Looking at rosters of the Eastern Conference teams before the 2013-14 NBA season began, many saw the Detroit Pistons returning to relevance this season. Strangely enough, these predictions not only failed to come true, but they almost look silly in light of a 28-49 season so far. And with just 15 games left in the year, Detroit isn’t turning things around.
The blame game has of course been going on for the past several weeks. After all, nobody is going to let a team with Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe Rodney Stuckey and Andre Drummond perform this badly in the middling East without some repercussions. The repercussions have already come and gone for former head coach Maurice Cheeks, who was fired almost two months ago.
This failed to turn the team around, so GM Joe Dumars has become the next popular target. Dumars has no doubt done a good job of bringing talented players to the Motor City. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to think about how these pieces would fit together. Both Drummond and Monroe are excellent big man, just not when they’re trying to occupy the same space. Then there’s Josh Smith, who’s been forced to play more small forward than ever before due to the logjam down low. And the end result: he’s taken 265 three-pointers and hit just 25.6% of them.
Many wonder if Dumars will be back next season, seeing as how the roster that he assembled has done so poorly. Rumors are that owner Tom Gores has taken control of the team and is merely keeping Dumars around because he’s a beloved name in the franchise.
Of course, Dumars isn’t the only guy who’s been bashed continually throughout this dismal season. Smith and his outside shooting have been referenced many times as to why Detroit is struggling. And Smith is tired of others pointing fingers at him, which is why he told Detroit News the following:
I am an easy target to be able to blame. I’m very outspoken. I’m an emotional player. I can easily be a target night in and out…If you played the game, if you know X’s and O’s, it’s not all my fault. I’m not gonna say I’m perfect, by far, but I’m not the guy you can point the finger at. I’m a firm believer in you point one finger at one person, point three back at yourself.
When you sign a $54 million contract like Smith did last summer, people start looking at you first when things go wrong. The same can be said of point guard Brandon Jennings, who signed a fairly large three-year, $24 million contract. From a ball-handling and passing aspect, Jennings has been better than ever, averaging 7.7 APG against 2.6 turnovers. However, his shooting has been cringeworthy since he’s hit just 37.6% from the field. Jennings has never been a great shooter, which his 39.1% career field goal percentages suggests. But then again, he’s gotten more open looks than ever before thanks to opponents doubling down in the paint.
But as everybody knows, basketball is a team effort and it’s not just Jennings and Smith’s shooting that has led to losses. They give up 102.6 PPG on defense (27th in the NBA) and opponents hit 46.6% of their shots (29th). Additionally, the Pistons rank dead last in both three-point shooting (30.9%) and free throw percentage (66.7%). Finally, this team is about as far from clutch as you can get since they rank last in fourth-quarter points scored (22.3) and allow opponents to score 25.5 fourth-quarter points (23rd).
Obviously things aren’t working in Detroit and there are going to be some changes this summer. Popular speculation is that Dumars will finally be canned in the offseason. There’s also been talk about trading either Drummond or Monroe to free up the paint so that Smith can move back to his natural power forward position. The latter move would certainly make sense because the Pistons don’t need two talented guys playing the same position. In any case, it’ll definitely be a busy offseason in Detroit.