3-on-3: Chewing over Josh Smith's return to Atlanta

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.

1. Josh Smith made his triumphant return home to Atlanta on Wednesday and the results were, um, probably not as he’d imagined. What did you think of his performance? 

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Same Josh Smith as always. The heavily pushed narrative said Smith — who took 15 shots, more than anyone on either team besides Brandon Jennings — tried to do too much while returning to his hometown. I don’t buy that. He’s averaging 15 shots per game for the season. This is just who he is.

Jameson Draper, PistonPowered: It was really, really bad. I tweeted out his shot chart and people generally agreed with me. He was 5-of-15 from the field and didn’t make any baskets outside of the paint. Recently, Smith has been taking less shots and making more, which has been nice to see. He went back to his old ways against the Hawks, though, and that was a frustrating game.

Bo Churney, HawksHoop: It was about as bad as I’ve seen Smoove play in the last few years. It wasn’t just his jump-shooting; even his defense seemed off from his remarkable exploits in Atlanta. His passing was still there, but that was about his only bright spot for the game.

2. While his Pistons’ tenure is just 11 games old, what is the one area that Smith must improve upon in order for this team to right the ship?

Dan Feldman: Defend the perimeter. Smith is an excellent athlete for a big man, but at small forward, his foot speed is so-so at best. I don’t know how much he can improve that in-season, but it appears to be a major reason the Pistons’ defense is often left scrambling.

Jameson Draper: He must try to be more efficient. He’s providing some of the only good defense on the team, he’s passing, he’s rebounding, he’s blocking shots… he’s just not shooting at an efficient rate. His true shooting rate is 49.7 percent this year, which is really bad. If he can chuck less, find better shots and generally shoot less, he’ll be the best player on this team and it won’t be very close.

Bo Churney: Josh — or someone in that frontcourt — is going to have to learn to make a shot outside of eight feet. If Smoove can actually start hit threes at a 33% clip (a mark he made a few years ago), then that will actually help the awkward spacing issues the Pistons have on offense.

3. Luckily (or unluckily), Smith will get a second shot at his former mates in Detroit tonight. Can we expect a more composed version this time around?

Dan Feldman: I’ll point to this quote from Smith after he scored 11 points on 15 shots against the Hawks on Wednesday. Via Bo Churney at ESPN:

“I was good,” Smith said, reflecting on his game. “Took shots that I normally take. They just weren’t able to drop tonight.”

How many games in his nine-year career have left Smith saying the same thing? Has he ever considered the shots he normally takes aren’t the shots he should normally take? Smith is who he is, a trait I find both endearing and infuriating.

Jameson Draper: I would say so. I mean, we know he’s taken a LOT of heat for his performance in Atlanta on Wednesday, there’s no reason to think he should improve on that. On the flip side, though, I would not be shocked if he didn’t play well tonight, because he’s Josh Smith, and that’s something he would do.

Bo Churney: I think he’ll be better. The fans can sometimes get in Smoove’s head, and the Atlanta faithful screaming at him to “SHOOOOTTT!!!” probably threw him off some. He may not improve by much, but I highly doubt he goes 5-for-15 from the floor again.


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