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Joe Dumars hopes Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond frontcourt can take cues from Hawks and Grizzlies

Aug 7, 2013, 6:12 PM EDT

Josh Smith, Andre Drummond

Which team has the best starting frontcourt in the NBA?

Depending on how you value the top player compared to the depth of the trio, there are several contenders including:

I’ll offer one other wildcard option: the Pistons with Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

Those three have a lot of talent, though it’s not clear how they will fit together. None is a good shooter outside the paint, but perhaps they can create other matchup advantages by being big. Really big.

If Smith adapts to playing small forward, if Monroe develops defensively, if Drummond can handle big minutes, they could be excellent. Obviously, their partnership relies on a lot of ifs.

Joe Dumars realizes that too, and he addressed them in a fantastic Q&A with Zach Lowe of Grantland:

I’m sure you anticipated the spacing concerns everyone has raised since you signed Josh Smith, a non-shooter who has played mostly power forward the last few seasons. Why did you go with Josh, another big, instead of chasing someone like maybe Andre Iguodala on the wing? Or are you not all that worried about the spacing stuff?

We just thought we needed to get better from a pure talent standpoint. And that’s where Smith and Jennings and KCP [rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] and Chauncey [Billups] come in. That was first and foremost — just to raise the talent level.

Of course, you don’t have the stretch [power forward] or the 3-point shooting [small forward] in that lineup, but what you do have in Monroe and Smith are two guys who really have high basketball IQs, and are very, very good passers. Even if you’re not spreading to the 3-point line, when you have high IQ guys playing together, they make plays for each other.

And I don’t know how many minutes we’ll have that front line [Drummond, Smith, Monroe] on the floor together, once you get past the first six minutes for the first quarter. It’s not like it’s going to be 40 minutes a night with that front line. Monroe will slide to [center], Josh will slide to [power forward]. It’s not a concern of ours.

Did you look to Memphis as something of an inspiration — another team that struggles for spacing, but that managed to squeeze out enough points after the Rudy Gay trade by just moving the ball and using a great passing big in Marc Gasol to run a lot of the offense?

We looked at that. We actually talked about them a lot. There are definitely similarities. We watched a lot of film of them, and what they were doing after Tayshaun [Prince] got there, and how it worked. And it clearly worked.

Smith and Al Horford ran a mean big-big pick-and-roll in Atlanta.

Exactly. That’s because Josh can really pass the ball. He can deliver. When you have frontcourt guys who can pass the ball … that’s why Marc Gasol is so, so good. That’s why with Vlade Divac and Arvydas Sabonis, centers who could really pass it, you don’t worry about what the system is, because whatever it is, they are going to figure it out.

At minimum, Detroit’s starting frontcourt is wayyyy more talented than last year’s – Kyle Singler, Jason Maxiell and Monroe – so that bodes well for the Pistons, but it’s not the only factor in their success. Maurice Cheeks will have his work cut out for him in making everything work.

But, as Dumars said, the Grizzlies and Hawks – and even the 1980s Celtics of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, whom Dumars alludes to elsewhere in the interview – provide a blueprint, and the Pistons have a real chance of overcoming their fit problems.

If Detroit’s frontcourt does that and allows its talent to shine, maybe, just maybe, it could be among the NBA’s best.

  1. senorpapino - Aug 7, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    I’m still not sure why people are so quick to say this combination won’t work. Look at the game today – mainly iso and pick and roll. No team really matches up with these three. Smith on the drive and the two man game is a beast, Monroe averaged 16 points and over 3 assists from the post, and no other center besides Dwight has the size and athleticism of Drummond.

    Also, look at the list of teams with excellent front courts. Almost all are playoff teams and create a lot of matchup problems for the opposition. Detroit should be no different this season.

  2. bugsygod - Aug 7, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    Testing testing 1

  3. bugsygod - Aug 7, 2013 at 10:13 PM

    I wonder is there a way to project offensive and defensive efficiency for the new lineups?

  4. andrexdrummondxforxdpoy - Aug 7, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    The heat In there is a joke

    • sportsfan18 - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      Why are the Heat a joke on this list? First I have to say I’m NOT a Heat fan or a LeBron fan. I’m older and was born and raised outside of Chicago so it’s the Bulls and MJ for me.

      I don’t want to breakout the stats for every threesome mentioned above in this article but I did for 4 of them. I took the combined points per 36 min’s of court time for each of the 3 players listed as well as the total number of rebounds per 36 min’s of court time for them for the following four teams mentioned above:

      The Heat, the Pacers, the Nets & the Grizzlies

      Team Combined Pts Per 36 min’s Combined Rebounds Per 36 min’s

      Heat 55.4 25.0

      Grizz 47.4 24.1

      Nets 59.8 24.3

      Pacers 49.5 24.8

      So the Heat out rebound all of these trios and were only outscored by the Grizz, meaning the lowly Heat front court even outscores one with Paul Pierce, KG and Brooks Lopez (and out rebounds them too).

      Again, I didn’t take the time to look up all the other trios mentioned but I’m guessing the Heat would still compare favorable in rebound and points compared to the rest of them as they are able to stack up against the Pacers, Grizz and Nets fairly well…

      And this from a NON Heat and LeBron fan…

  5. cornbreadbbqred - Aug 7, 2013 at 10:44 PM

    Joe had better think playoffs under any circumstance than Badboys rewind. True. Whatever it takes.

  6. saint1997 - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    Knicks should be on that list. Still Suns, Pistons and Pelicans are just the teams to watch for next year

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