Detroit Pistons: What is Dennis Smith Jr.’s ceiling?

Piston Powered

The Detroit Pistons finally have people talking.

Last month I was driving around Troy, Michigan listening to the Karsch and Anderson show on the radio. Usually, in February they aren’t talking about anything sports-related, but this day was different.

Derrick Rose was gone, Dennis Smith Jr was in. The news was interesting and unexpected, as he was an asset I failed to consider.

Smith was not a player I had given much thought to. At NC State he was one of the most fun and explosive players in the NCAA, and I liked him entering the draft, but since he had largely been forgotten.

His career got off to a rocky and slow start. He spent two and half seasons in New York, and his numbers dropped. However, could Detroit be the place for a rebirth for the high-flying highlight maker?

I say yes.

Detroit Pistons: Starter or role player? Smith can be a contributor

Smith Jr. is probably not headed to the Hall of Fame in ten years but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid contributor or even more.

Let’s look at the stat lines. Over his stint with the Knicks, he averaged under nine points on about 37 percent shooting. Not great.

But what could he do if put in the right situation? The Knicks are not known for developing young talent (sorry Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina fans), so the black hole of Manhattan was not the ideal environment.

Hit the rewind button.

In his rookie year with Dallas, Smith was one of the primary ball handlers. He put good numbers: 15 points, five assists, four rebounds, and a steal in 30 minutes of play. Two notable players put up similar numbers in their rookie year: Ja Morant (18pts/4reb/7ast) and Russell Westbrook (15pts/5reb/5ast).

It is not realistic to say that Smith will be as good of a player as those two. One is an emerging superstar and one may end up in the Hall of Fame. It is an incredibly high ceiling. But if Smith gets anywhere close to those numbers, the trade will have been well worth it.

Smith has had a rough couple of years, but already his numbers are up since joining the Detroit Pistons. He has shot 35 percent from 3-point range (still not great) and has added a defensive element the Pistons were missing on the perimeter.

If Killian Hayes lives up to his draft pick and Smith even comes close to his ceiling, the Pistons could have one of the better young backcourts in the East.

Smith is on the final year of his contract and can probably be re-signed to a team-friendly deal, so if he ends up bottoming out as a pine rider, it won’t cost the Pistons much, so for a guy with his potential it is a risk worth taking.

I’ve watched some of Smith’s highlights from Dallas and NC State, and I think he could be a solid starter or Sixth Man of the Year contender, which is not a bad ceiling for a guy that the Detroit Pistons did not have to give up much to get.

It can’t be ruled out that he still has the potential to grow into a legitimate star, but realistically he’ll be a solid and flashy guard for years to come. I’ll miss Derrick Rose, but it was a good trade.

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