Josh Smith has always been a big-time talent. An athletic freak with a 6-10 frame, Smith had all the makings of a two-way power forward.

His ability to finish at the rim has always been his best offensive quality, mainly due to to his ridiculous vertical leap. Only LeBron James has the heft and athleticism to guard a player of Smith's ilk in the post, but even James is a couple inches shorter.

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The problem: J-Smoove has never played to his strengths. Instea

d of making a home at the elbow or in the paint, he's always made a point of shooting an absurd amount from the perimeter.

Despite shooting just 25 percent from deep, Smith still took about 2.5 3-pointers per game with the Pistons. Add in the large number of long 2-point shots he jacked up, and things were never as smoove in Detroit as they probably could have been. Smith always had this problem.

Back in 2008-09, Hawks general manager Rick Sund challenged Smith to stop shooting 3-pointers for a season. Sund told Smith he could become an All-Star and win Defensive Player of the Year. Neither thing happened.

Not surprisingly, it was his first season shooting over 50 percent from the field. The next year, he went back to jacking up 3-pointers and never looked back. Smith hasn't reached 50 percent since.

After less than half a season as Smith's coach, Stan Van Gundy decided he had enough. After receiving permission from Pistons ownership, and acting in his role as GM, he waived Smith and the $26 million left on his deal, as Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News reported.

The Pistons are 7-0 since cutting Smith, but it would not be fair to say Smith's departure is the sole reason behind Detroit's resurgence. It's certainly part of it, though. Detroit was second to last in the NBA prior to Wednesday with a 42.6 field-goal percentage, but during the first six games of its streak it was second in the league at 48.9 percent.

The team is in a similar position on the other end; it was second in defensive rating from Dec. 22 to Jan. 6. It has been somewhere near the middle through much of the season, moving between 16th and 20th.

You can attribute the improvement partly to Andre Drummond, who has piled up 14.9 points, 16.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game over his past eight contests.

The guard play has been just as improved. Brandon Jennings has come up big in clutch moments and at the end of games. Tuesday night might be the perfect example. Jennings only had 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting in the Pistons' sixth, and most impressive, win of the streak, but his fifth make was the game's most important.

Before Tuesday night, it could have been argued that the Pistons benefited from an easy stretch of their schedule, with their most impressive win coming against the injured Cavaliers. That wasn't the case Tuesday. Even though Tony Parker sat the second half, the Pistons got the Spurs' A team in San Antonio, and still won. They went back-to-back Wednesday by beating the Mavericks in Dallas.

Detroit also has received impressive play from backup guards Jodie Meeks and D.J. Augustin, who have picked up the slack during Jennings' rough shooting nights. Meeks has been more consistent during the winning streak, but Augustin shined in San Antonio. He scored 19 points off the bench as Jennings struggled. When Jennings had just five points in Orlando, Meeks erupted for a season-high 34.

It's important to remember, though, that Jennings and Meeks are streaky scorers. There's no way of knowing how long they'll keep up their improved output. If history is any indication, they're bound to have a rough night soon.

That's where coaching comes in. Van Gundy has always had the respect of other coaches around the league. The Pistons held off the Spurs after Van Gundy's classic "We form a f—ing wall here" timeout sound bite. Between the size of Drummond and Greg Monroe, and the side denial of Meeks and Jennings, Van Gundy's defensive methods are working.

The f—ing wall

Again, it's hard to tell how closely the winning streak is related to Smith's departure. If you ask Van Gundy, he did Smith a favor. It sounds as though the changes the Pistons had planned were going to take place regardless of whether they waived Smith.

"We would have had to reduce his role offensively," Van Gundy said when he announced the move. "I don't think he would have been happy about that at this point in his career. I don't think it would have been necessarily fair to him, but I think it's something we needed to do to move on."

There's no way to know whether Smith held the Pistons down that much. Statistics in the current small sample size paint a certain picture, but as Van Gundy would surely point out, and probably has, the Pistons haven't proved anything yet. They're playing like an improved team, and the winning streak is nice for players, fans and, heck, Van Gundy, too.

But, as is true with any winning streak by a previously struggling team, the truest test will come after the Pistons suffer a loss or two. Any NBA team can get hot, but only a few teams can bounce back from a couple losses and return to their winning ways. In the Pistons' case, that remains to be seen. Stay tuned.