Kings, Rockets among teams interested in Josh Smith
The Clippers, Heat and Mavericks are also reportedly interested in the now-former Piston. Here’s a breakdown of how Smith would fit in with each team.
On Monday the Detroit Pistons released Josh Smith, meaning a 29-year-old who signed a four-year, $54 million deal less than two years ago can now be signed by any team. Of course, Smith is a complicated player, one full of talent and capable of great things but who also seems to struggle fitting into a team. This season Smith is averaging 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. But he’s only shooting 39 percent from the field, and he continues to jack up mid-range jump shots despite not being good at them.
— NBA.com (@NBAcom) December 22, 2014
That said, Smith is still a 6’9 forward capable of guarding players out on the wing and down on the block. He’s also a good passer when he wants to be. Josh Smith might not be as good as he thinks he is, but he’s still a player who can help a team, especially if put in the right situation. Early reports have the Clippers, Heat, Kings, Mavericks and Rockets as those expressing the most interest in signing Smith once he clears waivers (which most assume he will) on Wednesday. Below is a look at how Smith would fit in with each of them
A week ago the Mavericks would not be one of the teams listed as a potential Smith landing spot. But then they traded for one of Smith’s good friends and former high school teammate, Rajon Rondo, and in doing so gave up some front court depth in Brandan Wright. This season Dallas has been able to ride the league’s No. 1 offense (113.3 points per 100 possessions) to an impressive 20-8 record. But the team is 22nd in the NBA in defensive rating, a number way too low for a group looking to compete for a title. That’s an area where Smith could help. A group of Chandler Parson, Dirk Nowitkzi, Josh Smith and Tyson Chandler would give Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle a lot of flexibility.
That’s the good stuff that Smith could bring to the Mavericks. The bad? Well, there’s plenty of that. For one, Smith would most likely come off the bench in Dallas and it’s safe to assume that Josh Smith does not envision himself as a bench player. He’d also be the second player added to the Mavericks roster in a one-week span who can’t shoot. Trading for Rajon Rondo, an electric point guard who has shown himself to be a winner, in order to move the 32-year-old Jameer Nelson to the bench, is one thing. But Smith is not nearly the player that Rondo is. Dallas has built a machine of an offense based on spacing. Having Smith and Rondo on the court together could ruin that. It’s also worth noting that the Mavericks only have a small amount of money to offer.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Rockets are “aggressively pursing” Smith. Smith and Howard are friends dating back to their days as teammates on the AAU team, the Atlanta Celtics, and Wojnarowski is reporting that Houston tried trading for Smith before the Pistons released him.
As for why’re they 19-7 Rockets would be interested in him, well, that’s hard to say. As surprising as it sounds, Houston’s problems this year have come on offense. The Rockets are 21st in the NBA in offensive rating. The defense, which has held opponents to 97.7 points per 100 possessions, the second best number in the league, has been the key to the team’s success. Defense is where you’d assume the long and agile Smith could help a team the most. Yeah, a front court of Smith, Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard could terrorize opponents, but there’s not much room for Houston to improve in that area. The Rockets could definitely use some more depth, but the thought of Smith playing in an offense that emphasizes three pointers is kind of terrifying.
Los Angeles Clippers
Both Stein and Wojnarowski are reporting that the Clippers are interested in Smith as well and it’s in Los Angeles where Smith could have the greatest impact. The Clippers, who are 19-8, are in desperate need of players who can guard big wings, scorers like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and LeBron James. Matt Barnes is the one who gets that job now, but the Clippers don’t want to be forced to play him in big games down the stretch. That’s a major reason why the Clippers are sixteenth in the NBA in defensive rating.
Smith could also help the Clippers offense (already No. 2 in the NBA in offensive rating), especially late in games. That’s when Doc Rivers is often forced to remove DeAndre Jordan, who opponents always look to foul. Instead of going to Spencer Hawes in these situations, Rivers would be able to play Smith at the four next to Blake Griffin, giving opponents one more player they’d have to guard. Rivers might also be the coach best equipped to deal with Smith and get the most out of him, just like he did in Boston with Rondo.
The Heat’s interest in Smith is being reported by Stein, and it’s understandable why Miami would be interested in the former Piston. Simply put: the Heat have been killed by injuries this year and can barely scrap together a full team every night. Josh McRoberts is out for the year. Chris Bosh has missed Miami’s last five games with a calf injury. Dwyane Wade sat out eight games earlier in the season with a knee injury and who knows when he’ll hurt himself next. Luol Deng could go down any day.
The Heat are 13-15, which in the Eastern Conefernce puts them in the thick of the playoff race. Pat Riley has made it clear he doesn’t want this season, Year 1 Post LeBron, to be sacrificed in order to build for the future. The Heat, and their fans, want to make the playoffs, and Josh Smith would help.
Multiple reports have already linked the Kings to Smith, with ESPN’s Marc Stein saying that “Josh Smith has had no bigger fan in the NBA in recent months than Kings owner Vivek Ranadive.” We’ve learned recently that Ranadive is the one making basketball decisions in Sacramento, and that the Kings made multiple offers to to Pistons for Smith. It’s safe to assume that Sacramento will be involved in the Josh Smith “sweepstakes.” Whether that’s a smart thing is a whole separate question.
Smith would certainly give the Kings an interesting team. They could pair him with DeMarcus Cousins upfront and have one of the more athletic front courts in the league. It would also be a fragile one, and Tyrone Corbin is not exactly the coach you want handling that. Then again, the Kings (12-15) want to make the playoffs this year, and as they learned in the Rudy Gay trade, which has turned out to well for them, sometimes adding players solely because they’re talented is the right thing to do. Also, if there’s any player who’d be in favor of a 4-5, cherry picking defense, it’s probably Josh Smith.