Josh Smith has been a questionable fit in Detroit from the start. The Pistons already had Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, their presumed frontcourt of the future, and Atlanta's attempts to play Smith at small forward always resulted in far too many missed jumpers. All season, Detroit head coach Maurice Cheeks has started the three of them together, and it's led to the expected spacing issues on offense.
After Monday's practice, Cheeks expressed his preference for playing Smith at the power forward spot with either Drummond or Monroe manning the middle, rather than playing the three of them together or having the Drummond-Monroe duo out there at the same time, via David Mayo of MLive.com.
Over at Detroit Bad Boys, Ben Gulker calls this "the clearest statement we have yet from the coaching staff" about the much-discussed frontcourt. He goes on to say that he thinks this is "nothing short of disaster for the franchise," as it is wasting the opportunity to develop Monroe and Drummond together.
Gulker might be right. There's a reason Pistons fans were so excited about their two young bigs. The fully idealized version of that frontcourt is terrifying. The counter-argument is that the idealized version of the frontcourt is different than the reality and that Monroe's defensive limitations might not be worth what they have to pay him this summer in restricted free agency.
It's a frustrating time for fans in Detroit, and the frontcourt situation represents the problem: this team is stuck somewhere in between trying to compete now and trying to build for the future. Having Smith increases the Pistons' talent level, but it likely has gotten in the way of Monroe and Drummond building chemistry. Detroit is 16-22, which is good enough for seventh place in the terrible East, but not good enough to generate much excitement. Cheeks using Smith at power forward as much as he can is best for Smith and probably best for the team in the short term, but it might not take Detroit anywhere.