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Pistons vs Hawks: Questions surround Josh Smith as he returns to Atlanta

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Josh Smith returns to Atlanta to face the Hawks after being benched for the final 16 minutes of Wednesday's loss to the Suns.

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Josh Smith returns home for another matchup with his former team, but he looks like he is at a crossroads with his new team and head coach Stan Van Gundy. Smith was benched for the final 16 minutes of Wednesday's 88-86 loss to the Suns on Wednesday. He played a season-low 23 minutes and had a terse exchange with Van Gundy on the sidelines about a lack of effort on the defensive end.

When asked about it after the game, Van Gundy would only say that he went with the group that he thought gave them the best chance to win. Still, there are some numbers that Van Gundy may not be able to ignore much longer as SB Nation's Kevin Zimmerman writes:

The Pistons are 11.1 points per 100 possessions better with Smith on the bench, the worst mark among the nine Pistons who have played 10 or more games through a 3-9 start, according to NBA.com.

The Pistons shoot 39.2 percent when Smith is playing, the worst shooting percentage with one player on the court aside from rookie Spencer Dinwiddie, who has only played in two games so far, according to NBA.com. When Smith is benched, Detroit shoots 46 percent, easily leading the off-court statistics for a single player.

Smith had a career-worst true shooting percentage of 46 percent last season. That is down to 39.7 percent this season. He is taking fewer threes under Van Gundy, but has offset that by firing away from midrange, where he makes around 32 percent of his shots.

Perhaps more concerning for the Pistons is that he is no longer the defensive stopper he used to be. He struggles to stay in front of quick small forwards and often just doesn't look engaged on the defensive end of the floor, which ultimately led to his benching on Wednesday.

I constantly have to remind myself that there was a time when Smith's defensive game combined with his passing ability made him a near All-Star. That seems like ages ago now for a guy who is just 28. He was already in decline when Joe Dumars elected to give him a four-year, $54 million contract and it has been nothing but downhill since for Smith and the Pistons.