When the Detroit Pistons went out to get Josh Smith to pair with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, then added Brandon Jennings to the backcourt, it looked like they had something. It looked like they had a playoff team.
Instead the Pistons are off to a bumpy 2-5 start and they have the worst defense in the NBA through seven games.
Then Tuesday night Josh Smith got benched after playing just 18 minutes and scoring just two points.
Coach Mo Cheeks is looking for answers but there simply are no easy ones.
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The problem is the Smith, Monroe Drummond combination is a disaster defensively — when they are on the court together they are a -34, opponents are shooting 51 percent, they give up 116.9 points per 100 possessions (for comparison, the Bobcats had the worst defense in the NBA last season at 108.9) and are a -15.7 points per 100 possessions. Those numbers are via John Schuhmann at NBA.com who went on to say this:
There are a bunch of issues that need to be cleaned up. It starts with transition, where Monroe is particularly slow. He also struggles to contain ball-handlers on pick-and-rolls. Smith and Drummond can be too aggressive, often biting on pump fakes or sacrificing rebounding position by trying for blocks. And sometimes, the problem is with the backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Chauncey Billups, a pair of liabilities in their own right.
Cheeks threw out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler in the second half Tuesday night looking for answers. Any answers.
Cheeks needs to experiment with various twosomes of that three man front line to see if something clicks. He needs to throw different backcourt combos out there with them. He needs to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.
It’s far too early to give up on that front line combination and on the Pistons playoff dreams. There is a lot of season left. But I don’t envy the job of Cheeks trying to figure out what works.