Best Potential Trade Packages, Scenarios and Landing Spots for Josh Smith
Sources say that Smith being swapped in exchange for the combination of Sacramento's Jason Thompson and Derrick Williams is one trade construction that the teams have discussed. Although one source insisted Tuesday that no deal is imminent, another source told ESPN.com that the teams have continued to exchange proposals, with Williams potentially being replaced by another Kings player such as Jason Terry or Carl Landry.
Shortly thereafter, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express reported that talks between the Kings and Pistons were "dead."
Though no deal seems imminent, we should take one thing from the brief lifespan of the Smith-to-Sacramento rumors: The Pistons are at least exploring options to divest themselves of J-Smoove, and they're apparently not asking for a whole lot in return.
Actually, there are two things to take away. The second is that we should all be rooting for those talks between Detroit and Sacramento to revive. There is nothing in this world more gruesomely entertaining than the prospect of watching DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Smith struggling to work together in the same frontcourt.
And even if Sacramento may not be Smith's ultimate destination, it's worth a glance through the rest of the league for possible alternatives.
If the Pistons are serious about unclogging their frontcourt and clearing up their books, they'd do well to consider the following Smith trade options.
Detroit Pistons Receive: Jason Thompson, Jason Terry and Quincy Acy
Sacramento Kings Receive: Josh Smith
Why Detroit Does It: Flexibility, financial and otherwise
We can't know how close the Pistons were to sending Smith to California, but the discussions apparently proceeded far enough for specific names to leak. Maybe that was a deliberate ploy by one or both clubs, an effort to signal the rest of the league that they were both willing to get frisky in the trade market.
But if a deal was close, perhaps a bit of a sweetener could push the Pistons to make a move.
Here, Detroit gets Terry's expiring contract, a serviceable backup big man in Thompson to play behind Andre Drummond or Greg Monroe (if he returns to the team after testing restricted free agency) and an undervalued third-year player in Acy who can provide energy and toughness inside.
It's clear Smith doesn't fit with the Pistons' current roster. If he did, they wouldn't be discussing deals to take back pennies on the dollar for him. Getting two players who'll cost nothing in a year and one who makes about half of Smith's $13.5 million annual salary over the next three seasons creates flexibility and, more importantly, room for new head honcho Stan Van Gundy to build a roster he likes.
Why Sacramento Does It: Because it's Sacramento.
The Kings are just desperate to make a splash, a fact made evident by their curious assumption of Rudy Gay's contract last season. Adding Smith would unquestionably improve the roster's raw talent, but if we learned anything from Smith's time in Detroit, it's that fit matters more than skill.
Between Gay and Smith, the Kings would likely lead the league in missed three-point attempts. And you can bet they'd fight over which one got to bleed 17 seconds from the shot clock before taking a contested mid-range jumper.
This would be an utter disaster, especially with the volatile (but steadily improving) Cousins looking for touches of his own.
But the Kings don't care.
They want names. They want talent. They want players they can market.
Smith checks all three boxes.
Detroit Pistons Receive: Gerald Wallace, Joel Anthony and 2016 first-round pick
Boston Celtics Receive: Josh Smith
Why Detroit Does It: The pick, plain and simple
The Pistons haven't been particularly savvy about accumulating assets in recent years, and they currently have no future incoming picks from other teams. That may not sound all that strange, but according to RealGM.com, Detroit is one of just seven teams that doesn't currently own another club's future draft pick via trade.
Making matters worse, the Pistons have surrendered plenty of their own selections recently—with their 2014 first-rounder (which belongs to the Charlotte Hornets) serving as the latest example.
Taking on Gerald Wallace and the remaining two years and $20 million on his contract isn't ideal, but it's not a particularly long-term commitment. Anthony is involved as a sweetener, as he'll make just $3 million in the final year of his deal this coming season.
It's possible the Celtics will be far enough along in their rebuilding process that a 2016 first-round pick may not be all that valuable. But it's tough to get teams to surrender those selections, and you also have to remember that the Pistons get the benefit of unloading Smith—which is something they seem willing to do for a minimal return.
Why Boston Does It: Cut out the middle man.
Per Marc Stein, one of the possible reasons Smith came up in trade talks with the Kings in the first place had to do with one of his closest friends in the NBA: "Sacramento's well-known fondness for Rajon Rondo would help explain Kings' interest in his buddy JSmoove," Stein tweeted.
Well, if Rondo wants to play with Smith, why not just cut the Kings out of the picture and make it happen?
Smith and Rondo were high school teammates, and Smith told Dan Feldman of NBCSports.com back in March that he often thinks about teaming up with his pal:
The conversation comes up. We always tell each other how surreal a moment that would be, for us to be able to reconnect again in that realm. With the different free agencies that we both have, it could be far-fetched, but it could be possible, too.
I’m always optimistic.
And let's also remember that while this deal is totally speculative, it's also not the first time Smith and Boston have appeared together in trade discussions. At the 2013 deadline, Stein reported there were talks involving Smith and the Celtics.
There are worse things than a core of Rondo and Smith, especially if both are happy and motivated. Boston has to put a charge into its rebuilding plans eventually; getting Smith could do exactly that.
Detroit Pistons Receive: Danilo Gallinari and Nate Robinson
Denver Nuggets Receive: Josh Smith
Why Detroit Does It: Spacing
Slotting Smith, Monroe and Drummond together was bound to fail because of the lack of perimeter threats in the frontcourt. And when the Pistons couldn't get any outside shooting from their guards, defenses confidently packed the middle even more tightly.
Gallinari brings a track record of both volume and efficiency from long range.
