Despite his faults, Josh Smith was a talented player – especially as a playmaker finding his teammates. The Pistons frequently used him as a point forward to take advantage of his passing ability, which was reflected in traditional counting stats and advanced metrics: he was averaging a career-high marks with 4.7 assists per game and a 26.5 assist percentage, and he led the Pistons with a 25.3 usage rate.
Now that Smith is off the roster, Stan Van Gundy expects to spread the playmaking load among the entire team rather than asking one specific player to step up.
"If you look at the stats on usage rate and stuff, I mean, he'll be one of the few ... forwards that would lead the team in usage rate. He was ahead of our point guards, a little bit ahead of Brandon [Jennings]. So that's pretty rare.
"We ran a lot of stuff through him, and clearly if you want other people to have more offensive opportunities you would have to take some away from him, and you know, I didn't think that would be good for him. I didn't think he'd be happy with that, and I think it's easier moving forward this way."
So who will pick up the playmaking load? It sounds like everyone will get more opportunities.
"More through the point guards, probably a few more post ups down low from both Andre [Drummond] and Greg [Monroe]," he said following Tuesday's practice. "And more plays for Jodie [Meeks] and KCP (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), that's where I would say the majority of that is going to come from."
It's easy to interpret the decision to dump Smith as an indictment on his game, but Van Gundy was quick to defend his former player, citing the team's record as proof that change for the sake of change was needed.
"I didn't even say Josh was a problem," Van Gundy said. "That wasn't it. We're 5-23 – somebody argue with me that some adjustments don't need to take place, I mean you're 5-23.
"There's a lot of things. The main one is our defense and stuff, and that's what we've been trying to adjust for a couple of days, and we'll continue – it's going to take all year – to continue to go forward. We need to build a foundation based on our defense.
"And then offensively, we felt that we needed to give more opportunities – look, it's not I want to run seven more plays for this guy or that guy. We just want it spread around a little bit more, and those plays have got to come from somewhere."
Ultimately, those plays will come from removing Smith from the equation – and with more efficient shooters accounting for his 14 shots a game (including, perhaps, new addition Anthony Tolliver, who's shot .403 from 3-point land the last two seasons), Detroit's offense should improve – in time. From Brandon Savage on MLive:
"Our point guards will lead the break a lot more," Van Gundy said. "Now, it doesn't mean it's going to be better (immediately). Josh made good plays in transition. We got open 3s, Andre got some lobs, so it will be different and we said that going in. And that part of it is going to take some time. This is all going to take time.
"You're talking about a guy (Smith) whose usage rate was damn near a quarter of our possessions. There will certainly be an adjustment phase here but it will allow guys more opportunities, which will initially mean more mistakes.
"But down the road, it will hopefully mean guys get better and we have a little bit more diversified offense."
And if things don't improve, well, it's not like they can get worse.
Watch some of Van Gundy's comments courtesy of the Detroit Free Press: