice a top-tier free agent to sign in Detroit. How Smith fits can be worked out later, but the Pistons, simply, need more good players, and Smith is a really good player.
Brady Fredericksen: B+. Does adding Josh Smith make the Pistons better? Yeah. Does Smith help alleviate two of the last season’s biggest weaknesses in rebounding and defense? Yes, it does. Dan’s outlined it before, but Smith’s positives outweigh some of the negatives like iffy shooting or concerns as a wing player. Whether or not you would have signed Smith, Joe Dumars almost had to. He had to either make a splash to improve the team or stand pat and see his time in Detroit likely end next summer. What else should he have done?
2. Can a Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond front court work?
Dan Feldman: Yes, but it will be difficult. Maurice Cheeks will need to devise a defense that switches on pick-and-rolls and covers for Monroe. Offensively, it will be even more challenging. Smith will be in position to take a lot of long 2s, but those are terrible shots for him. Smith and Monroe pass well, and Smith and Drummond cut well, so there are some opportunities for creative solutions. Cheeks will really be earning his paycheck trying to make this work.
Patrick Hayes: Situationally, yes, at least defensively. Smith defends well enough to guard small forwards effectively. Offensively will certainly be a question. Smith playing heavy minutes at the small forward could encourage him to do the one thing – shoot long 2s – that is the obvious weak spot in his game. One thing he will bring offensively is good passing — as J.M. Poulard pointed out on Twitter, a high-low game featuring Smith and Monroe as high-post passers will be intriguing. Smith will also get plenty of minutes up front. Monroe and Drummond aren’t going to play 48 minutes each, so he could play next to Monroe or Drummond quite a bit as well.
Brady Fredericksen: In stretches. For a team that REALLY struggled from 3-point range last season, adding Smith isn’t going to solve any spacing issues. I can see where the Smith’s strengths compliment Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, and I can envision lineups where Smith is really productive with either guy, but does that mean you signed a $14 million third big man? Or does that mean Monroe and/or Drummond will lose minutes now? It can work, but this product isn’t finished, yet.
3. Will the Pistons make the playoffs next season?
Dan Feldman: Probably not. The Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Nets and Knicks seem like safe bets. I’d put the Wizards, who played well once John Wall returned last season and should get only better next season, and Hawks in the next tier. After that, the Pistons, Celtics, Bucks, Raptors and Cavaliers are in the mix. So, that’s five teams vying for one spot. It’s easy to assess Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and Cleveland from afar and say those teams have flaws, but their fans are doing the same about the Pistons. A one-in-five shot undersells the Pistons, because they might be better than Washington and/or Atlanta. The Pistons could also pass a top-five team or fall behind the 76ers, Bobcats and/or Magic, but the odds of either probably about cancel out. Let’s call this 35 to 40 percent.
Patrick Hayes: If they find a reasonably productive point guard, then yes. That could come via free agency (though with Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack and Darren Collison now off the market, those second-tier point guard options are quickly disappearing), that could come through a re-signed Will Bynum (who is actually a great fit for a lineup that includes Smith and Drummond), that could come through Brandon Knight making some miraculous leap forward with his consistency, passing and ability to take care of the ball, it could come from Rodney Stuckey being rejuvenated by playing for his next contract and having a coach who, for some reason, really believes in him … OK, now I’m just getting silly. But you get the point. The Pistons have more talent than last year, a few playoff teams in the East lost significant pieces and, with most bottom-feeding teams already in tank-mode for the 2014 NBA Draft, the Pistons will be a decent bet to make the playoffs in the 6-8 seed range if they can get decent production from any point guard they happen to find.
Brady Fredericksen: Maybe. They’ve got other needs – ahem, point guard – they need to explore, but after the Eastern Conference’s top five teams — Miami, Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York — the last three playoff spots are wide open for the Pistons’ taking. I’m concerned the Pistons appear to be building a team on size during a time when the rest of the NBA is following the Heat’s lead and building around the small-ball style of play.