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Flashback Friday: The Pistons Pitiful Frontcourt Trio

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Pistons Pitiful Frontcourt Trio: Today is Friday. And because of that simple fact, it’s time to reminisce. This week, I’ll be looking into the Detroit Pistons of the mid-2010’s. They had Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe as starters, which at that time, was no problem. But they signed Josh Smith to a four-year deal prior to the start of the 2013-14 season.

One thing that was commonly known about Smith was that he was an incredibly gifted athlete. He was terrific defensively, and could dunk with the best of them. His jump shot was always a weak point, though. So, the team signing him to play small forward seemed destined to fail from the very beginning.

And that’s exactly what it did. Detroit played 110 games with Josh Smith on the roster. They won just 34 of them. Three coaches were present during that brief period. It was bad.

Let’s talk about the Pistons pitiful frontcourt trio.

The Core Players Weren’t Exactly Bad

The thing is, the Pistons trio could not function together, there was no doubt about that. But, the players themselves weren’t bad. Greg Monroe averaged 15 points and nine rebounds per game during the 2013-14 year, then posted similar numbers during the following campaign. He shot roughly 50%.

Andre Drummond was just coming into his own, as the 13-14 campaign marked his first in the league as a starter. He averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds, making 62% of his shots and averaging 1.6 blocks per game. What more could you have possibly wanted out of your starting center? He was efficient, didn’t turn the ball over, and was good for 32 minutes a night.

On paper, it was a solid year for Josh Smith. He put up 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists per contest. He averaged 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals per game as well. Shooting the ball was a massive issue though, as he put up splits of 42/26/53. He could get his points, but he could not score if it wasn’t by the rim.

The problem wasn’t any one of these players. It was the fact that they were being asked to coexist together.

The Role Players Did Them No Favors

The Pistons fired Maurice Cheeks after a 21-29 start to the season. Was that fair? The team was supposed to win even more game than that? They went just 8-24 under Jon Loyer, meaning that things go progressively worse the day they pulled the trigger on the firing. But the team’s other players weren’t too great either.

Brandon Jennings shot just 37% from the floor, and was not the player he was as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. Kentavious-Caldwell Pope shot just 39.6% from the floor off the bench. Kyle Singler made 44% of his shots, most of which were jumpers. None of that exactly blows you away.

The team did manage to rank just inside the top half in points per game, but ranked #27 in points against. Defensively, they could not cover the three-point line, and were very immobile. With Drummond and Monroe playing together, guarding the perimeter and trying to figure out how to move through screens and switches was difficult.

Rodney Stuckey averaged 14 points per game, but wasn’t anything special. Jonas Jerebko and Will Bynum were decent off the bench, but could not outplay their matchups most nights.

This was a very misshapen roster.

They Cut Josh Smith Early the Next Year

After 28 games and a 5-23 record, GM/Coach Stan Van Gundy made a quick decision. He made the choice to waive Josh Smith, though it was only the second season of a four-year pact. What more could have been done? They needed more room to space the floor, to try and figure things out. And you couldn’t bring a player making that kind of dough off the bench.

The Pistons went on to win seven games in a row following the decision to cut Smith. They improved to 12-23, and were clearly breathing some new life. Brandon Jennings was averaging 21 points and seven assists per game in January, his strong play lifting the team to some much-needed victories.

Then, on January 26th, Jennings ruptured his Achilles, ending his season early. As soon as this happened, all the air came out of the balloon. Detroit was basically going to have to phone it in early.

On the bright side, Reggie Jackson showed up and averaged 17 points and 10 assists per game as the starting point guard following a trade to the Pistons at the deadline. In all, Detroit went 27-27 over the final 50 games, and 20-27 following that quick winning streak after cutting Smith.

Monroe and Drummond played decently, but they didn’t exactly lift the team up.

Monroe signed a 3-year, $60 million deal with the Bucks that summer. It left Drummond as the last man standing.

A Time to Forget

It was a dark time for the Pistons. The front office made some horrible free-agent decisions. Jennings days as a starter in the NBA came to an end after he recovered from his Achilles injury. Monroe’s career quickly started to spiral in Milwaukee. Singler bottomed out in OKC.

None of the players from these Pistons teams amounted to much. Andre Drummond is still a quality starting center, but Smith is out of the league. Jennings is three years removed from his last NBA game. KCP is an NBA champ in LA, but Jonas Jerebko is playing in another country.

Every franchise has bumps in the road. But the choice to pair Monroe, Drummond and Smith is as boneheaded as anything we’ve seen from an NBA front office.

They were the Pistons pitiful frontcourt trio.

Thanks for Reading

Well, you’ve made it to the end! Thank you for reading. I’ve been enjoying putting these Flashback Friday pieces together in recent weeks, as a nice form of reminiscing.

I hope that the nostalgia you were craving could be met by reading this. Plenty more to come. I’m just getting started.

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