Pistons Lead

Can Smith Be Detroit’s Savior?

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The Pistons have passed the midpoint of their season with mediocre record of 18-24– sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference. While this does not look promising, there is good news on the horizon. Ish Smith, the teams’ veteran backup point guard, has returned to the lineup. Smith had been out since the December 5th match up against Milwaukee and things have not been great without him. Detroit was 13-9 then. In the 19 games he missed, they are 5-14.  So what does the return of Ish mean for the team?

Calderon No More

For anyone who has watched the Pistons over the last month, one thing is certain– no more Jose Calderon in an extended role can only mean good things. While team assists overall have been slightly up while Ish has been out, the pace is down and the team has been struggling in transition.

In his prime, Calderon had a reputation as a dead-eye shooter from distance but that has certainly fallen off at his advanced age. He still brings strong veteran leadership, but the offense looked drastically different in the first game with Ish back.

The biggest benefactor of this may be potential all-stare Andre Drummond, who Ish regularly looks for on alley-oops. This can add those back to the offense as well as the pretty efficient Ish floaters in the lane. While he did not connect on those enough against the Jazz down the stretch, that has been a staple of his offensive game.

Pairing Up with the Rookies

While this was not part of his first game back, Detroit fans have to be excited to see how their newest starter will benefit playing alongside Smith. Bruce Brown became a full-time starter after Christmas against Washington. He has been aggressive on offense and has brought a new mentality to the defensive end alongside fellow second-round rookie Khyri Thomas.

Smith has always made his teammates better by putting them in a place to succeed. Getting the most out of Brown and Thomas will be essential to the Pistons going forward. They are right up against the luxury tax, so maximizing young, cheap talent is the only real path to improvement. Getting extensive second unit minutes with the returning point guard should be exactly what these two young guys need.

Closing Lineup

Speaking of Khyri, it did not go unnoticed by Detroit fans that the closing lineup for the team against Jazz was Smith – Thomas – Blake – Bullock – Drummond. This is not something fans have seen much of, but Thomas clearly has earned Coach Casey’s trust.  More importantly, this would seem to confirm a long held notion. Casey appears to prefer the fit with Smith over polarizing starting guard Reggie Jackson.

Detroit was unable to close out the game and some of that can be chalked up to fatigue for a returning Smith. The group showed flashes, however, and should be explored more in the future. If it leads to success, this could finally spell the end for the Reggie Jackson era. Smith returning to the team may be enough to right the ship for the season. With the trade deadline only a little over three weeks away, there is a lot to analyze. The Pistons have 11 games between now and then, and only four of those are against playoff teams. This stretch will come to define their season, and having Ish Smith for part of that, will be essential.

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