The Detroit Pistons and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Josh Smith

JS

The Detroit Pistons are technically a professional basketball team, so it should come as no surprise that they have the ability to beat other professional basketball teams. However, just a few weeks ago, the Pistons winning one game, let alone seven in a row seemed implausible.

Well, I’ll let the NBA standings chart speak for itself.

Standings as of 1-8-14

Standings as of 1-8-14

Entering the season with raised expectations due to the addition of coach Stan Van Gundy, who somehow made the NBA Finals with Dwight Howard, Hedo Türkoğlu, and, a bunch of scrap metal, the Pistons had the makings of a Playoff team, especially in a weak Eastern Conference. Then, the Pistons doused out these hopes by starting 5-23, which is a level of bad that can only be found in Madison Square Garden.

The team just didn’t seem to mesh. Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond all needed the ball and the spacing on the court was nonexistent.

However, with the flick of the wrist and a deleterious spell (Harry Potter reference), Stan Van Gundy made Josh Smith disintegrate. Smith has been a serviceable frontcourt player in years past, especially on a balanced Hawks team. Nevertheless, he had become a liability for the Pistons. He hogged the ball, made dumb mistakes and took heavily-contested shots. It seemed that he was not wanted nor did he want to be there. However, he had a $26 million contract, and it was guaranteed. The reason this is all in the past tense is because Van Gundy did the improbable and just cut him from the squad. It was ballsy and outrageous but perhaps it was the right call.

Since the impromptu cutting, the Pistons are 7-0 and playing the best basketball they have all year. They have won by double digits in every game except one, and have beaten the likes of the Cavaliers, Spurs and Mavericks. Perhaps the player who has benefited the most has been Brandon Jennings.

His shot chart over the past seven games is astounding compared to that of his total career. Jennings is shooting lights out and has been given a larger role in the Pistons’ offense.

ShotChar

Jennings without Smith

ShotChar2

Jennings with Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On these charts, created through StatMuse, the darker the dot, the higher the percentage. His three-point shooting has skyrocketed with Smith gone and he has been shooting with a better outcome near the rim. This is due to Smith not clogging up the paint and Jennings having more room to operate closer to the basket.

Only three games back from the eight seed, the Pistons are coming together at the right time and, with Josh Smith gone, thriving. This team has the talent to make the postseason with Jennings, Drummond, Monroe and a decent bench, especially in the East. I think Dr. Frankenstein (“it’s Frankensteen”) said it best when he said…