This offseason Joe Dumars made a couple of big splashes in the free agent market by signing point guard Brandon Jennings (three years, $24 million) and power forward Josh Smith (four years, $54 million). This kind of reminded me of the spending binge Dumars went on when he signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva back in 2009; except the prospect of Jennings and Smith, some thought, could actually work.
Jennings is kind of like that grandmother we all have that gives us money on our birthday or Christmas — but then tells us the same stories over and over and we have to act like we like them. He’s averaging a career-high 8.3 assists so far this season; however, he is shooting a woeful 39.4 percent from the floor and 35.6 percent from 3-point range. It might not be as bad, but the kid chucks like he’s playing out at the Rucker, putting up almost 16 shots per game (six of those from 3-point range). He is getting to the line at a career high 4.4 times per game, but here comes the bad part as he is shooting a career low from the charity stripe at only 77.4 percent (the Pistons are dead last in the NBA in team free throw shooting at 66.5 percent). Take a look at Jennings’ shooting chart…
The point of the shot chart was not to ridicule Jennings — well, maybe a little bit — but to show how inept this team is at shooting from 3-point range. The Pistons only shoot 32.1 percent from 3-point distance … 32.1! They are tied for last in the NBA with that mark (with the Bulls) and are simply void of a capable 3-point threat. You might say, “Hey now Chauncey Billups can shoot the 3″ and you would be correct, but he only plays 18 minutes a night and is no longer a real factor for this team.
So, what’s the solution? It’s tough to pry away capable 3-point shooters from other teams but they could try to target one if they so desired. Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey both have expiring contracts ($8.5 million each) and could be enticing trade pieces for a team looking to free up some cap space. There are caveats, of course. They don’t need to trade for a shooting guard, because they drafted their future starting shooting guard in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope last year. So, the player would need to be able to play small forward and at least be capable of being consistent from deep. Here are a few potential targets: Martell Webster, Jeff Green, Trevor Ariza, or perhaps the most enticing, Harrison Barnes.
A trade is possible, but not likely so the change to the lineup needs to come in-house. We’ve already discussed that they don’t have capable shooters from the outside however, so the 3-point efficiency will not change but the overall offensive efficiency can. Here is a look (if you dare) at the Pistons’ team shot chart … remember green is GOOD…
The current starting lineup is Jennings, Caldwell-Pope, Smith, Monroe and Drummond. The guard positions aren’t going to be touched because those are the two young guys (Jennings is only 24 and KCP is 20) that they need to roll with and develop. While lineups including Rodney Stuckey have been more efficient offensively, the Pistons value his importance off the bench and who knows if he will be part of the long-term plan.
The problem is Josh Smith playing small forward. Many people, including myself, thought that maybe in theory this lineup could work. Jennings and KCP could hit outside shots, while Smith slashed and created havoc, all the while having Monroe and Drummond down low to clean things up. Sike. Smith playing small forward has forced him further and further from the basket allowing him to fall into his previous trap of shooting WAY too many 3-pointers once again. This season he is shooting … seriously, cover your eyes if you’re queasy … 25.4 percent from deep, which is somehow lower than his already putrid 28 percent for his career.
The only feasible resolution for this is to move Greg Monroe to the bench unit and start Kyle Singler at small forward. The lineup would be Jennings, KCP, Singler, Smith (at his natural position) and Drummond. Not only does this move Smith to the power forward spot (where hopefully he will never ever shoot a 3 again) but it adds Monroe to a bench unit that already posts 33 points a night; which is 13th in the NBA. The bench would consist of Monroe, Stuckey, Bynum and more recently Josh Harrellson.
The new lineup has only played a grant total of 50 minutes together on the court this season, however they boast an offensive rating of 102.6 while the current lineup is at 94.5. Also they have the highest assist per 48 minute totals at 27.1 for any lineup that has played 30 minutes or more so far this year, and they shoot 38.5 percent from 3-point range, which is a marked improvement over the abysmal 32.1 percent they shoot as a team.
Who knows what Maurice Cheeks plans to do with this lineup but eight different guys have started games this year for the Pistons already and in Kyle Singler’s ONE start so far this season he put up 22 points and three rebounds while shooting 9-for-13 from the floor and going 1-for-2 from 3-point range. It might not be ideal for Monroe but a 14-19 team has to make changes and this is one that looks like it will work.
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