The regular season has mercifully come to an end, which means its time for all of us DBB armchair GMs to start thinking about next season. Who should we keep, let go, sign, and draft. Seemingly every fanpost/comment/article that I read with ideas about next season always starts out with a variation of the same 3 words "Trade Josh Smith". Which ultimately begs the question...WHAT IF THE PISTONS KEEP JOSH SMITH?
I know for many of us, this is not a pleasant thought, but it is definitely a possibility. An excellent article by revken reviewed the possible suitors for Josh Smith, so I will not focus on that in this article. But the facts are, Josh Smith had a horrific season and he is scheduled to make 14 million a year for the next 3 years (42 million total). In order to move Smith, he would probably have to be traded for someone else with a bad contract. As I look at the salaries for the Pistons on this page at Hoopshype, one thing jumps off the page at me. For the first time in 6 years, the Pistons do not have "dead" salary on their payroll next year. No Rip Hamilton sulking on the bench eating up salary, no Ben Gordon, no Charlie Villanueva, no Corey Maggette. Would a new GM really want to come in and trade Josh Smith for a "dead" salary such as Gerald Wallace? Maybe not. This post will take a look at the Pistons team if no major trades are made.
I took a look at 82games.com and was surprised at what I found for 5 man units.
Key M = Minutes, ppp = points per possession, pap = points allowed per possession, +/- = total points +/-, W = number of times unit outscored opponents, L = number of times unit was outscored by opponent, and WS = Win Share%
Jennings/KCP/Smith/Drummond/Moose =495.8 M/1.01ppp/1.05 pap/-49 (+/-)/ 17W/ 21 L/44.7WS
Jennings/Singler/Smith/Moose/Drummond 460.9M/ 1.05ppp/ 1.15pap/ -85(+/-)/ 16W/ 22L/ 42.5WS
Jennings/Stuckey/Smith/Monroe/Drummond 175.1M /1.14ppp/1.21pap/ -25 (+/-)/17W/ 18L/ 48.5WS
What do these units have in common? They all feature the Big 3 (Drummond, Smith, Moose), and they are all "losing units". All of them have - numbers in the +/- category, all the units were outscored by their opponents. Now, take a look at these lesser used units.
Jennings/Stuckey/Singler/Smith/Drummond 129 M/ 1.18 ppp/ 1.10 pap/ +20 (+/-) /17W/ 15L/ 55.1%WS
Jennings/KCP/Singler/Smith/Monroe 83M/ 1.20ppp/ .98 pap/ +39 (+/-)/ 13W/ 7L/ 65%WS
Jennings/KCP/Singler/Monroe/Drummond 54M/ 1.16ppp/ .99pap/ +21 (+/-) 6W/ 2L/ 75%WS
Here we see that when only 2 of the big 3 play, the Pistons are actually successful! All of these lines are outcoring their opponents, some by a significant margin.
What if the Pistons new GM doesn't make any big moves? A suggestion for the new GM if Smith is not moved.
1. SEE YA CHARLIE AND RODNEY
Let these 2 guys go. Rodney was actually one of our best players this year, but if we are playing a combination of Smith/Monroe/Drummond at PF and C, we need to have wings that can shoot from the outside. Stuckey is more of a slasher than a shooter. Charlie V was just a cap drain.
2. KEEP JJ
JJ has hinted that he will not pick up his option and will seek out employment elsewhere. But he has a role on this team, and he should be persuaded to stay for one more year. Get ahold of his agent and promise that JJ is the primary backup SF and will get 10-20 minutes consistently. He improved his shot enough last year that he should be ok there, and in the future, he could get minutes at PF.
3. CONVINCE BILLUPS TO BECOME A ASST COACH
I don't think it would take much persuasion. Chauncey couldn't hack it this year, and I think he's too proud to keep on riding the pine.
This is the only trade that I will make in my proposal. It just makes too much sense. The Bulls pick 16 & 19 and the Pistons pick 8. The Bulls may be looking for one more piece to compete for a title and would value the 8 pick more than the 16 and 19. The Pistons have a lot more work to do and would value 2 potentially "lesser" pieces more than 1. So, trade the 8th pick to Chicago for 16 and 19. The Bulls would probably love Smart, and if he's gone, Gary Harris seems like a natural fit on the Bulls. The Pistons should be able to pick up a shooter and a backup PG to push Jennings. If the Pistons are keeping all of the big 3 + JJ + Jorts, there is absolutely no reason for them to draft a big. Possible targets at 16 and 19 include point guards: Shabazz Napier, Tyler Ennis (probably gone) and Elfrid Payton. For the sake of this article, lets just say they take Payton at 19. Possible wing targets at 16 include James Young, Rodney Hood, Kyle Anderson and Nick Stauskas. For the sake of this article, lets say its Stauskas.
5. FREE AGENCY
The NBA raised its salary cap, another good post regarding that is here. As you can see from the article, the Pistons will have considerable money to spend on free agency. I urge the new GM to not just spend money just because we have it. IF you can get a quality piece for a reasonable price, fine. If not, wait till next year. IF the team gets better, we would have a better chance of drawing free agents. The 2015 free agency class includes Lebron, Bosh, Wade and Love. Many teams will be bidding for their services, quality pieces could easily slip through the cracks to the Pistons. So having cap money to spend next year would be a good thing. There is one free agent though...
6. PAY THE MOOSE
As referenced in the article under #5, the new salary cap will likely raise Monroes salary, but so be it. Probably 4 years 62 million or thereabouts. He will be overpaid, but Pay him anyways.
7. THE LINEUPS
The biggest drawback to rotating the big 3 is that they will all get approximately 32 minutes each. But with the right coach, it could work. Keep them fresh and if players are doing well, they play, if not, they don't (cough cough, Josh Smith). A rotation like this ALWAYS has 2 of the big 3 playing and ALWAYS has 2 shooters at SF and SG. With the Pistons getting their own D league team, I'm thinking that the young players will rotate with the pro club and the D league team depending on who's playing well.
PF: Smith/ Monroe
BENCH: Jorts, Bynum, Datome
DLEAGUE: Payton, Mitchell,
I'm hoping that Payton will eventually challenge Jennings for a starting role and Siva will be a suitable backup for years to come. Its somewhat of a gamble taking a MidConference player, but at pick 19, I would be willing to take the risk. He has lots of upside. Starting him in D league gets him experience, and he could hopefully move up to the big club quickly.
Starting Drummond on the bench will not be popular. But, Smith could be a lot more marketable at the trading deadline next year if he plays well, and he should be better at PF. Benching him would almost surely cause him to melt down and lose even more value (if thats possible). After paying Monroe top dollar, it seems wrong to bench him. He will also be more marketable because he will only have 2 years left on his contract after this year. Yes, even after doing all the research, I'm still looking at trying to get value out of Smith and not keeping him.