The Problem with the Detroit Pistons: Two Robins, No Batman

Certain things just don’t go together: raisins and chocolate, horror movies and children, and whatever line-up the Pistons have put on the court this season. Normally, we realize the mistake we’ve made with these combinations and move on. I’m still waiting on Raisinets to get with the program, but that’s beside the point.

Whatever type of hodge podge the Detroit Pistons have tried to concoct has left a sour taste in fan’s mouths. Throwing two eerily similar ingredients like Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith onto the same plate along with god knows what else has brought the Pistons to 3-18: just a game ahead of the formally 0-17 Philadelphia 76ers, and reeling on a 12-game losing streak.  It’s hard to say what Joe Dumars was doing before new GM Jeff Bower came on board, but the former GM left him with a lot of work to be done. Much of which could entail clearing the plate Dumars left for him.

While the expectations weren’t sky high for the duo of Jennings and Smith, not many saw them as bottom feeders. The Pistons were thought to be a team that could compete and possibly sneak into the playoffs in the mediocre Eastern conference, a feat that often requires only 40 wins. Add in Greg Monroe and a couple of high draft picks, and reaching 40 wins didn’t seem like a stretch.  But instead of gearing up for the post season, the Pistons will likely be making summer vacation plans at the All-Star break for the second straight year.

Led by two B-minus caliber stars (if you can call them that), the Pistons are finally starting to realize that their big acquisitions from last year are redundant.  The first is Brandon Jennings, a man who is essentially tied for second in field goal attempts per game, but shoots it at under 40-percent. Jennings has consistently shot at this sub-par percentage, barring one spectacular season when he skyrocketed to 42-percent. The reason the duo of Jennings and Smith isn’t working out is the same reason Jennings didn’t work out with scorer Monta Ellis in Milwaukee: it’s too much of the same thing. Detroit can’t balance out an inefficient scorer who takes questionable shots when the other staple of its team is one in the same.

While he makes for a good highlight reel, Josh Smith has also underwhelmed since he came to Detroit. At the end of his tenure in Atlanta, Smith was playing some of the best basketball of his career, and many felt he had been an All-Star snub. Now, Smith’s field goal percentage is the worst it’s ever been as is his free throw percentage has taken a dip to 48-percent.  Classic J-Smoove was on full display in his last outing, but despite a solid game, he left much to be desired on a launched three-pointer with the Pistons down two with five seconds left. As you might imagine, the 28-percent three-pointer shooter was well off the mark.

To go along with this disastrous duo is second-year man Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who, despite some flashes, also shoots the ball 12 times a game at 37-percent: yet another major reason why the Pistons shoot a league worst .407 from the field. To add to the shooting woes, the Pistons find themselves in the bottom third of made free throws despite shooting the 13th-most free throws in the league. I could go on and on about the train wreck of a show that’s put on at the Palace of Auburn Hills, but you get the point. The Pistons problems stem not from a lack of chemistry, but from a lack of talent as well.

But not all hope is lost just yet. While the Pistons likely won’t leap up in the standings when led by two underwhelming players (good Robins, horrible Batmans) there is some life on this roster.  Stan Van Gundy is still a very good coach who has proven he can win, not to mention the young talent on this team. Despite some of his struggles, Caldwell-Pope has been thrust into a new role every game, some of which has excelled in, others where he has not. Andre Drummond is averaging a double-double with just shy of two blocks per game, and Greg Monroe is averaging nearly a double-double as well.

The Pistons are in a tough spot, especially with Jennings and Smith still with one and two years in their respective contracts.  Neither are bad players– many teams would gladly take them– but they aren’t stars or leaders, especially not together.  With some young talent developing fast and what will likely be a high pick in next year’s draft, it’s time for the Pistons to start fresh. Moves and trades fail all the time, but teams need to be smart enough to realize they failed. Hopefully the Pistons, see that sooner rather than later.

Follow David on Twitter @Dshug24 and listen to him on “The Friday Morning Blitz” Fridays from 10-11 am