Andre Iguodala, Not Josh Smith, Is Perfect Complement to Monroe-Drummond

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 05:  Andre Iguodala #9 of the Denver Nuggets dunks and draws a foul from Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There are more NBA free agents that warrant chasing for the Detroit Pistons than just Josh Smith. Like Andre Iguodala, for instance.

Smith met with the Pistons during the early hours of free agency; Detroit, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, is preparing to make a "substantial" four-year contract offer.

David Aldridge of reported that the dollar amount in question was never specified, instead writing that the meeting was a "feeling out" process to see if both sides were intrigued by the potential fit.

He went on to say that the Pistons have a strong interest in Iguodala as well.

Verbal agreements are all that can be reached before the league's moratorium period is lifted on July 10, so nothing is imminent. Still, if the Pistons need to decide which star to add to their roster, Iggy is the clear choice.

To answer the questions of those wondering whether Detroit can afford both: No, it can't. The Pistons have more than $24 million in projected cap space, which is only enough to sign one.

That one should be Iguodala.

Any personnel decision that is made in Detroit has to be approached while keeping Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in mind. Together, they account for the Pistons' future. They're the ones Joe Dumars will try to build a contender around. 

Chasing another building block, then, isn't the course of action Detroit should be exploring per se. Obviously, they are eager to land a star, especially one as versatile as Smith. But what the Pistons need even more than a superstar is a player who can complement Monroe and Drummond, not spur an involuntary battle of wills.

Smith fancies himself a superstar devoid of any All-Star credentials. Self-imposed classifications as serious as those come with baggage. J-Smoove is still attempting to prove he's an All-Star, someone who can head a championship-caliber faction. His ego is still chasing validation; Iguodala's isn't.

Iggy is a superstar in his own right, and he has one All-Star selection to prove it. He isn't on the same level as LeBron James or Kevin Durant, but he can have the type of outcome-altering impact teams expect from a top-tier performer.

And he's versatile as anything.

Presently, the Pistons aren't in possession of a primary playmaker. Jose Calderon is an unrestricted free agent who they may or may not re-sign, and neither Rodney Stuckey nor Brandon Knight are equipped to run a postseason-worthy offense. Iguodala is.

While with the Philadelphia 76ers, Iggy served as the point forward, routinely tasked with setting up his teammates. Little changed when he was traded to the Denver Nuggets. Despite playing alongside Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, he still dropped 5.4 dimes per game, assisting on more than 22 percent of his team's baskets when on the floor.

To Smith's credit, he racked up 4.2 a night, tying his career high. The 20.9 percent of buckets he assisted on when in the game was a career high. Yet, he can't run a structured offense the way Iguodala can.

When watching Smith, you'll notice he's great at passing out of double-teams in the post and even deft at tossing the occasional well-placed entry pass to a big on the block. Both are valued commodities, but the Pistons need someone who is more of an offensive catalyst off the dribble, capable of running pick-and-rolls and deliberate transition sets. 

Detroit needs someone who can make the big men it intends to build around much better. That's just not who Smith is.

Last season with the Atlanta Hawks, the two bigs Smith spent the most time alongside were Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia. The Hawks outscored opponents by an average of 3.9 points per 100 possessions when Horford and Smith were on the court together. Yet when Smith and Pachulia were on the floor, they were the ones being outscored by 14 points per 100 possessions. And whenever the Hawks paired the three of them with each other, the team was outscored by 0.2 points per 100 possessions.

Next to his big men in Denver, Iggy yielded a much different result. The Nuggets out-totaled opponents by an average of 7.9 points per 100 possessions when Iguodala was on the floor with Kosta Koufos, 6.2 points when he was paired with Kenneth Faried and 3.9 points with JaVale McGee.

Defensively, Iguodala is a statistical stud as well. According to 82games, he held opposing shooting guards and small forwards to an average PER of 11.3, well below the league average of 15. Smith himself is considered a defensive savant as well, and he limited opposing small forwards to a 8.9 PER.

The problem? Smith spent just nine percent of Atlanta's total minutes on the floor as a small forward. Fifty-one percent of the team's total minutes saw him defending power forwards, who he allowed to post a 17.3 PER.

Therein lies our next problem.

Smith himself put up a better PER at power forward (18.5) and center (18.1) than he did at small forward (16.1) last season. Alongside Drummond and Monroe, there won't be as many minutes available for him to play the 4. 

Deficient three-point shooting (28.3 percent for his career) and an inability to create consistently off the dribble make him a better fit down low, where the Pistons are currently all set. Iguodala can play the 1, 2 or 3 spots because of his point guard-esque handle and court vision. Two of those three slots are positions of need, strengthening Iggy's case even further.

Not that those numbers are the end-all, be-all of statistical analysis. Iguodala just fared better alongside his bigs than Smith did and can play the type of game that renders him a necessity. 

More important than the numbers, once again, is the psychological fit. I've never spent a day as Smith's teammate, but he's never been valued for his leadership. Until last season, when the Hawks shipped Joe Johnson off to the Brooklyn Nets, he was never relied upon very heavily.

Iguodala is no stranger to being the guy everyone looks to for answers. For nearly a decade, he's been considered one of the most unselfish leaders in the game. Looking ahead, that's what a young Pistons team needs more than the numbers—someone to ground the young, impressionable minds on their team.

Going on 28, Smith is still one of those malleable psyches. Wherever he winds up, he's best suited on a team where he can complement a superstar and isn't considered one of the established veterans.

Nine years into his NBA tenure or not, Smith isn't familiar with grooming young prospects. He was never asked to bear that kind of cross or ever put in that situation with the Hawks. In both Philadelphia and Denver, Iguodala was.

The Pistons will look at Iggy and see one of only four players—along with LeBron James, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook—to have averaged at least 13 points, five rebounds, five assists and 1.5 steals per game. Then they'll look at Smith and see the only player in the NBA to have put up at least 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block per game.

And if the front office is smart, they'll take a look at their roster, their two prized big men and the skill sets and leadership qualities of their prospective free-agent targets, and settle on Iguodala. 

Drummond, Monroe and the Pistons' future playoff berth will thank them later.