For his career, the Italian forward has connected on 36.9 percent of his triple attempts for an average of 4.9 per game. And while Galinari isn't a precision sniper, his perimeter accuracy looks positively sparkling next to Smith's career mark of 27.9 percent from distance.
Toss in Nate Robinson as a bench spark plug on an expiring deal (who should probably play ahead of Brandon Jennings, by the way) and you've got a darn good return for Smith.
Why Denver Does It: Balancing risks
Gallinari, for all of his skills, is coming off of a season lost to a knee injury. For a team also dealing with JaVale McGee's recovery from a fractured tibia and a whopping total of 264 games missed due to injury, per ManGamesLost.com, Denver could use some reliably healthy players.
Smith has missed just 17 games in the past five seasons, and while he's not the outside threat Gallinari is, his athleticism and defensive skill could pair nicely with McGee on the interior.
Ty Lawson could work as the facilitator, with Smith sneaking into the lane for lobs and easy buckets when the defense swarms to stop the Nuggets' lightning-quick point guard.
Plus, the Nuggets have historically loved to get up and down, so Smith's open-floor game would fit well. Kenneth Faried is going to be due a hefty extension soon, and with Smith in the fold, the Nuggets could avoid overpaying their younger forward and flip him for some help on the wings.
Essentially, Denver and Detroit would be exchanging imperfect, somewhat risky players. But the payoff for both squads could be significant.
New Orleans Pelicans
Detroit Pistons Receive: Eric Gordon
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Josh Smith
Why Detroit Does It: Filling in the gaps
Gordon is grossly overpaid, and he's due to collect more than $30 million over the final two years of his current contract—assuming he opts in for the 2015-16 season, which he almost certainly will.
But he's not a player without his uses.
Detroit needs scoring from the wing as badly as any team in the league, and Gordon, for all of his faults and injury concerns, can knock down a perimeter shot. Last year, he hit 39.1 percent of his long-distance tries. And there was a time—though it seems like eons ago—when he was a fantastic all-around scoring guard.
The Pistons need a guy like Gordon, and even if he makes too much money, his contract is shorter than Smith's by a year, which will ultimately save the team some cash.
Why New Orleans Does It: Options
Sans Gordon, New Orleans can still utilize Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans in the backcourt. And Austin Rivers could step in as a third guard if he continues the upward trajectory he established last season. Toss in Anthony Morrow as a shooting specialist and nearly all of what Gordon provided last year is replaced.
Where Smith makes things interesting is in the way he could team with Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson in an unconventional frontcourt.
Anderson provides all of the spacing New Orleans could ever want, and Davis has been playing farther away from the basket as his game has matured. That means Smith could fill in on the offensive margins, diving into the lane on the weak side as Davis and Holiday work the pick-and-roll, or perhaps sneaking around the rim as Anderson forces a big man to venture away from the bucket.
And defensively, Smith could handle the toughest frontcourt matchup. With opponents wary of defending New Orleans' rangy, floor-stretching frontcourt trio with burly centers, Smith could probably lock in on a post presence, freeing Davis to wreak havoc as a rover.
Smith isn't a perfect player, but he gives the Hornets a versatile defensive presence up front.
Besides, seeing him turning away shots alongside Davis would be too much fun to pass up.
Detroit Pistons Receive: Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson
Orlando Magic Receive: Josh Smith, future first-round pick
Why Detroit Does It: Boom! Instant backcourt overhaul.
The Pistons would love to get their hands on a pair of capable, reasonably priced veterans to reconstruct their backcourt.
With apologies to Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the future of Detroit's current guard duo isn't all that bright. Jennings' player efficiency rating and effective field-goal percentage have declined in each of the past three seasons, per Basketball-Reference, and his turnover rate reached a career high last year.
I suppose Pope has room to grow, but he started more games at the 2 than any other Piston last year, scoring just 5.9 points per game on 39 percent shooting.
Adding Afflalo and Nelson, two veterans the rebuilding Magic would likely be happy to move, gives Detroit a major boost—probably one big enough to get the Pistons into the playoff picture in the East. Not only that, but Nelson's 2014-15 salary is only partially guaranteed, and Afflalo comes off the books after the 2015-16 campaign.
There's nothing bad about this deal for the Pistons.
Why Orlando Does It: The new wave
For the Magic to swing this deal, a couple of things have to be true.
First, Victor Oladipo has to be ready to take a major step forward as an offensive focal point and team leader. And second, the Magic have to get Dante Exum at No. 4 in this year's draft.
With those two players starting in the backcourt, Orlando would boast one of the most versatile, athletic and promising guard combos in the entire league. Positions would be interchangeable, quickness would be at overflow levels, and raw hustle would permeate the entire roster.
OK, maybe that's overstating things. But the point is, Oladipo and Exum could be beastly together, and the Magic should clear all obstacles in the way of their playing time. And the hidden hope here is that with two combo guards taking care of all of the ball-handling, Smith wouldn't get a chance to isolate on the perimeter too often.
In addition, Smith could fit extremely well alongside Nikola Vucevic and either Tobias Harris or Maurice Harkless. Both of Orlando's prospective small forwards figure to be stationed away from the bucket most of the time, as both Harris and Harkless tend to get their buckets on drives and cuts.
Spacing wouldn't be perfect, but Vucevic can do a few things away from the basket, and at the very least, Smith will have more room to operate than he did in Detroit. And the athleticism Smith would bring complements the youthful energy in Orlando's backcourt nicely.
Smith is costly, and his acquisition would mean the loss of two valuable assets in Nelson and Afflalo. But the Magic can absorb those subtractions because of the potentially dynamic backcourt they could quickly form as a replacement. And if Detroit were to throw in a future first-rounder, the pain of losing veteran leadership might be easier to bear.
This one could be fun.
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