How disappointing has been Josh Smith's start to the season for the Detroit Pistons?
The Pistons fell as far as four games below .500 after a stretch where they won just two of nine games, including a four-game losing streak. Their schedule hasn't exactly been a walk in the park, but none of their wins have come against teams with a winning record.
There are many reasons for Detroit's early-season struggles, but a big part has been the disappointing play of three newcomers who were expected to contribute big roles this season.
*All statistics compiled from NBA.com and updated as of Nov. 26 unless otherwise noted.
3. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Pistons' first-round pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was drafted to help improve the team's outside shooting and perimeter defense.
Defensively, he's done his part in holding opposing shooting guards to a PER of 8.1 through nine games in his latest available stats, per 82games.com. He's also forcing plenty of turnovers at 1.6 per 36 minutes.
But offensively, he's been unable to find any sort of rhythm.
Caldwell-Pope is shooting just 34.7 percent from the field, with an average of more than eight attempts per game. He's also making only 26.8 percent of his three-point attempts, averaging 7.9 points per game with a PER of 10.14 where 15 is the league average.
While the Pistons have struggled to shoot the ball as a team, and have had limited offensive output from the orshooting guard position, KCP is one of the few guys on the roster who has the potential to help turn things around.
2. Chauncey Billups
When he signed with the Pistons as a free agent this summer, nobody expected Chauncey Billups to be the same player that he was when he was last with the team in 2008. But it has still been surprising to see just how far his game has fallen off.
The effects of his age could be seen while he was with the Los Angeles Clippers, but it's been even more dramatic this season. In 2012-13, Billups averaged 15.8 points per 36 minutes on 40.2 percent shooting. This season, he's at just 8.6 points per 36 minutes while shooting 33.3 percent.
His waning athleticism has hurt him defensively, as he struggles to stay in front of quicker players. According to 82games.com, opposing point guards have a PER of 19.7 against him.
The most disappointing part of the early season for Billups has been his inability to stay on the court. He missed seven of the Pistons' first 14 games with a knee injury. While he had only played 22 games or fewer in each of the past three seasons, it's still tough not to see Billups out on the court, especially as the Pistons have struggled so mightily.
1. Josh Smith
The biggest coup of the offseason for Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars was signing free-agent forward Josh Smith away from the Atlanta Hawks, a deal worth $54 million over four years.
Smith immediately upgraded the team's talent level upon joining the team, but his fit was questionable from a basketball standpoint with young big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond already on the roster. At the time, four of five ESPN.com NBA writers, thought he would be a poor fit with the team.
"Good fit for Josh's bank account, bad on-court fit for the Pistons," wrote Jared Dubin of Hardwood Paroxysm. "The spacing problems presented by a Smith-Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond frontcourt would be hellacious."
While there is plenty of season left to be played, those issues have been a reality for the Pistons. Playing on the perimeter far more than in 2012-13—where he played nine percent of Atlanta's minutes at small forward—he has played 41 percent of Detroit's minutes at small forward through nine games this season, per 82games.com. Smith is in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his career.
Both his field goal and three-point percentages, as well as his rebounds, blocks and points are all down from 2012-13, with his field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks all on pace to be career lows for the season. He has never finished below 15 in PER, but is at 14.51 to start the season.
Offensively, Smith is simply taking too many outside jumpers, due in part to the position change. He is averaging 4.9 three-point attempts per game while shooting just 27.5 percent. For his career, Smith has only had 11.4 percent of his total shots be three-point attempts. This season, they have been 37.1 percent of his shot selection.
Smith has also struggled defending small forwards despite being named the NBA's best perimeter defender by ESPN Insider (subscription required) last season. Through nine games, opposing small forwards had a PER of 28.5 against Smith, per 82games.com. In 2012-13, he held small forwards to a PER of 8.9.
The Pistons signed Smith this summer expecting to get a borderline All-Star who could be a difference-maker on both ends of the court. Smith has simply not been that player in the early season with disappointing play on both ends of the court. As they look to get back above .500, the Pistons need to find ways to get him playing like he did in Atlanta.
*Jakub Rudnik covers the Detroit Pistons for B/R. Follow him on Twitter.