Josh Smith or Greg Monroe: Who Should Detroit Pistons Keep?

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Josh Smith or Greg Monroe: Who Should Detroit Pistons Keep?
Dan Lippitt/Getty Images
Josh Smith and Greg Monroe

Under the leadership of new head coach and President of Basketball Operations Stan Van Gundy, the Detroit Pistons are facing a tough decision that must be made during the upcoming NBA offseason.

As Van Gundy implements a new offensive system focused on creating floor space, the Pistons need an upgraded roster to satisfy his scheme. Consequently, the focus shifts toward young star Greg Monroe and veteran Josh Smith.

Monroe, the starting power forward, is seeking a new long-term deal as a restricted free agent. On the other hand, Smith is due a hefty sum over the next three seasons.

As it stands, Detroit has north of $20 million in cap space for 2014-15, according to HoopsHype. The Pistons have the room to sign Monroe to a big-money deal and continue paying Smith's expensive contract. 

Sounds simple, right? Not really.

Detroit can afford to keep both players, but Van Gundy's scheme does not complement Monroe's skill set and, rather unfortunately, matches Smith's offensive confidence.

Recently, Sean Deveney of Sporting News laid out the form of the anticipated offensive set, but he also discussed a rumor that Van Gundy coming to the Pistons leads to Monroe's exit.

Ideally, Van Gundy’s offense will be constructed like the one he had in Orlando, which was innovative at the time—he wants to spread the floor with shooters and create space for a power big man down low. It will be Drummond in Detroit, just as it had been Dwight Howard with the Magic. ...The main question now is just how Van Gundy chooses to rid the roster of Monroe.

Because Monroe is a better player than Smith, and is also eight years younger, Deveney's latter point cannot be an appealing thought to the Detroit faithful.

The biggest problem with keeping Monroe is his underwhelming jumper. According to NBA.com, the power forward knocked down just 24.2 percent from 16 to 24 feet, which is a significant problem, since Van Gundy utilizes a stretch 4.

As a restricted free agent, the Pistons could match any offer and force Monroe to stay in the Motor City. Of course, the front office could refuse to pay him the max contract he is expected to demand, which would mean Detroit receives absolutely nothing in return for the power forward.

More recently, though, Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press perhaps debunked the rumor surrounding Monroe. Ellis cited a league source who told him Van Gundy immediately contacted the power forward after accepting the job, and the Detroit ownership is "fond" of Monroe.

Conversely, where Monroe is not an outstanding fit in Van Gundy's offense, Smith can easily fill that stretch 4 role. The thing about Smith is that he's never seen a spot he didn't like. Unfortunately, there are many shots he cannot consistently bury. 

NBA.com
Smith 2013-14 shot chart

Smith's tendency to launch shots from anywhere on the court may only worsen if he's in "The D" next season, because it's actually a part of Van Gundy's system.

In 2013-14, he tossed up a career-high 265 trifectas and made just 70—an absolutely atrocious 26.4 percent mark.

Evidenced by the accompanying shot chart (h/t NBA.com), Smith is most effective on the right side of the basket, from eight to 24 feet. Yet, he only took 10.9 percent of all attempts outside of eight feet from that position.

Why?

Granted, Smith was obviously never held accountable for his horrific shot selection, but Van Gundy will not tolerate it, as noted by Grantland's Zach Lowe.

"That will change with Van Gundy working under a five-year deal," Lowe said. "He prizes shot selection, on both ends. If you violate his rules repeatedly, you are coming out of the game. He doesn't care about your status or salary."

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And ultimately, the small forward is virtually a lock to "violate [Van Gundy's] rules" repeatedly. While the Pistons front office would certainly encounter difficulty attempting to ship Smith elsewhere, in late April, Ellis said it's not impossible to find a suitor.

"I know, I know [Smith] has 3 years and 40 million left. But unmovable [Rudy] Gay was traded twice in a calendar year. ...Gilbert Arenas was moved. Now, you might not get anything of value back, but if you just want to move somebody, it's possible."

Should the Pistons be offered a draft pick or two, just get Smith out of "The D." Shipping the 10-year pro elsewhere frees up even more cap space for future seasons and relieves an ongoing offensive headache.

Re-signing Monroe—even at max-contract money—and relying on Van Gundy to find a way to use him effectively is clearly the better option, and that should be the preferred method in Detroit.

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats taken from Basketball-Reference. Shot charts specifically attributed.

Follow Bleacher Report NBA writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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