Jennings, Smith Additions Have Caused Detroit Pistons to Regress This Offseason

Conor Volpe@cvolpe31Correspondent IAugust 9, 2013

Both Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings were in need of fresh starts, but pairing the two brings up a lot of questions.
Both Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings were in need of fresh starts, but pairing the two brings up a lot of questions.Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody can fault the Detroit Pistons for their effort this offseason. They had a nice draft, signed a big free agent and traded for another big-name guy. Unfortunately, Detroit's efforts were misguided.

If the Pistons want the six or seven seed and the right to lose to Miami or Chicago for the next three years, then they had a great summer. If they want to be real contenders, then they messed up.

Essentially, they hitched their wagons to the wrong guys. Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, though splashy additions, are the wrong signings. The Pistons jumped the gun, trying to be good too soon instead of letting their talent grow. And ultimately that will put them in NBA purgatory for years to come. 

Before we go into any revealing statistics about Jennings and Smith, let's focus on something a tad different: their team success. 

Jennings has been in the league for four years. He has made the playoffs twice, and his career regular-season winning percentage is 48.1 percent.

Smith has been around for nine years, and his Hawks have made the playoffs for the last six years. His career winning percentage is 46.3 percent.

What this shows is that neither one of these guys has a track record of winning lots of games in their careers. Their teams can win enough to make the playoffs, but only Smith has made the second round. And his Hawks are 2-12 in the conference semifinals.

Now, some of this can be explained.

Jennings hasn't played with awesome guys. His best teammates have been oft-injured Andrew Bogut, John Salmons, a raw Larry Sanders and a Jennings clone in Monta Ellis. Not exactly title-caliber talent.

Smith had better talent, but still nothing unbelievable. Al Horford and Joe Johnson were great teammates, but when Johnson was there, it was his team, so Smith was more of a sidekick.

But the bottom line is that when either of these guys has to lead a team, that team can't get past the second round. We have 13 combined years to tell us that.

The argument people could make for their potential success in Detroit is that them playing together will improve them both. They're two good players in a new situation on a team with some talent in place.

Unfortunately, that won't be the case. For two normal players on bad teams, this argument would hold water. But Jennings and Smith aren't normal players.

Both Smith and Jennings are infamous bad shot-takers. 

For a classic Smith shot, check out the video to the right.

And for a great in-depth look at Smith's shot selection, check out Kirk Goldsberry's piece

Essentially, Goldsberry points out that long twos, when shot poorly, are the least efficient shot in basketball. Smith took 46 percent of his shots from beyond 16 feet, and he made 36.9 percent of them.

Now the league average is 37 percent, which means Smith isn't awful. But when you consider that taking long twos takes Smith away from the basket where he is a much better offensive player, then that penchant for long jumpers becomes a big problem.

Even his former teammate Horford has questioned Smith's shot selection in the past.

This was definitely one of those ‘ooh, aah’ moments with Josh. He gives you those ‘oohs’ and then those ‘aahs.’ It’s kind of a ‘Yes’ and then ‘No’ thing going on. That’s the way it is. I think [the fans] obviously want Josh to be successful. Everybody loves him here. Sometimes we do question his shot selection.

So though Smith plays a good defensive game, his offensive problems are well documented. And very damaging. 

On the other hand, Jennings doesn't have the same shot-selection problem. He doesn't obsess over an average mid-range game. 

Jennings' problem is that he's inefficient. Smith may not be a great mid-range shooter, but for his career, he shoots 46.5 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Jennings has a career shooting percentage of 39.4 percent.

That's a little unbelievable for a point guard. He shoots okay from from three, at 35.4 percent for his career. But he also shot 41.1 percent from two last year. 

And to make matters worse, he's not exactly an unselfish point guard. Shooting those percentages would be almost permissible if he was a great passer. But alas, he's not exactly Steve Nash.

In the 2012-13 season, Jennings averaged a career high 6.5 assists per 36 minutes. For reference, that's less than a full assist higher than Kobe Bryant. And Rajon Rondo averaged 10.1 assists per 36 minutes. Or three-and-a-half higher than Jennings.

Oh, and he's a horrible defender. While on the floor, the Bucks allowed 10.8 points more per 100 possessions than when he was on the bench. That's an especially eye-popping stat.

So what this boils down to is Jennings takes lots of shots to get his points. And he isn't a great passer. He's a shoot-first point guard who doesn't shoot well. Yikes.

Pair that with a big man who likes to play on the wing and take long jumpers, and Detroit has two very questionable offensive pieces. And those two pieces will be two of their three best offensive players.

With all that being said, the Pistons should make the playoffs this year. They'll be fun to watch and probably a pretty fast-paced and interesting team. 

But they simply have the wrong stars in place. Andre Drummond may be a beast now, but offensively he's raw. Greg Monroe has a nice game, but he is inept on defense. And, well, you just read a whole article about my reservations in regards to Jennings and Smith.

Essentially, the Pistons just signed up for three years or more of NBA mediocrity, which means making the playoffs but not going anywhere or having a real chance to compete for a championship.

If you want to call that a step in the right direction, suit yourself. I call that moving backwards when in the foreseeable future a team has no shot at a title.

Playoffs are fun, but without a real chance of winning a title, what's the point?


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