Detroit Pistons: The High Risk and High Reward of Acquiring Josh Smith

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Detroit Pistons: The High Risk and High Reward of Acquiring Josh Smith
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Detroit Pistons fans sat anxious as ever awaiting some sort of transaction during NBA free agency. Plenty of "interest" was shown via trade discussions as well as veterans on the market

After all the chatter and movement of other players, the Pistons have finally landed a new building block. Detroit met with former Atlanta Hawk Josh Smith on Friday, and they have now agreed to a four-year contract worth $56 million, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com

The Pistons pursued the veteran forward heavily from the beginning of free agency. Detroit's front office met with Smith one minute into free agency to discuss a deal. After turning down an offer from the Houston Rockets and the opportunity of returning home to the Hawks, Smith decided to begin his new era as a Piston. 

The contract cannot be officially signed until Wednesday.

Atlanta seemed to be nearing the end of it's term with the hometown product after signing forward Paul Millsap. Smith was drafted out of Oak Hill Academy by the Hawks in 2004 with the No. 17 pick. Throughout his time in Atlanta, he displayed athletic ability, offensive versatility and highlight dunks winning him the 2005 Slam Dunk Contest.

Smith has also been a decent stat-stuffer, averaging 15.3 points, eight rebounds and just over two blocks during his nine-year career. In 2011-12, he posted career-high averages of 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds. Smith has helped lead the Hawks to the postseason every year since the 2007-08 season. The athletic forward also finished second in voting to new Houston Rocket Dwight Howard for Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. 

Despite his brief success in Atlanta, Smith became an annoyance to the franchise. He quickly became a headache within the team, showing glaring signs of immaturity. Smith led his team with 11 technical fouls this year as well as the last season.

The Hawks suspended Smith for one game in January of 2013 for "conduct detrimental" after an altercation during a team practice.

The negative decline in Smith's attitude shows in his game as well. There have been fewer sightings of the explosive highlight reel he used to be, occasionally settling for three-pointers and long jump shots, plus a horrendous 52 percent average behind the free-throw line last season. Smith's turnovers have also taken a jump, averaging three last year.

Now the Pistons are taking a high-risk, high-reward gamble on the former Hawk. The expectations of Smith are to partner in the frontcourt with young big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

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Throughout his career, Smith has been slotted at power forward. As a Detroit Piston, however, he'll be forced to make a challenging transition to small forward where he's bigger and slower. Defending small forwards like LeBron James, Paul George and Luol Deng could be a nightmare to watch. 

Detroit's offensive flow could be a struggle with Smith in the lineup as well. The newly acquired forward creates his left-handed offense from the elbow-in like lefty big man Monroe.

On-floor spacing could be a major issue similar to New York Knicks Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Smith and Monroe could potentially clog way too much space 15 feet in, even with Drummond lurking inside the paint. 

This acquisition might not be the last move done by the Pistons this summer, but this one needs to pay off for the sake of Joe Dumars' future. President Tom Gores and the Pistons stated they were ready to "spend" in preparation to win now. Adding Josh Smith as one more gutsy splash by Dumars, it's time for the Pistons to find success, and they haven't had much after the departure of the 2004 championship core. 

Given the Pistons' rebuilding stage, a team can afford to take some chances with a 150-244 record over the past five seasons. What they can't afford is to watch big money turn into a waste a la 2009 with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.  

Numbers don't tell the entire story for Josh Smith. Even as the stat-stuffer he may be, the term "winner" isn't a label often associated with his name. The Hawks have earned a nice bit of postseason success because of good enough team chemistry, not because of the stat-stuffing production of Smith.

Detroit may see it's new prized acquisition become motivated to uplift this franchise. Only being 27 years old, all hope isn't immediately lost on Smith. He could somehow get in shape and display those highlight moments that put him on the map in Atlanta. 

Or he could wash out and become Charlie Villanueva 2.0.

It's a high-risk high-reward scenario in Detroit. Unfortunately, the risk is much higher than the reward at this moment. For the sake of the Pistons' future, let's hope it's the first option that pans out. 

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