In an Eastern Conference filled with high-profile disappointing teams, one shouldn't forget the Detroit Pistons. Like the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit made a few splashy moves in recent months, only to find itself saddled with loss after loss.
Sixth man Rodney Stuckey—a six-year veteran who played for the last Pistons team to make the conference finals, in 2007-08—laid much of the blame for Detroit's woes on roster turnover and lack of player cohesion, according to USA Today's Sam Amick:
It seems like every year there's new players who you're trying to get accustomed to. It's just trying to figure each other out and all being on the same page. I really don't think right now...We're not on the same page. It's difficult to try to go out there and try to win games and win games consistently.
The Pistons were expected to compete for a playoff berth this season. They already had a dynamic frontcourt duo in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, who figured to continue last year's development and push Detroit over the top in a weak conference.
As if that weren't enough, general manager Joe Dumars went for broke by signing superb defensive forward Josh Smith—one of the top prizes in last year's free-agent class—to a four-year, $54 million contract.
But now, Stuckey is contending that all the new additions have actually hurt the Pistons by taking away continuity.
Certainly, Smith—the big free-agent signing—hasn't quite fit in with his new teammates, particularly on offense. Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver added Smith to his Eastern Conference All-Letdown team in December, writing:
And yet, Smith is as frustrating as ever. The fit at small forward was questioned from the start, but Smith's response to the role is bordering on self-parody. Long admonished for his poor shot selection, Smith is attempting a career-high 4.6 threes while connecting on just 27.7 percent.
Since that time, Smith has dropped his average to 3.5 threes per game (still a career high), but his shooting percentage has plummeted all the way to 23.5 percent.
The Pistons' problems cannot all be blamed on one player, but it seems clear that the fit isn't quite right. The wrong players are filling the wrong roles and taking the wrong shots in Detroit, and the result has been far more losses than expected.