Josh Smith Deal Signals Major Shift for Detroit Pistons

Jay Wierenga@@JayWierengaCorrespondent IJuly 7, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 29:  Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks reacts to the fans in the final minutes of their 102-91 win over the Indiana Pacers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 29, 2013 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

In the midst of gearing up for a July wedding in the sweltering humidity which is Michigan in the summer, I was looking for some form of relief.

Sure, I had a truly gorgeous date that was just the type of fun person you want to share a reception with. And true, the weather couldn't be prettier for a ceremony that was outside. But for a big guy who tends to sweat profusely in even the most tame of situations, I was a little apprehensive.

So I switched on my phone only to have my trusty B/R Team Stream notify me that the Detroit Pistons had just inked Josh Smith to a reported $56 million deal.

My reaction was probably similar to most of Pistons nation. There was immediate excitement, as the Pistons had been relatively tame thus far and any news is always welcomed news initially.

But as I started thinking about the move that I had predicted, I started to weigh the pros and cons.

Starting with the cons, I started thinking about how clustered the low post will be. Smith is not your typical small forward, and Greg Monroe is not your typical power forward.

Smith is certainly athletic enough to keep up with some of the elite 3s like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Paul George on the defensive side of the ball, but offensively he doesn't offer much relief. 

Smith is much better suited as a stretch 4, albeit one with limited three-point effectiveness. I immediately had visions of a smaller, less post-dominant Rasheed Wallace launching bad shots from the perimeter.

I also started to worry about the idea of a flawed Brandon Knight operating the point guard position with a bunch of big guys clogging the middle and the only player able to stretch the defense being a rookie shooting guard in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who struggled at times in college with his three-point range.

But then a thought crossed my mind and I immediately felt better about this move.

The Josh Smith signing brings legitimacy to a team that has been largely irrelevant since Chauncey Billups was shipped to the Denver Nuggets for a washed-up Allen Iverson. Ever since that fateful move, this has been a team that the public has either ignored or dismissed, and the local fans have been largely complicit with this attitude.

But in one fell swoop, team president Joe Dumars made this team relevant again.


First in a series of moves?

As MLive's David Mayo argues today, the Smith signing should be viewed similarly to the Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez signing by the Detroit Tigers nearly a decade ago.  

The significance of that move is felt even today, as a team that was largely forgotten in favor of big-market teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox finally saw an elite free agent join its ranks, adding legitimacy to a team that was floundering for years.

It was the first domino for the Tigers and eventually led to the Magglio Ordonez deal and a series of trades that made them a team that made the World Series in 2006 and 2012.

Today, the Tigers are one of the elite teams in the game, and the Rodriguez deal was the first step in that transformation.

The Pistons are hoping that the Smith deal can be a similar franchise-changing move.

As of now, the Pistons are an intriguing but incomplete team. They have a ton of athleticism in their frontcourt but have questions in their backcourt. Knight can score but hasn't shown the ability to set up teammates.

Kyle Singler and Rodney Stuckey each shared time at the shooting guard spot but both have holes in their games. Singler can shoot the lights out and plays well without the ball but lacks the quickness or athleticism to play defense against elite guards. Stuckey is athletic and can get to the hoop, but he lacks elite shooting range and struggles at times with his focus.

The bench has solid options with Kim English and Khris Middleton showing flashes of talent, but the rotation is far from settled.

Rookie Caldwell-Pope is talented and has good size but lacked a consistent three-point shot in college.

What the Pistons truly need right now is a veteran point guard who can tie this team together.

The name that has been most linked to Detroit has been Rajon Rondo, as reported by CBS Sports' Ken Berger. Rondo is part of a Boston Celtics team that is entering a severe rebuilding phase, with franchise players Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce each being shipped out of town and a young coach being named to run the squad.

Yahoo! Sports' Mark Evans throws out the idea that a Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight package should at least draw some attention from Celtics president Danny Ainge.

Personally, I don't hate that idea, although it should at least bring back a draft pick as well. I would prefer a package revolving around Knight and Villanueva, but Monroe's name might be necessary in order to sweeten the pot.

And as Evans points out, Smith might be better suited at the 4, making Monroe expendable.

Besides, Monroe is going to command a big pay day next summer and the Pistons might be apprehensive to fork out the big bucks, considering Monroe's defensive and offensive limitations.

A starting lineup of Rondo, Caldwell-Pope, Singler, Smith and Drummond would make the Pistons a very dangerous team. Sure, Singler is flawed, but he does provide spacing through excellent shooting. In addition, a frontcourt of Smith and Drummond would be one of the most defensively talented lines in the league.

Rondo is the type of point guard who makes life easier for his teammates. He will be able to set up Drummond for easy hoops. He will be able to lead youngsters like Singler and Caldwell-Pope, and he would provide the first legitimate leadership this team has seen since Billups left town.


Hold on to your seats

At the very least, the Smith signing should have Pistons fans excited about the future.

They are no longer relegated to an afterthought at home but instead are a real team.

Talk of the playoffs will begin and will only get louder if the Rondo deal happens.

This is a team that finally took a step forward after years of irrelevancy. So for the first time in years, it is fun being a Pistons fan again.