Report: Pistons would trade Josh Smith if they could

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Josh Smith is having the worst season of his career.

Playing far too much small forward, a position he can handle only in select matchups, his defense has really fallen off. Though Smith defends power forwards well, his his lack of speed on the perimeter kills his ability to chase wings around screens. He’s also taking way too many jumpers and not getting inside enough, an issue that exists no matter which forward position he’s playing.

Some of that is Smith fault, and some of that is the Pistons’. But it’s all the Pistons’ problem.

The Pistons signed Smith to a four-year, $54 million contract last summer, and they’ll have to pay him all that money – or find someone else to do it.

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

The Josh Smith experiment in Detroit is not going well, and there’s strong opinion around the league that the Pistons would trade him if they could — and “could” is the key word. Since Smith is in the first year of a four-year, $56 million deal, he is one of the most untradable players in the league.

If the Pistons are desperate to trade Smith, that’s something people around the league would know, because that would mean the Pistons are calling around to shop him.

That would also jive with the Pistons’ reported plan to keep Greg Monroe.

Here are a few Smith trade ideas, from least appealing to most appealing from a Pistons perspective:

  • Smith to the Celtics for Gerald Wallace (three years remaining on his contract) – with Keith Bogans (zero remaining guaranteed years) included to make salaries match
  • Smith to the Knicks for Andrea Bargnani (two years remaining)
  • Smith to the Bobcats for Ben Gordon (expiring contract)
  • Smith to the Suns for Emeka Okafor (expiring contract whose salary is partially covered by insurance)

Some of those players would make the Pistons a little better, some a little worse. But that’s not the point here. These deals are totally about the contracts.

Gordon would be the most interesting deal of the four. The Pistons actually traded Gordon and a first-round pick to Charlotte to clear the cap room used to sign Smith. The Bobcats could really use a power forward, and Smith would fit relatively well in Charlotte.

But would Dumars so publically admit a mistake? After all, the series of transactions – trading Gordon and a pick for Corey Maggette’s expiring contract, signing Smith, trading Smith for Gordon – would essentially leave the Pistons nothing to show for their troubles except a lost first-round pick.

In a completely logical world, those previous moves wouldn’t matter. They’re sunk costs. If trading Smith for Gordon improves the Pistons’ outlook now, they should do it.

Obviously, it doesn’t always work that way.

But much earlier in his tenure, Dumars’ biggest strength was his ability to admit and fix mistakes.

  • He whiffed on the Mateen Cleaves pick, but sent the former Michigan State point guard to the Kings after just one year for Jon Barry (a strong backup during the Pistons’ resurgance) and a first-round pick that became Carlos Delfino.
  • The next year, Dumars drafted Rodney White, another bust. Again, he traded White after just one year to the Nuggets for a do-over first-rounder – which was eventually part of the Rasheed Wallace trade and, coincidentally, used to select Smith.
  • When Ben Wallace left Detroit, Dumars gave Nazr Mohammed a long contract to replace him. But after just a season-and-a-half with the Pistons, Mohammed was sent to Charlotte for spare parts.

Would Dumars repeat that productive, though self-deprecating. approach here? Would he admit his mistake and dump Smith for simply a shorter contract?

Perhaps the better question: Can he?