FINALLY the most exciting season to be a Pistons fan…the off-season! Last off-season, I admit, I completely drank the Kool-Aid. Signing of Josh Smith? Awesome. Rotate him in as a 3 and 4 and we got a dominant front court. Brandon Jennings? He may be a bit of a chucker, but we can reign that in and he can be a more efficient scorer. Yikes. I figured the Pistons are at worst an 8 seed and top out as a 4 seed in an extremely top-heavy East. The result? 29-53, THE EXACT SAME RECORD AS LAST YEAR. Woof. But let’s not harp on the past, this is an extremely exciting off-season to be a Pistons fan: new GM, new coach, new radio station, and some serious roster shake-ups.
Let’s start our off-season series with perhaps the most controversial position on the team: PF. I’ve been talking all year about how much I like Smith as the starting 4 and Monroe to play left out. All of the PER and 5-man rotations indicate that Smith is far superior, but unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Towards the end of the season when the Pistons were in full tank mode to #savethepick, rumors began swirling about chemistry issues in the locker room. Greg Monroe and Brandon Jennings both noted it as an issue, and all signs are pointing towards Josh Smith, especially given his absence from the first 5 games due to ‘injury.’ In the Pistons final game against the Thunder sans Smith, they showed signs of chemistry. Drummond did what Drummond does: 22 & 13, KCP showed his offensive prowess finally with 30 points, Singler 20, and Monroe 22/7/9 in a losing effort. So the answer is simple right? Smith is the locker room cancer, Moose gets a max-deal in the off-season, not so much. I still believe that Monroe is not the answer at PF, he’s a 16 & 10 machine, but he’s too slow to shuffle his feet and guard in space which is a prerequisite for his position. Everyone loves to pile on Smith and blame him for floor spacing, bad shot selection, team chemistry, and Obamacare, but a lot of these problems pre-date Smith so I don’t think that’s necessarily fair.
So enough rambling, what is the solution?
If it were up to me, I would get rid of both Monroe and Smith. Monroe is a restricted free agent and I personally think a max deal is too much for a guy that has topped out at 16 & 10 and can’t play D. So let Monroe walk in free agency and work out a trade for Smith. Given Smith’s bloated contract and head-case persona, realistically we’re only going to get pennies on the dollar for him, but this may be a case of addition by subtraction. I think the most feasible solution is to exchange one bad contract for an equally awful contract to put the drama behind us. A trade with Denver for Danilo Gallinari makes sense since they may be looking to dump his 2 year/$24M deal and we could use his 3-point shooting (.369.) Another deal that I’m not too thrilled about that I’ve been hearing a lot is Smith for Gerald Wallace straight up. Makes sense from a money standpoint, Boston could be looking to shed Wallace’s 2 year/$20M salary.
So now with Smith and Monroe gone, what does that leave us at PF? Tony Mitchell and Jonas Jerebko, ouch.
Luckily, the Pistons have an 82.4% chance to #savethepick, and there’s a lot of intriguing options at PF in the draft. I had a dream last night, the Pistons got the 6th pick in the lottery and took Julius Randle. Sounds amazing, but it’s probably just that, a dream. ESPN’s most recent mock has them taking Noah Vonleh out of Indiana which is an interesting yet feasible choice. He’s drawn comparisons to Chris Bosh and could fill the massive void vacated by Smith and Monroe. Other possibilities: Aaron Gordon, Doug McDermott, Adreian Payne. McDermott might be a slight reach at 8 given the strength of this draft, but he could be the stretch 4 the team has been longing for. Adreian Payne is probably a reach at 8 also, but maybe they work out some sort of trade down scenario or trade up from their second round pick and nab Payne. Again, I’m a homer but I don’t care, Payne has an elite skill set that translates beautifully to the NBA. He has freakish athleticism for a man of his size. He has arms that droop down to his ankles to block shots, is great with his back to the basket, can move laterally and shuffle his feet to defend on an island, AND he shoots 40% from 3!
So in conclusion: My starting 5-4-3 for the Pistons is: Drummond-Rookie-Gallinari
So what do you think? Who do you want as the starting PF for the Pistons?