I have previously criticized the Detroit Pistons for handing over $19 million to Jodie Meeks, and I remain skeptical of the signing, but taking a look back to last season, and you see why Detroit was in dire need to add players who’d stretch the floor this upcoming season.
Their four best players, Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith (yes, in that order), took a combined 2,044 jump shots last season, 28.7 percent of the teams total shots, and hit just 30.3 percent of them. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was not involved in this calculation, but his 332 attempts at just 31.9 percent didn’t exactly lift the scale much.
To fully comprehend just how poor their four best players were at simply shooting the basketball, look at it this way: Whenever one of them attempted a jumper, they missed nearly 70 percent of their combined attempts, and those four alone accounted for 24.9 jump shots a night when adjusted to an 82-game schedule.
Alright, enough with the numbers. The key thing to take away from this, obviously, is that it was bad. Horrifically bad. Spacing was compromised, defenses could suck itself in and seal off the paint easier, and you have to wonder if Andre Drummond’s offense suffered as a result, which is a scary thought given he still shot over 62 percent from the field with the league’s second-worst three-point shooting team offering him relief.
Detroit took in Meeks, D.J. Augustin and Caron Butler this summer as the three players guaranteed to crack the rotation next season. Meeks, a 40 percent shooter from behind the arc, took 66 percent of his jump shots from three, instantly making him more efficient as a shooter than anyone on last year’s Pistons squad. He’ll not only help to space the floor, but his high shot volume and efficiency, makes him a reliable scoring weapon. The downside to Meeks is that he does little else than shoot, meaning Stan Van Gundy will have to cover up for his weaknesses.
Augustin had a surprisingly strong season as a Bull last season, after taking over Derrick Rose‘s minutes. Augustin started out the year poorly in Toronto, was let go, and picked up by the Bulls who resurrected a career that was spinning out of control. Augustin canned 133 shots from downtown last year, also on 40 percent like Meeks, as 61 percent of his jump shots came from long range.
For comparison’s sake, Detroit’s foursome took a combined 725 three’s – or rather, Jennings and Smith did as Drummond and Monroe took just three combined – and hit them at just 30.9 percent on the year.
Finally there is Butler, who spent last season with the Bucks and Thunder. He took close to half of his shots from downtown, connected on 39.4 percent, and hit 98 of them in just 56 games.
To those keeping score at home, the Pistons signed three guys who last season shot 393-for-985 from downtown, who took 59.4 percent of their jumpers from behind the arc. Gone should be the days when Josh Smith jacks up 5+ long range attempts in a game, which he did 20 times last season, leaving more space for him, Drummond, and potentially Monroe, pending contract resolution.
Assuming Monroe is back with the Pistons next year, even if it’s on the one-year qualifying offer, Van Gundy can play a line-up of Augustin, Meeks, Butler, Monroe, and Drummond, maximizing each player’s talent level. Monroe is a gifted passer who can pass out of the double if the defense makes the rotation, meaning defenders can’t cheat off shooters to double down on Monroe at the block. With Drummond on the opposite side of the paint, any defense will have their hands full boxing him out for position, knowing full well he grabbed a league-leading 440 offensive rebounds last season, thus once again not risking their positioning to double-team Monroe.
Should Josh Smith take Monroe’s spot, and stick to playing closer to the basket, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Smith connected on 71.1 percent of his 301 shots at the rim, and he’s always been an adept passer, much like Monroe. Smith even possess a better handle, but his overall IQ of the game remains low, which will always be felt when he’s on the floor.
Either way, Detroit threw their money in the right direction, even if they did end up overpaying Meeks who essentially gives you the same production as Augustin, who they got at half the price. The Pistons will pay $13.5 million for Meeks, Augustin, and Butler this season, beating out former free agency runs where they handed out $58 million to Ben Gordon, and $37.7 million to Charlie Villanueva, in the same summer.
Their acquisitions this year also raises the question of what to do with Brandon Jennings, who remains as ineffective as always, wrapping up the year with a total shot percentage of .486 which is near his career average. If Detroit is to move forward with a strong shooting core to balance with Drummond who, let’s face it, is their future, they will need to make big decisions in the near future. Josh Smith is virtually impossible to move due to his remaining $40.5 million over three years, but Jennings at $8 million this season, followed up with $8.3 million next season, might actually be tradable.
Getting the Monroe situation under control beforehand has to remain priority number one, however. But even if he should be lost, moving forward with a focus on shooting and floor-spacing is the beginning of something right for Detroit.